Home > Scientific Perspective > History > Ancient Occupation of the Territory footsteps icon

Ancient Occupation of the Territory

Archaeological research carried out in the Côte-Nord since the 1970s shows its occupation by Amerindian groups for more than 8,000 years. As soon as the glacier gave way to vegetation and then animals, the earliest humans appeared. Attracted at first by the plentiful coastal resources, the necessities of survival led them towards the interior of this unknown territory. Until very recently, the coast, like the entire continent, was Amerindian, up to the time when very strange vessels with white sails appeared on the horizon...

Palaeo-indian culture

Eleven thousand years ago, the melting of the Laurentidian glacier revealed Anticosti Island and the coast east of the Saint-Augustin River's north shore. However, the coasts were submerged under the sea. Eight thousand years ago, ice was present only upstream of the large rivers. Vegetation and animals established themselves on the land that emerged from the water, followed by the first humans at the territory's eastern and western extremities.

Archaic Cultures

The culture known as “Maritime Archaic Tradition”, associated with the sea and its resources, appeared from New England to the north of Labrador. Its traces go back more than 7,000 years in the Basse-Côte-Nord (the Blanc-Sablon region). This culture disappeared over 3,500 years ago. The Shield Archaic Tradition is particularly adapted to the resources of the boreal forest (small and large mammals, fish and fruit). Its most ancient trace in our vast territory goes back 8,000 years (in the Haute-Côte-Nord, at Cap de Bon-Désir).

Palaeo-eskimo Cultures

Four thousand years ago, people of varying languages and cultures left Alaska to become the earliest occupants of the Arctic and Greenland. Two thousand eight hundred years ago, their descendants (the people of the Groswater complex), reached the southern coast of Labrador and Newfoundland. Twenty-five thousand years ago, they were replaced by the Dorsetians, another nordic group, who occupied these regions more intensively. For reasons unknown, this culture disappeared 700 years ago.

The Terminal Archaic Period

This period began around 1300 our era with the retreat of the Palaeo-Eskimos from the South of Labrador, and ended around 1500, with the arrival of the first European ships off the coast. It is represented in the Basse-Côte-Nord/Labrador by the Point Revenge complex, and in Newfoundland by the Little Passage complex. Certain archaeologists contend that the cultures responsible for these complexes (tools and cultural behaviors) are the ancestors of the Innu people and the Beothuk nation, whose last representative died on the Island of Newfoundland in 1829.

Inuit Culture

The “Thuleans”, ancestors of the Inuit and skilled whale hunters, began a migration from Alaska to the Eastern Arctic and Greenland around 900. They frequented the south of Labrador around 1580, attracted by the presence of European fishermen. Traces attest to their presence in the Basse-Côte-Nord, but did they get as far as Havre-Saint-Pierre, once called Eskimo Point? Around 1750 they returned to the northern coast of Labrador, where they can still be found in numbers exceeding 5,000 in the communities of Nain, Hopedale, Postville, Makkovik and Rigolet.

The Woodland Period

This period is marked by the introduction of ceramics into North-East American Native technology 3,000 years ago. The “Saint Lawrence Iroquians”, whom Cartier encountered in 1524, mastered this art. Established in Hochelaga (Montréal) Stadacona (Québec) and a few hamlets further east, they survived essentially on horticulture (corn, sunflowers, beans and squash). At the same time as the Gulf of Saint Lawrence was beginning to be exploited under Cartier, they exploited the resources of the river’s estuary, such as seals and belugas, in the summer season. Their presence can be seen in several archaeological sites between Tadoussac and Les Escoumins. At the time of Québec City's foundation by Samuel de Champlain in 1608, this population had completely vanished.

Top of page