History and Economy – 2


Native Canadians were known as Indians when European settlers first arrived in the country because they thought they had reached the East Indies. Some of these Indigenous peoples subsisted by hunting and gathering, while others farmed. For instance, the Cree and Dene of the Northwest were hunter-gatherers, but the Huron-Wendat and Iroquois of the Great Lakes region were farmers and hunters. The Inuit subsisted on Arctic fauna, whereas the Sioux were nomadic hunters who followed bison herds. Fish was preserved by smoking and drying by West Coast tribes. Indigenous communities frequently engaged in intertribal conflict as they vied for territory, wealth, and status.

The introduction of European traders, missionaries, soldiers, and colonists had a profound effect on the manner of life of the indigenous people. Indigenous peoples lost a great number of people to diseases to which they lacked immunity. However, over the first two centuries of coexisting, Europeans and Aboriginals built solid military, ecclesiastical, and economic ties that served as the cornerstones of Canada.


All of Canada’s areas were already inhabited by Indigenous people when Europeans first travelled there. The explorers, believing they had arrived in the East Indies, mistook them for “Indians.” Native Americans relied on agriculture or hunting and gathering to support their way of life. The Huron-Wendat and Iroquois were farmers and hunters in the Great Lakes region, the Cree and Dene were hunter-gatherers in the Northwest, the Sioux were nomads who followed the bison herd, and the Inuit subsisted on Arctic fauna. Fish was preserved by smoking and drying by West Coast tribes. Aboriginal groups frequently engaged in warfare as they fought one another for prestige, resources, and land.

The way of life of the native population was drastically altered by the arrival of European traders, missionaries, soldiers, and colonists. Indigenous people died in large numbers as a result of European diseases to which they lacked immunity. However, throughout the first 200 years of coexistence, strong economic, religious, and military ties developed between Indigenous people and Europeans, which laid the groundwork for Canada.

A thousand years ago, the Icelandic Vikings who settled Greenland also made it to Labrador and the island of Newfoundland. L’Anse aux Meadows, the ruins of their town, is now a World Heritage site.

European exploration started seriously with John Cabot’s mission in 1497. The East Coast of Canada was originally depicted on a map by him.


Jacques Cartier made three trips across the Atlantic between 1534 and 1542 in order to claim the territory for King Francis I of France. Cartier overheard the Iroquoian word kanata, which means “village,” while speaking with two captive guides. The name of Canada started to appear on maps about the year 1550. Aside from discovering the St. Lawrence River, Jacques Cartier was also the first European to see what is now Québec City and Montreal.


The first European settlement north of Florida was founded in 1604, first by the French explorers Pierre de Monts and Samuel de Champlain on St. Croix Island (modern-day Maine), then at Port-Royal in Acadia. (Present-day Nova Scotia). At what is now Québec City, Champlain constructed a fortress in 1608. The colonists battled a hostile environment. The Iroquois, a confederation of five (later six) First Nations that fought the French settlements for a century, were historically enmasse foes of Champlain’s colony. They were associated with the Algonquin, Montagnais, and Huron. In 1701, the French and the Iroquois reached a settlement. Because of the high demand for beaver pelts in Europe, the French and Native Americans worked together in the extensive fur trade industry.

The Beginnings of Democracy

Progressively and peacefully, democratic institutions emerged in Canada. In Halifax, Nova Scotia, the first representative assembly was chosen in 1758. In 1773, Prince Edward Island did likewise, and New Brunswick did likewise in 1785. The Province of Quebec was split into Upper Canada (later Ontario), which was predominately made up of Loyalist, Protestant, and English-speaking people, and Lower Canada (later Quebec), which was predominately Catholic and French-speaking. The Act also made it possible for the first time for citizens of the Canadas to elect legislative bodies. At this point, the term Canada was formally adopted and has been used ever since. British North America, as a whole, included the two Canadas as well as the Atlantic possessions.