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First People and the Marsh

The marshes have a long history of human occupance. For at least 5,000 years prior to European contact, indigenous peoples harvested the plants, wildfowl and small mammal resources that abounded where the fresh and saltwater meet. Native oral tradition alludes to the Tantramar Marshes as a meeting place as Mi’kmaq bands moved seasonally between seacoast and forest to collect essential food and other resources. This pattern meant that they established temporary encampments on the margins of the marshes. They also established well traveled portage routes crossing the Chignecto Isthmus through the marshes thereby linking the Bay of Fundy with the Northumberland Strait. Their presence as the first people of the area continues in the survival of certain place names, such as Westcock, believed to be an English corruption of “Vestkack,” possibly meaning “Great Marsh” and “Chignecto,” the name given to the isthmus on which the marshes rest, which seems to derive from the Mi’kmaq term “Sinunikt” or "Siknikt" meaning foot cloth, possibly associated with native legend.

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