THE BOOK SHELF: The author explores the communities that shaped the interior of the province

Using historic maps, some dating back to French explorer Samuel de Champlain, author Joan Dawson has traced Nova Scotia’s historic waterways, early coastal settlements, lost highways and, more recently, the interior communities of the province.

“They developed quite differently from coastal communities,” Dawson said in a recent interview from his home in Halifax.

Along the province’s long coastline, fishermen and their families have settled and communities have sprung up. These agglomerations developed spontaneously with the development of the fishing industry and then the construction of boats. It was not the same for the interior of the province. Covered in dense forest, the development of these communities has been more gradual.

“Our often overlooked inland and cross-country routes run along scenic lakes and rivers, through forests and farmlands, and through established communities far from the ocean as people gradually discovered resources in the interior. from which they could make a living,” Dawson wrote. in his latest book, Nova Scotia’s Historic Inland Communities: The Gathering Places and Settlements that Shaped the Province (Nimbus Publishing).

“Early French and British settlers rarely went far inland and instead clustered around harbors that housed their fishing boats and trading vessels. They only ventured into the forest to cut wood for shelter and heat.

As more settlers arrived in search of land in what was to become the province, opportunities for development inland increased and communities developed along the roads and rivers. away from the sea. The Acadians created the first inland European communities towards the end of the 17th century, establishing small villages of families and friends when they dammed and drained the marshes along the Annapolis River and the rivers dropping into the Minas Basin.

Dawson’s history of interior Nova Scotia communities begins with the Mi’kmaq, who were as comfortable in the interior as they were on the Mi’kma’ki coast. Originally, they did not settle in the same place all year round, but moved seasonally between inland forests and coastal beaches. But they have established traditional gathering places. One such location was around Lake Kejimkujik, a place of ceremonial and spiritual significance.

“They would come back again and again,” Dawson said. “It was a gathering place rather than a colony.”

Archaeologists have found evidence that indigenous peoples have occupied the area around Lake Kejimkujik for six thousand years.

Starting with the Mi’kmaq, Dawson traces the first Acadian settlements. Paradise, located in a bend in the Annapolis River between modern-day Bridgetown and Lawrencetown, was one of the first recorded Acadian settlements in Nova Scotia, Dawson explains.

But the French were not the first to visit the region and discover its resources.

“For thousands of years, the Mi’kmaq have used the Annapolis River as a travel route. The location of present-day Paradise was known to them as Nisoqe’katik, sometimes translated as “place of eel dams.” This was a traditional encampment site where the native inhabitants of Nova Scotia captured a significant portion of their diet by building stone dams that directed eels to woven traps,” Dawson writes in his book which includes more than 40 historical photos.

After tracing the province’s Acadian and French origins, she moves on to what she calls the building of the Nova Scotian mosaic by exploring the development of the Protestant communities of Blockhouse and New Germany, the Loyalist communities of Bridgetown , Berwick and Kentville, the African Nova Scotian communities of North Preston and Hammonds Plains and the Scottish colonies of Cape Breton and Queens County.

Several communities in the interior of the province were deliberately settled after the War of 1812. After the war, the colonial government offered land to demobilized soldiers and created new communities in previously undeveloped interior regions.

“From the natural resources of timber and waterways, communities’ economies have grown and their fortunes have had their ups and downs over time. Their stories, preserved by local historical societies, reflect the hard work of pioneers,” Dawson writes.

“Furthermore, as I wrote, I began to realize how much British colonial attitudes had impacted the histories of these communities. They were created through the hard work of their founders, but at the expense of the Indigenous people of Mi’kma’ki, whose settled communities were very different from those of the settlers.Inland settlement encroached on First Nations hunting grounds, displacing them and impeding their access to traditional sources of food.

Born in 1932, Dawson is a member of several historical groups, including the Nova Scotia Archeology Society and the Heritage Trust of Nova Scotia. She is also a Fellow of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society. But she does not call herself a historian, but rather a historical geographer.

“I start with maps and when I research an area, I find the oldest maps – the first road maps – and then I go from there,” she said.

A retired librarian and teacher, Dawson first became interested in Nova Scotia history while completing a project for the Fort Point Museum in LeHave. During her research, which took her to Ottawa and Paris, she found some interesting French maps; created on old rag paper, some with irregular edges, they date from the time of Champlain.

“It got me hooked,” she said.

His historical research has produced several books, including The Mapmaker’s Eye and The Mapmakers’ Legacy, as well as Nova Scotia’s Historic Rivers and Nova Scotia’s Historic Harbours.

Although she has a deep appreciation for old maps, Dawson credits Google Maps for allowing her to complete her latest book, much of which was written during pandemic shutdowns when she couldn’t travel far from home.

“I went to Google Street View and went on a trip,” she said.

mermaid lullaby

Briana Corr Scott’s new hardback Mermaid Lullaby (Nimbus Publishing) celebrates mermaid mothers and their bedtime babies.

Now the sun is going down

It’s time to go to bed.

Swaddled in seaweed wraps

They rest their sleeping heads…

The Dartmouth-based author and illustrator has created vibrant ocean scenes, with mermaid mothers cradling their babies and resting on rocks, friendly seals gathering to say hello, and the moon casting its light on the ocean waves. .

Corr Scott is no stranger to mysterious and magical ocean stories. She is the creator of The Book of Selkie and the illustrator of The Mermaid Handbook.

after it rains

In her new counting chart book, author Joanne Schwartz explores the different things kids can do when the sky clears.

In After it Rains: A Counting Book (Nimbus Publishing), Schwartz, who grew up in Cape Breton and is now a children’s librarian in Toronto, takes children outside to explore their own backyard. They discover that the rain brings out: a puddle, four butterflies and nine writhing worms.

Angela Doak, collagist and photographer from Halifax, brings the text of the book to life with her luminous illustrations. To create her collage-style illustrations, she used scraps of recycled paper and foil wrappers.

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