Canada DescriptionCanada's initial inhabitants originated in Asia; as they searched for food, people from that continent crossed the Bering Strait between Alaska and Russia.
Over an indefinite period of time, a wide variety of unique Indian cultures and nations developed and prospered across most of North America, including all of Canada.
Convincing evidence exists that near the end of the 11th century, Leif Ericson, a seafaring Viking from Scandinavia, traversed the frigid waters of the North Atlantic Ocean and established a small settlement named Vinland along the coast of Newfoundland; it was eventually abandoned.
Giovanni Caboto, an Italian navigator and explorer, known in English as John Cabot, landed along the northeastern shore of Canada in 1497, and immediately claimed the land for his patron, King Henry VII of England. The Cabot discovery substantiated England's claim to a significant slice of North America.
News of this bountiful land soon spread across Europe, and in the years that followed, European fishing vessels regularly harvested the coastal waters. In 1524, not to be outdone by England, the King of France commissioned Giovanni da Verrazano to explore this New World.
The Italian explorer's discoveries along the eastern coastline of North America gave France its own claim to parts of this land. A decade later the King dispatched Jacques Cartier on another mission of discovery. Cartier and crew would make three trips into the Gulf of St. Lawrence area.
By the turn of the century, the French were heavily involved in the lucrative fur trading business in Canada. On one of those fur trapping missions in 1605, the French geographer and explorer, Samuel de Champlain, established France's first settlement in western Nova Scotia. Port Royal would later be abandoned, but in 1608, he founded a permanent colony at Quebec, a colony that would later become the capital of New France.
New France continued to grow, albeit slowly, and Champlain was appointed governor in 1633. Trois-Rivieres was founded in 1634, and Montreal, a missionary outpost established in 1642, would eventually grow to become Canada's largest city.
For the indigenous Indians, contact with these early Europeans proved disastrous, as explorers and traders unintentionally brought diseases, such as smallpox with them. Thousands would get sick and die, and relationships between Indians and Europeans were strained, at best.
The French, seemingly out of necessity, befriended several Indian nations, including the Algonquin and Huron. On the other hand, the Iroquois detested the French, and using weapons provided them by the British, waged relentless war on their sworn enemies.
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