FROM THE Heritage Minutes COLLECTION
A part of our heritage...
After Columbus landed in the Western Hemisphere in 1492, European rulers sent explorers across the Atlantic to the Americas to claim territory and discover riches. The Spanish, Portuguese, English, Dutch and French all wanted a piece of the "New World" for themselves. Sometimes we forget that the "new world" was not new at all, but the ancient home of many people who were called "Indians" by the Europeans. Jacques Cartier came from the French court of King Francis I to explore North America. In 1534, on his first voyage, he explored the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In Chaleur Bay, he met aboriginal people for the first time. They were Micmac people, and their meeting was the first time that the French and the natives traded furs. For centuries to come, fur trading would be important in the development of the North American colonies.
When Cartier sailed farther up the gulf and into the Bay of Gaspé, he and his men were greeted warmly by a group from the Iroquoian nation of Stadaconé. They had come from their home, which is now the site of Québec City, on a fishing expedition.
The story goes that Cartier asked the chief, Donnacona, what the land was called. The chief, who was inviting Cartier into their camp, replied "kanata," their word for village, as well as their name for the area around their home, Stadaconé. Maybe Cartier understood Donnacona, or maybe he did not, but "Canada" has remained the name of the whole vast territory that comprises our country.
Cartier sailed back to France with two of Donnaconna's sons, then returned again to Canada. On his second voyage, he sailed up the St. Lawrence River and visited the site of Montréal. He opened the door to French settlement of the rich land, and later colonists followed.
At first the aboriginal people were friendly, but many became hostile when they understood that their old way of life could not survive with the arrival of so many strangers. The struggle to establish peace and understanding between the people of the First Nations and the European settlers has continued during the many centuries since Cartier's arrival.
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