Ugpi'Ganjig History

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Settling on the lush properties about the Benjamin and Eel Rivers, the Micmac families of Eel River Bar (Ugpi'ganjig) would complete their annual migration from the sheltered in-land areas of the territory after winter. Approximately 5 families of unknown numbers would have made this annual journey and settled at their location of choice for a summer encampment; the Benjamin River area with rich properties for farming, and the Eel River area which offered a wide variety of fish in great abundance. The Benjamin River location was also important for other reasons; the lush property, which was high above the sea level, was prime for growing annual crops and it provided straight access to Heron Island where it is thought traditional burials took place. These burials have never been substantiated by archeological evidence nor has the specific place of settlement about the Benjamin been verified but in the oral testimony of the elders here, they know of no other truth. 


 The settling patterns above would have been true until 1807 when, by Provincial-Order-In-Council, the Eel River Bar Indian reserve was established on the shores of the Eel River and the Bay of Chaleur. As far as elders can recall, this choice of reserve location was not theirs but that of the Provincial Government in power. After 1807, the Micmac people were encouraged to use the "reserved lands" at Eel River and discouraged from migrating annually to the Benjamin. Some continued to migrate there until approximate year of 1900 when migration to that area finally ceased but with great prejudice for what had been done. 


 The above mentioned Provincial-Order-In-Council was unanimously passed on February 24, 1807 without the registered consent of the people who were subject to live at what is now known as the Eel River Bar Indian Reserve. That order allowed 220 acres of territorial land to the Micmac families that used to reside on the lush properties. 


During the year of confederation, 1867, approximately 148 acres was allotted to the reserve to give a total land in area was 368 acres. 


When the Micmac people reluctantly accepted the land grant at the Eel River, they knew that they would have to make the best of their situation. Although the land was quite poor, the resources available from the river would have alleviated some of their concern about the land. The Eel River had a lot to offer. Elders today state that there was a total of eight months of resource harvesting from the Eel River. The clam flats were thought to be the most productive in all of New Brunswick, smelts were harvested twice per year, salmon and trout were harvested in season, eels were abundant in the eel grass, and waterfowl frequented the islands and upper waters of the river. Socially, this river was a gathering place for the people. The clams attracted all of the community members and established a unique social setting for the Eel River Micmacs. Economically, this river was the life-blood of the community for it provided most of their food throughout the year with the exception of winter when animals were harvested for the same. Clams were often sold to tourists in summer and other resources were bartered and sold forming most of the economic activity at Eel River Bar. 


 This was all true before 1962 when water flowed freely up and down Eel River with the changing of the tides. Sand was pushed up the river with the rising tide and was flushed out with the falling tide. The effect on the offshore sand bars and channels was virtually nil and this remained fairly stable of hundreds of years. Then something took place in 1962 and 1963, which would change the community's social and economic structure; the Eel River was dammed. 


 After the Eel River dam was completed in 1963 and for the 30 years that followed, changes to the environment surrounding Eel River Bar nearly devastated the community. No longer did the falling tide remove the sand that was deposited with the incoming tide and by 1972, only nine years later, and the clam beds at Eel River were completely shut down. A combination of two things, which directly resulted from the dam construction, caused the closing of the calm beds. Because the falling tide's force was less powerful than before, the sand deposits over the clam beds grew thicker. This in combination with the settling pollutants in the water contaminated the clam beds. 



In addition to the contamination of the clam beds, 15 acres of beach- front property were lost. Many sand bars disappeared and cause the tides to have a tremendous erosion effect on the shoreline. Presently, infrastructure of streets and homes are threatened by extreme events of storms and high tides. 


Besides the effects of the dam described above, more than 60 acres of land was lost due to flooding, a higher water table was made more of the community's land unusable, fisheries at Eel River were heavily affected and channels were partially filled with sand deposits. A fish ladder was installed as part of the Eel River Dam but it proved, over time, to be inadequate and sub-standard. This caused the further degeneration of the river's resources. In addition, two municipalities which settled up- river received permission from the Provincial Department of the Environment to pump their "treated" sewage effluent from their treatment stations directly into the Eel River which eventually flowed down-river where it was stopped at the dam and came to the rest of the community. Over time, the Eel River and head-pond, which was created with the dam, because a cesspool for the Micmac people at Eel River Bar. 


 After a long 47 years, the dam was finally removed in 2011. Many from the community believe the removal is the first step to re-establishing their local river.

Eel River Bar continues to grow and the following lands have been purchased but not added.

Complete between high way #134 and bay chaleur- blocks of 10 acres

23 acres + 38 acres

Between highway #134 and Highway #11- 47 acres + 55 acres 

History of Ugpi'ganjig resourced from Tim Dedam and Gordon Labillois