Last modified: 2010-11-06 by rick wyatt
Keywords: micmac | maine | native american |
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image by Donald Healy, 1 February 2008
map image by Peter Orenski based on input from Don Healy
Micmac - Maine
The Micmac live in the northeastern United States and in the Maritime Provinces of Canada. They may have been the first Native Americans to have encountered the white man, since their ancient lands included those areas of the American continent explored by intrepid Norsemen nearly a thousand years ago (ANAI, 79-80).
This international nature of the Micmac family influences their use of symbols. Perhaps as a result, many Micmac within the United States use the official flag of the Canadian Micmac. This flag usage proclaims the unity of the Tribe despite its division by an international boundary. (At least two other eastern Native American flags have a similar international usage - the Mohawk and the Iroquois League flags fly in both the U.S. and Canada.)
© Donald Healy 2008
The Micmac flag (see source) is 3 x5 feet and has a red central stripe bracketed by vertical yellow stripes - one-tenth of the width of the red stripe - at each end. In the center of the red stripe is a yellow disk,
whose diameter equals one-ninth of the height of the flag and which denotes the continuum, the cycle and fullness of life as viewed by Native tradition. The central disk - representing for the Micmac unity amidst their far-flung diversity - is edged by a wide yellow band and a narrower black outline, the latter defining a circle divided into quarters by diagonal black lines. This apparent division in quarters is superficial, however, because the red, green, yellow, black and blue elements inside the circle are part of a tightly knit and carefully thought-out symbolic structure, as outlined below.
According to Bernard Jerome (source), the flag dates back to the late 1930s and its colors symbolize Life and Fire (red), Mother Earth, vegetable life and medicinal protection (green), the growing season and the Sun's heat (yellow), late season or Winter (black), the Sky and Water (blue), and the Supernatural (white). Viewed in the holistic, integrated light that informs most Amerindian symbolism, the colors point to the fullness and cycle of creation, from its beginnings (red) to its mid-day (yellow) and finally to its dormant, wintery stage (black).
The design elements within the center integrate into a stylized view of a wigwam - the traditional domed dwelling of eastern and central Native Americans - both in its past structure (diagonal black lines with black disks representing the entrance) and its modern form (red semicircles within white-contoured yellow structures). Like the balance and continuity of life represented by the colors, the stylized allusions to traditional and modern dwellings bridge the old and the new, the past and present - symbolic of Micmac determination to honor and remember the past without living in it.
Beyond the mere physical access to the wigwam indicated by the black disks, the entrance is also a reminder of the need to journey inside oneself in the search for inner spirituality and to isolate oneself from the world for periods of introspection and meditation.
[Source: The flag description is taken from the most recent production run of 3x5' polyester Micmac flags by TME Co., Inc. in May 2000, under the guidance of Bernard Jerome, Cultural Director and Member of Elders of the Micmac Tribe. Flag courtesy of TME Co. The flag symbolism was provided by Mr. Jerome during a telephone interview with Peter Orenski on February 5-6, 2002.]
© Donald Healy 2008
information provided by Peter Orenski, 1 February 2008