“Argimou not only reflected the social conscience and citizen engagement of its author but also reminds us of the role played by our national literature in heightening our cultural awareness of nineteenth-century Canada.”
“…he [Edward, an English soldier] thought how little, after all, the luxury, the advantages of a civilized state of society, were capable of ameliorating the moral or physical condition of man. What benefit had art and intellectual culture, after the lapse of thousands of years, conferred upon his nation that these simple children of Nature did not receive from their mother’s hand, unsolicited?”
The story of Argimou is fairly straightforward: after the fall of Fort Beausejour, Maliseet warriors kidnap Clarence Forbes, the betrothed of Edward Molesworth, the aforementioned English soldier. Argimou, a Mi’kmaq warrior who was captured by the British at the Fort, offers to help Edward find Clarence in return for his freedom. The Maliseet also have Argimou’s love interest Waswetchcul captive. So both men work together along with Argimou’s father Pansaway to retrieve the women. What transpires is a trip from Nova Scotia through present-day southern New Brunswick to the Bay of Fundy where the story reaches its climax.
As I was reading this story, I couldn’t help but think of James Fenimore Cooper, a contemporary of Mr. Huyghue’s and his extremely popular Last of the Mohicans which was published in 1826, less than two decades prior to Argimou. Both stories are examples of “captivity narratives” which were popular at the time.
Argimou: A Legend of the Micmac holds a unique place in early Canadian literature, for it is certainly descriptive of a historical time, filled with historical places and was published at a time when there was a scarce availability of literature of the “homegrown” variety. It may be a simple story, but it retains a certain timelessness about it as it surfaces again (thanks to Wilfred Laurier University Press) in a time of promised healing and reconciliation toward Canada’s indigenous peoples.