In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the Mi’kmaq were the focus of two moments in the development of the public sphere in the British settler colony of Nova Scotia. One moment saw concern for the Mi’kmaq’s welfare increase and the focus of that concern become fixed on “civilizing” through assimilation. Another was a growing scientific curiosity expressed through the founding of intellectual organizations such the Nova Scotian Institute of Science, and often at odds with prevailing religious beliefs, which adhered to the “sacred chronology” of the Bible. These moments converged in the addresses on cultural history made by members of the Nova Scotian Institute of Science between 1864 and 1912. The interpretations offered by the institute’s members demonstrate an increasing separation of the contemporary Mi’kmaq from the precontact past of the province, thus constructing a chronology that—if not biblically sacred—was sacrosanct to the narrative of progress that underlay the settler project in Nova Scotia.

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