Native Americans

The Indians were the main focus of the history of New France, and

influenced the Europeans in the period before 1663. The Indians, being

numerous compared with the Europeans, came into frequent contact with them.

The Indians and Europeans traded items with one another, which led to

various events and actions that contributed greatly to the history of New

France. The Europeans who arrived after the Indians had already settled

were exposed to the native people\'s way of life, from which techniques for

survival were acquired. Later, the Europeans depended on the Indians, some

of whom acted as middlemen and who had items which were valuable to them.

Various Indian personalities were also observed and admired by Europeans

particularly the Jesuits.


The Native Indians were among the first people to enter North America.

They entered America through the passage of the Bering Strait, a location

which is the midpoint of Alaska and Siberia. As time passed, they settled

on various pieces of land and hunted, fished and grew crops. Alfred Bailey

mentions that, "It had been suggested that Siouans, the Iroquoians and

Algonquians were among the first to enter America."1 Before the Europeans

arrived, there were many native tribes that were already settled. By the

time Europeans arrived in North America, they found natives occupying large

amounts of land.2 The Indians helped start the history of New France.


Since the natives arrived early in North America, their population

started to increase quite rapidly. With the combination of migration as

well as the birth rate, the Indians inflated their population to a large

size. "In 1663, there were only still 3000 Europeans living in New France,

no more people than constituted a small Iroquoian tribe."3 The Indians

were in the majority before 1663.


Surrounding the area of New France there were two main native groups

who spoke different languages. These groups were the Algonquian and the



The Algonquians were primarily involved in trading and fishing. These

people remained in groups called bands, which included relatives such as

parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Algonquians

primarily hunted, and so would develop groups to hunt in different areas.

They travelled around frequently and would take everything they needed

while on their hunting journey. In the winter, they used snowshoes; in the

Summer, they used the canoe. The Algonquians were always moving from one

location to another; because of their hunting they never stayed in one

location for a long period of time.


The Iroquoians were mainly occupied with agriculture. This group

established themselves near land which could be farmed upon. They remained

in this area until the land was exhausted and nothing more could be

cultivated upon it. After the land was worthless it was abandoned and

another piece of land was selected upon which to plant at another location.

Their villages were known as Longhouses. These Longhouses were quite large

and supported more than five families in them. The men were mainly the

people who constructed the Longhouse. While the men were busy during the

summer, hunting, trading, or engaging in war, the women would care for the

crops. The Iroquoians helped contribute to agriculture by being one of the

first to grow crops.


While trading with the Europeans, the Indians were faced with many

instances that were devastating and other cases which helped them profit.

Trade in New France was so prominent that France decided to create a

monopoly to bring the trade under control. Two provisions had to be met:


Firstly, the private fur trading company had to

promote colonization. Secondly, it had to send

Roman Catholic missionaries to Christianize the



On the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Tadoussac, became the chief trading centre for

the Europeans. The trade route surrounding Tadoussac contained connections

from Hudson Bay to New England. Some negative aspects of the fur trade

were that:


The Fur Trade at first enriched traditional

Indian life, but later increasing competition

for pelts generated conflicts that led to the

dispersal of many Indian groups. Indian wars

grew out of long standing rivalries or

developed as a result of Indian disputes over



An outcome of trading with the Europeans that devastated the Indians,

was the epidemics which the Europeans presented. These epidemics destroyed

a large percentage of the Indian population, which they did not deserve and

which were calamitous to the population.


Certain groups, such as the Hurons, abandoned agriculture and focused

on trading. This reveals that trading had an enormous impact on Indians

and their heritage. The Indians were still in control of exchanging furs,

since Indians controlled the supply of beaver pelt sought by the Dutch and

French traders, who waited at ports