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Ancient Land, New Land

SKU: AC0191


The Mi’kmaq have inhabited Epekwitk (Prince Edward Island) for millennia. At this site, known in Mi’kmaq as Skmaqn, or “waiting place,” the Mi’kmaq met the French in the 18th century to renew their friendship and military alliance at a time when the French and British empires were fighting for supremacy in North America.

As Europeans settled on what had become to be known as Isle Saint Jean, the major European players were France and Great Britain, each of whom started constructing forts and sending soldiers, warships and settlers. A key strategy of the French was to establish a close alliance with the Mi’kmaq, one that was maintained by missionaries. Thus Skmaqn became the French fort Port-la-Joye. The French saw it as the most strategic location as its harbour was large, sheltered, and easy to defend because of the narrow entrance through which any enemy ships would have to pass.

One of the first permanent French settlements on the island, Port-la-Joye was the seat of colonial government and a port of entry. This site was surrendered to Great Britain in 1758 and renamed Fort Amherst, the British organized the deportation of more than 3,000 Acadians.


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Skmaqn — Port-La-Joye — Fort Amherst National Historic Site reflects on a place that helped shape and define Prince Edward Island, offering a history of the site and explaining its importance to three distinct peoples.

For the Mi?kmaq, Skmaqn was and is part of their ancient and ongoing traditional territory of Epikwitk.

For the Acadians, Port-la-Joye was a new home and the scene of great tragedy.

For the British, Fort Amherst was a place where another chapter of colonization began.

This history speaks to nation-wide and universal themes: Indigenous-settler relations and the challenges of newcomers adapting to a new land. The story presented in these pages is a witness to the struggle of refugees, the desire to plan and build, the destruction of war, and, throughout, the resilience and resolution of the human spirit.

“As the location of the first formal settler – Mi’kmaw interaction and relationship-building on our Island, it marks a before-and-after moment, a turning point in our history.” — Chief Darlene Bernard, Lennox Island First Nation, Co-chair, Epekwitk Assembly of Councils.

Additional information

Weight398 g
Dimensions7 × 9 in








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