We Were Not The Savages, First Nations History, 4th ed.

Collision Between European and Native American Civilizations

By Daniel N.  Paul  Foreword by Pamela Palmater  

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Available September 30

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The title of this book We Were Not the Savages speaks to the truth of what happened when Europeans invaded Mi’kmaw lands in the 17th century. Prior to the European invasion the Mi’kmaq lived healthy lives and for thousands of years had lived in harmony with nature in the land they called Mi’kma’ki. This book sets the record straight. When the Europeans arrived they were welcomed and sustained by the Mi’kmaq. Over the next three centuries their language, their culture, their way of life were systematically ravaged by the newcomers to whom they had extended human kindness. The murderous savagery of British scalp proclamations, starvation, malnutrition and Canada’s Indian residential and day schools all but wiped out the Mi’kmaq. Yet the Mi’kmaq survived and today stand defending the land, the water and nature’s bounty from the European way of life, which threatens the natural world we live in and need to survive.

Since the first edition was published in 1993, Daniel Paul’s ongoing research confronts the mainstream record of Canadian settler colonialism and reveals that the mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples is not confined to the past. In this 4th edition the author shares his research, which catalogues not only the historical tragedy but the ongoing attempts to silence the Mi’kmaq and other Indigenous Peoples. Paul’s work continues to give the Mi’kmaq a voice that must be heard.

“We Were Not the Savages is unique, in chronological scope and in the story it tells, covering the last three centuries of Mi’kmaq history in detail. Prior to the appearance of this book it was common for historians to downplay or even deny the violence inflicted on the Mi’kmaq people by European and Euro-American colonizers. This work, more than any other piece of scholarly production, has headed off that consensus at a pass. Scalp-bounty policies are now recognized as a historical problem worthy of investigation. The book will also be of particular interest to readers in the United States for a variety of reasons. First, the early history of colonization in the Maritimes is closely tied to the history of the colonies that became the United States, and as late as the 1750s New England’s political leaders played a prominent role in directing the course of colonial affairs on Cape Breton Island and Nova Scotia. Second, the chapters on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries provide a detailed and much needed basis of comparison for anyone seeking to understand the similarities and contrasts between the U.S. and Canada on questions of “Indian Affairs.” And finally, it is important to recognize that we have far too few histories written by Native American authors—very few indeed that cover as extensive a time span as this book does.”

— Geoffrey Plank, professor of history, University of Cincinnati

“We Were Not the Savages is the Native American history book written for me. Here is a native author who used the Europeans’ own documents to prove their dastardly deeds and show that, when compared to the Mi’kmaq, the Europeans were the honorless savages. Daniel N. Paul puts history under the microscope, and it does not look anything like the history textbooks utilized throughout North America.”

— Alicia Karen Elkins, Rambles.NET review

“We Were Not the Savages is an intellectual blockbuster that shook the foundations of Nova Scotian history. The title alone upended the smug sense that this land was only ever European. The deeply researched book proved Mi’kma’ki is home to an ancient civilization, upon which everything else was built.”

— Jon Tattrie, journalist and author of eight books, including Cornwallis: The Violent Birth of Halifax

“Reading the pages of this book continually affirms for me how good it is to be a Mi’kmaq. I so wish that my father was still living. Wouldn’t he be so proud that such a book was available. I also wish that this history book was in existence years ago, a book that now empowers me and fills me with great pride to be a Mi’kmaq.”

— Sister Dorothy Moore, Mi’kmaw educator extraordinaire

“Daniel N. Paul exposes a history that Canadians have long collectively celebrated as benign, and proceeds to deconstruct the popular myth that Canada was, and continues to be, a fair and compassionate country.”

— Marie-Lauren Gregoire, Tekawennake

“Citing a quote from the book: ‘If Europeans had gotten to know and had accepted Indigenous Americans and Africans as equals during colonial times instead of adopting White supremacist racist beliefs, which have ruled supreme in negativity depicting both as savages for the better part of five centuries, these people of colour would not have suffered the indescribable hells they have.’ A very very powerful statement…. I’m really really proud that someone from Nova Scotia is writing this kind of material.”

— Late Burnley Allan “Rocky” Jones, African Nova Scotian human rights activist and lawyer

“This is not a happy story, but an attempt at genocide never is….. It is a tale of deception, greed, brutality, bigotry, and humiliation. Ultimately though, it is a study in perseverance and survival.”

— Sunday Daily News, Halifax

“Want an eye-opening ‘New World’ vision through Indian eyes…. Paul tells of the subjugation of the Micmac People.”

— The Bookwatch, San Francisco

“Your work is a valuable contribution to Nova Scotia literature, quite apart from the challenging message it conveys.”

— Late Hon. Lorne Clarke, chief justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, Halifax

“I started reading your book, I got so angry I had to put it down to finish later. Congratulations. Somebody had to do it and you did a fine job.”

— Late Isabelle Tony Shay Knockwood, author of Out of the Depths: The Experiences of Mi’kmaw Children at the Indian Residential School at Schubenacadie, Nova Scotia

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  • Foreword
  • Civilization, Democracy and Government
  • Mi’kmaq Social Values and Economy
  • European Greed and the Mi’kmaq Resolve to Fight
  • Persecution, War, Alliance and Terrorism
  • The Treaty of 1725 and Proclamations
  • Flawed Peace and the Treaty of 1749
  • More Bounties for Human Scalps and the Treaty of 1752
  • The Futile Search for a Just Peace, 1752–1761
  • Burying of the Hatchet Ceremony of 1761 and the Royal Proclamation of 1763
  • Dispossession and the Imposition of Poverty
  • The Edge of Extinction
  • Confederation and the Indian Act
  • Twentieth-Century Racism and Centralization
  • The Struggle For Freedom
  • Select Bibliography


  • Daniel N.  Paul

    Chair of the Council on Mi’Kmaq Education and the Committee of Canadian Genocide Scholars

    Daniel N. Paul was born in 1938 on the Indian Brook Reserve, Nova Scotia, and now resides in Halifax with his wife Patricia. Paul, a freelance lecturer and journalist, is an ardent activist for human rights. He is a former justice of the peace and a former member of the NS Police Commission and has served on several other provincial commissions, including the Human Rights Commission and the Nova Scotia Department of Justice’s Court Re-structuring Task Force. He holds, among many awards, honorary degrees from the University of Sainte Anne and Dalhousie University and is a member of both the Order of Canada and the Order of Nova Scotia. Previously, Paul was employed by the Department of Indian Affairs and was the founding executive director of the Confederacy of Mainland Mi’kmaq (CMM). His writing career includes a novel, Chief Lightning Bolt, several booklets, magazine articles, hundreds of newspaper columns, chapters for a dozen or so edited books.

  • Pamela Palmater

    Pamela Palmater is a Mi’kmaw lawyer, professor and Chair in Indigenous Governance at Ryerson University. She is the author of Indigenous Nationhood and Beyond Blood.

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