Joe Mike Augustine, the spirit of Metepenagiag

Posted on September 17, 2007
Filed Under Metepenagiag | Leave a Comment

joe-augustine.jpg                                                                                                                                                                                             Joe Mike Augustine 

         Everyone who speaks of the late Joe Mike Augustine does so reverently. Most of them mention some of the same things about him that made such a great impression on them.

            Augustine was the man who brought to public attention not one but two National Historic Sites, the Augustine Burial Mound in 1972, and the ancient Mi’kmaq community site of Oxbow, labeled the “Village of 30 Centuries,” in 1982. He died in 1995 knowing that his dream that there would be a place where Metepenagiag’s heritage, culture and artifacts could be displayed was safe in the hands of his children and grandchildren.

            Everyone mentions how his spirit is still alive in Madeline. She insisted her father take what he had found to Fredericton to try to find out what it all meant to the community. From that day to this she has been a continual influence in the effort to bring Joe Mike’s dream to reality.

            By all accounts, Joe Mike was a kind, generous, and gentle man who lived a quite traditional life. He fished, hunted, trapped, made baskets and even baked traditional Mi’kmaq bread.

            He was always willing to share his knowledge and had a wicked sense of humour.

            Archaeologist Patricia Allen tells of going raspberry picking with him in the local gravel pit. There was a pillar of gravel about 20 feet high with a patch of grass and raspberry bushes on top.

            “Okay, Pat, I’ll get these. You get those ones up there,” he said.

            On another occasion, Allen having learned about ice fishing from Joe Mike, cut a hole in the ice and was sitting on a bucket, fishing. She got a bite and pulled the fish to the surface only to find it was much too big to fit through the hole she had cut. She was trying to figure out what to do when she saw Joe coming across the ice.

            “I called to him for help,” she says “And he came shuffling over and looked down at the fish face in the opening.

            “What am I gonna do, Joe?” she asked.

            “Well, I think you better get a bigger hole,” he said walking away, his shoulders shaking with silent laughter.

            She also tells of him spinning tales to young university students working on the Oxbow excavations. He could convince city kids that he hunted moose by sitting in a tree, jumping on the back of a passing moose and riding it to exhaustion.

            His daughter, Madeline, now president and board chair of Metepenagiag Heritage Park Inc., remembers that he was a voracious reader and always eager to learn new things.

            Chief Noah Augustine, Joe Mike’s grandson, is very emotional when he talks about how, if his grandfather had not discovered the mound when he did, the whole sacred site would have been hauled away in gravel trucks. He speaks of the huge debt he feels for his grandfather’s contribution to the rebirth of the community’s culture.

            He remembers his grandfather’s satisfaction when, on his death bed, he watched the “Village of 30 Centuries” for the last time and was reassured that many people were going to see the film and know the ancient story of Metepenagiag.

            Metepenagiag Heritage Park board member and original committee member, Wilfred Ward remembers how generous Joe was with his knowledge, always willing to share with anyone who wanted to learn but never pushing it on anyone.

            On Metepenagiag Day, Wednesday, August 15, Metepenagiag Heritage Park held official blessing and opening ceremonies to introduce the interpretive centre to the community for its members to be the first to see it and to take ownership.

            Joe Mike Augustine’s daughter, Madeline, now president and board chair of Metepenagiag Heritage Park Inc., says she saw an eagle flying over the site and knows the spirit of her father was there with the community.

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