The origin of New France

The origin of New France

In the absence of monuments of written culture, the history of Canada before the arrival of Europeans is a motley archaeological mosaic of bones, stone tools and artifacts.

Brief meetings of the indigenous people with fishermen in the Atlantic almost left no trace, but subsequently, first French and then British colonists brought copper teapots and guns, blankets and brandy, Christian dogmas, smallpox and measles in exchange for their beaver skins.

In 1608, after a harsh winter in the Bay of Fundy, the first French settlers, led by Samuel de Champlain, left Nova Scotia and set off for the St. Lawrence River. For 10 years, sedentary farmers (habitants) and fur traders (coureurs de bois, that is, «running through the forests») founded a colony in Quebec (then New France), on the site of the narrowing of the river.

In order to provide all farmers with equal access to water, farmland was divided into long, narrow strips stretching to the banks of the river. Local conditions were exploited with traditional French ingenuity.

For example, manure was transported down the river on ice floes during the spring flood. The stern coureurs de bois bought furs from the Hurons in Ontario and from the Algonquins in Quebec, quickly mastering local languages ​​and customs, and even marrying Indian women.

In addition to the development of the vast, almost untouched natural resources of Northern Quebec and Ontario, the search continued for the northwestern route from Europe to the East, begun in the sixteenth century. Martin Frobisher. In 1610, the British navigator Henry Hudson considered that he had found the legendary Northwest Passage when, having rounded the northern tip of Quebec and headed south, where he hoped to find China, he found himself in a large bay, which later received his name.

More than half a century later, the bay was explored by two French entrepreneurs — Pierre Esprey Radisson and Medard Choir-de-Grozelier. To their deep disappointment, upon returning with a caravan of about a hundred canoes loaded with furs, all of their cargo was confiscated in Montreal for trade without a license.