Chief Andrew James Mius
Andrew James ( Mius) Meuse
Mi'kmaq Chief; fl.Bear River
In 1821 Andrew James Meuse, speaking on behalf of the “Division of the Mi'kmaq Nation residing near the Gut of Annapolis
Royal,” petitioned the Nova Scotia House of Assembly against passage of a bill that would outlaw shooting porpoises
in the bay. He argued that the killing of porpoises, which were one of the Indians’ principal resources, was a “natural
right” that did no harm to the whites. He talked at length of the wrongs suffered by his people and made an eloquent
statement of their cause. The bill, which had already passed two readings, was thereupon voted down.
The Halifax philanthropist
Walter Bromley first met Meuse, “the man who nobly pleaded his peoples cause,” in September 1822. Meuse asked
him to apply to the government on behalf of the band for a 1,000-acre grant contiguous to their encampment at the Annapolis
Basin. In 1825
the two men went to England together. It was reported that Meuse hoped to solicit permanent grants of land for the Indians
so that they could become farmers
Land was surveyed in 1827 and divided into 30-acre lots. A family that cultivated
its land for three consecutive years was to be confirmed
in possession of it, but was still not to be given a freehold grant; a family that neglected its holding for three years would
forfeit it to another Indian cultivator.
The first people moved to Bear River in 1828. By 1831 there were 17 families,
living at Bear River; they had cleared land and brought in good crops of potatoes.
Meuse successfully petitioned the
assembly for help to construct a road and £100 to build a chapel. He paid a second visit to London in 1831–32, spending
much of his time in the company of famous philanthropists: Elizabeth Fry gave him a portrait
of herself that he later hung in his living-room. He was presented to the king and queen, who gave him a medallion.
Meuse remained the leading personality at Bear River. The abbé gave him a letter of introduction when he went to Yarmouth
in 1835 to raise £25 for the chapel. He is also known to have visited the United States on fund-raising drives, possibly
Joseph Howe, in his new official capacity, visited Bear River in 1842 and found a location with good soil
and ready access to the porpoise and herring fishery of the Gut. There were “boundless hunting grounds” close
by and the Indians could earn cash by the sale of cordwood at neighbouring Bear River village. Howe was optimistic that the
reserve could become a centre for the “civilization” of the Mi'kmaq. He identified 14 families, some 65 people,
and 4 of those families already lived in comfortable frame-houses.
Disaster struck the community in the mid 1840.
The potatoes rotted in the ground, the fishery failed, and sickness caused many deaths. . Meuse was one of those stricken,
but he survived. Bear River recovered slowly. Meuse was among the ten chiefs who paraded through Halifax in February 1849
carrying a petition that called for aid to resume farming after the blight.
Andrew James Meuse had married Magdalen
Tony, and they had four boys and two girls. Louis Noel accompanied his father on the second visit to London. Five of the children
were sent to school and became literate in the English language.