Colonies and Empires
North America Before New France
From 12,000 to 10,000 years ago, Aboriginal peoples from the South began to travel the territory that would become New France. The arrival of these men and women in the Mississippi Valley, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence regions, as well as the Maritimes, marked the beginning of the occupation of lands only recently rid of the ice that had previously covered them.
The following article reveals a little known facet of the history, or more accurately, the prehistory of North America. Based on the most recent archaeological data, it paints a portrait of the peoples, the remote ancestors of today’s First Nations, who inhabited Acadia, the St. Lawrence Valley, and Louisiana during the millennium preceding the settlement of the first colonists from Europe. The cultural differences that distinguished these populations in terms of social organization and ways of life and subsistence are highlighted.
The article begins by presenting the Algonquians of the Northeast, nomads who lived by hunting, fishing and gathering, followed by the Iroquoians of the St. Lawrence Valley. These Aboriginal group, who Jacques Cartier encountered between 1534 and 1541, and who mysteriously disappeared before the arrival of Samuel de Champlain at the beginning of the following century, lived in villages surrounded by cultivated fields. The Mississippians from the interior of the continent were noted for their cities and a social stratification reflecting the complex societies of the South.