Wilfred Ward knows the old stories and ways

Posted on September 16, 2007
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                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Wilfred Ward

            Wilfred Ward is a Metepenagiag Heritage Park Inc. board member, community Elder, and one of the three original members of the committee set up to decide what to do with artifacts recovered from the archaeological explorations. The others are Joe Mike Augustine’s daughter, Madeline Ward, President and Chair of The Board of Metepenagiag Heritage Park Inc. and Pam Ward, MHP Executive Director.

            “At first, people didn’t think we’d ever get anywhere!’ he says with a smile.

            He was a friend of Joe Mike Augustine’s and son of the late Chief Frank Ward. Frank Ward Day has been an annual holiday in the community for years. Wilfred says his father worked on the survey that set out the boundaries of the community. He made sure the community’s copy of the survey stayed in council’s hands. When an Indian Agent borrowed it, he made sure they got it back. Without that, it would have been difficult for the community to prove its outstanding land claims.

            “The survey showed we had 20,000 acres,” he said. “Over the years that got pushed down to 12,000.”

            As of this year, with the community opening of Metepenagiag Heritage Park, the holiday becomes Metepenagiag Day.

            Wilfred’s daughter, Francine, is an artist currently living in British Columbia where her husband, Dana Francis, is a homebuilder. Various pieces of Francine’s artwork are showcased throughout the Exhibit Hall of the park. 

            She is also the artist who designed the Metepenagiag Heritage Park logo, a stylized fiddlehead design depicting the two National Historic Sites at Metepenagiag.

            She has also recorded all her father’s stories, many of which he heard from Joe Mike Augustine.

            Wilfred says Joe Mike Augustine was a very laid-back, generous man who knew all the old ways and would share them with anyone who was interested.

            He worked as a cook on river log drives. “Whenever you went to see him, he was always baking bread,” Wilfred laughs. “I guess, cooking for a hundred men, you learn quick to be a good cook on those log drives.”

            “He cut pulp. He was an awful good trapper. He got mostly beaver, mink and muskrat. He sent beaver pelts to England where they were made into hats for the guards at Buckingham Palace.

            “He made baskets and even axe handles and peavey stocks.”

            Wilfred says Madeline Augustine, President and board chair of Metepenagiag Heritage Park Inc., is just like her father.

            “We just love her,’ he says.

            The sturgeon were gone by Wilfred’s time. His father told him the Mi’kmaq would put a huge scoop net in a hole through the ice as the tide came in. Then they’d walk in wide circles outside the net and sturgeon would crowd into the net.

            “The net would be full of them, about three to four feet long,” he says. “The sturgeon is awful tough to kill, you know. It can live out of the water for quite a long time.”

            Wilfred describes how Mi’kmaq hunted deer and moose in teams in winter. He says the deer would yard in lowland areas and made trails to higher ground where they would go to feed during the day.

            The hunters would hide behind trees along the trail, downwind of the deer. Other hunters, upwind, would chase the deer down the trails. The hunters in ambush would step out and club the deer with a piece of wood the size of a baseball bat.

            “The fellow who killed the deer never got much of the meat. Everybody in the community got a share,” he says.

            They used Newfoundland dogs as working animals. “When they killed a moose, they’d load it onto a sled and the dogs would haul it home.”

            “In those days,” he says, “everyone had a big garden. There were no vegetables in the stores, just flour, sugar, tea, staples like that.” He says Joe’s father had a huge garden, barn and livestock.

            Ward says that he has been concerned that, as the old ways disappeared, the young didn’t have the same work.

            “Many of them,” he says got much more education but didn’t have the confidence or motivation to get out and find a job.

            “Metepenagiag Heritage Park is a major stepping stone,” he says. “We have everything here to show who we are and where we have been. It will help make our young proud and confident.”

            Wilfred Ward sees Metepenagiag Heritage Park contributing to various economic benefits to the community and the region.

            “For one thing,” he says, “Government should improve the road from Miramichi out past Metepenagiag to McGraw Brook on the Renous to Plaster Rock highway. That would improve access from Maine, Quebec and Ontario to Metepenagiag but also to and from the entire area.”       


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