Nova Scotia Museum
Mi'kmaq Portraits Collection


The name Mi'kmaq derives from the term nikmaq, meaning "my kin-friends" and also the greeting “my brothers!” in the 1600s.

When French lawyer Marc Lescarbot, visited what is now Nova Scotia, in AD 1606, he reported that the First Nations peoples taught this greeting to the French and Basque fishermen and explorers who came from Europe each summer. The French would then greet and return the greeting of the First Nations peoples by saying, "Nikmaq!" or "My brothers!"

In letters to France, First Nations people were referred to as "Notres nikmaqs" or "our brothers" [literally "our my-brothers"]. The addition of the unnecessary “s” on the already plural form, began the tradition of what came to be regarded as the "tribal" name. Eventually "nikmaq" was anglicized to Mikmak, Mickmack, Mick Mack, Mic Mac, and other combinations.

The 1980’s educational television series called Mi'kmaq returned to a more accurate spelling and pronunciation of the name. At this time the Nova Scotia Museum began using Mi'kmaq as the First Nations name, replacing Micmac. You will, however, still see Micmac in older titles or publications.

Some common misspellings are:

• Mi'Kmaq [the K is not capitalized]
• Mi'qmak [K and Q reversed]
• Mik Maq [this is not two words, but one]
• Mi'kmaqs [Mi'kmaq is plural; to add an S is like saying "the Frenches" instead of "the French."]

The term Mi'kmaq, is the plural non-possessive form. The singular form of the word is Mi'kmaw. The word "Mi'kmaq" is never used as an adjective.

In the interests of historical accuracy, we provide the term as written in any quotation or artist's title.

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