Everything in the world has a beginning, a point before which it does not exist, and after it, it does. History of humans inhabiting a place, and in this case, Canada’s history of inhabiting is no exception. Here we take a look at a part of Canada’s early history, up to the 15th century to be exact. When the first humans took the hardship during the ice ages to travel to the land we know as North America today.
But it is not all there is to Canada’s early history of human settlements, for in the 15th century, a few years after Columbus discovered North America (fun fact: he was trying to reach India around the globe, and he actually thought he had, that’s why one of the names of North America natives is Indian), other explorer came to this land and discovered what we know as Canada today. In this article, we will read and learn more about them.
Table of Contents
Where it all began
At some point before 14000BC, the land of North America laid eyes on its first inhabitants, Paleo-Indians, who are believed to have traveled across the Bering Strait land bridge or Beringia. Low sea levels that happened in glacial periods caused this landmass to become a crossing for humans and a unique place for evolution to occur.
The first residents through Canada’s early history
Descendants of those crossing to North America formed civilizations there. Nowadays, we call them Indigenous or Aboriginal. They are the longest living blood lines in Canada’s history. Indigenous people of Canada are divided into three categories: Inuit, Métis, and First Nations.
- Inuit: “The People”, as the term means in the “Inuktitut” language, inhabit the northern parts of Canada, Alaska, and Greenland or, as they call it, “Inuit Nunangat”, meaning “Inuit Home” which is divided into four major regions. The 2016 census shows a 29.2% growth in population since 2006. The Inuit were historically called “Eskimo”, but since they tend to call themselves Inuit nowadays, this term could be considered offensive!
- Métis: French term Métis, meaning “Mixed”, refers to people descended from First Nation and French settlers. Since 1982 Canadian Government formally recognizes Métis as indigenous. They originated early in the 18th century, the point in Canada’s early history when fur traders, mostly French and Scottish, married aboriginal women, and their descendants shaped a new culture.
- First Nations: First Nation people are all indigenous people in Canada except Inuit and Métis, diverging to more than 634 communities and speaking more than 50 distinct languages. They are usually known by their other names like Indians, Natives, or Amerindians, although using these terms without further clarification could be problematic!
Population of Indigenous people, based on 2016 census
The Real “Vinland Saga”
Throughout Canada’s history, many nations tried to colonize it, but the first Europeans to reach Canada were probably Vikings who tried to colonize Canada in the late stages of the 10th century. They colonized Greenland and sailed to Newfoundland. In the 1960s, remains of their settlement were discovered in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, “L’Anse aux Meadows”. Its French-English name translates to “The bay with the grasslands”.
In 1978 UNESCO declared L’Anse aux Meadows as a world heritage site. It is believed -Spoiler alert for “Vinland Saga” anime and manga fans- Leif Erikson is the first European to explore the area.
First explorers moor on Canada’s shore early in its history
After Vikings, it was John Cabot (Italian-born, English Immigrant) to set foot on Newfoundland, claiming the territory on behalf of King Henry VII in 1497, 5 years after Columbus’ voyage. However, The English didn’t establish a settlement before 1610. Cabot was the first person to map the east coast of Canada. He reported the sea to be “swarming with fish, which can be taken not only with the net but in baskets let down with a stone.”.
Final words on Canada’s early history
Thus, Europeans found their way into Canada and started the migration to this land, although it was not easy to colonize it, and there were so many ups and downs ahead of them. But in all and all, it turned a new leaf in Canada’s early history.
In the following centuries, there will be wars, treaties, and controversies between nations and powers in North America. In the next chapters, we will know more about each part and get a good grip on Canada’s early history.