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They were here first, so their history and traditions go back the longest.
The Vinland Saga and the Saga of Eirik the Red tell of the Vikings' discovery of, and settlement in, North America. They were long thought to just be legends, until Norwegian archeologists Helge Ingstand and Anne Stine excavated the remains of a Viking settlement in Newfoundland in the 1960's.
From 1520 until about 1600, Basque fishermen from France and Spain regularly fished for cod and hunted right whales and bowhead whales in the waters off Labrador. Fifteen to twenty seasonal whaling stations were established along the Labrador coast, and underwater archeologists have discovered several well-preserved vessels in the waters off Labrador.
Red Bay National Historic Site, Labrador
The first successful French settlement in North America was at St. Croix Island, in 1604. However, due to heavy losses during the winter, the establishment was moved to Port-Royal in 1605. This initial toehold was followed up by exploration and settlements throughout the Maritime provinces and Quebec.
The events known as the "French and Indian Wars" in the U.S., are considered to be part of the "Seven Years' War" in Canada. Canadian events in this war included two sieges of Louisbourg, the Acadian expulsions, and the Battle of the Restigouche. The North American part of this international war finally ended on 13 Sept 1759, at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham, just outside of Quebec City. The English defeat of French forces in this battle meant an end to French control of Canada.
The Maritime provinces (Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island) were called "Acadia" under the French regime, and included small and large settlements, and some rather amazing military establishments such as Fortress Louisbourg (see above). During the Seven Years' War, parts of Acadia came under English control. When the conflict between France and England continued, it was decided that the Acadians posed a threat to British control in the Maritimes, and the Acadians were forcibly deported from their homes and farms. Those who would not take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown, some 11,000 plus Acadians, were largely deported to Louisiana, though as much as one third of these Acadians died on their journey South.
From the earliest days of Canadian settlement, the fur trade was one of the main economic engines of growth and expansion. At about the same time that Acadia and New France were first being settled, beavers became extinct in Europe. Since beaver fur was used in making a luxury commodity (high-quality felt hats), it became a good source of income for the struggling colony. At first, Natives brought their furs to trade centres such as Tadoussac; later, traders would receive licences to take canoes loaded with trade goods directly to the Natives. Traders who purchased licences were called voyageurs (travellers); traders who did business with the Natives illegally, without licences, were called coureurs de bois (woods runners). The most famous of the coureurs de bois were Étienne Brulé, Louis Joliet, Médard des Groseilliers and Pierre-Esprit Radisson. The last two went on to become co-founders of the Hudson's Bay Company. When, in the 1740's, the fur trade expanded westward, it was a joint venture between the military and business interests. The legendary La Verendrye family played a major role in this expansion; from their Quebec base, they established fur posts as far west as Manitoba.
The Hudson's Bay Company (so much more than a department store). The Pedlars from Quebec. Race to the Sea? The fur trade explorers: Samuel Hearne, Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson.
The Red River Rising, and the North-West Rebellion.
Development of the West Coast Fur Trade and the establishment of the Province of British Columbia in 1858
Coming to terms with the First Nations.
Many immigrant workers who came to the west coast worked in the fishery and the lucrative trade in canned salmon.