Native People Prior to, and at the Time of, European Contact
1. INTRODUCTION: Questions of terminology and other uncertainties
Questions to ask about primary sources:
•why the source was written
•the validity of the sources
•who it was written by
Jesuit well educated young men and were catholic missionaries.
Purpose was to convert native peoples to Catholicism
Wrote home to friends and family What might they write about? Exaggerate about their
situation in the hopes of more funding, more missionaries. They might exaggerate their role and
the importance of their job i.e. how much the natives might need the gospel.
Their written records are our best primary sources about early eastern Canada.
2. THEORIES REGARDING NATIVE PEOPLE’S ORIGINS: early immigrants OR always
here? If early immigrants, when did they come? Ongoing debates
Achiologists argue that they travelled over a land bridge 10 000 years ago
Native Lore argues that they have always been there
3. PRE-CONTACT VARIETY AND CHANGE IN WHERE AND HOW NP LIVED: evidence of
both even before contact with Europeans, but such contact greatly accelerated change
4. THE NATIVE POPULATION OF WHAT IS NOW CANADA AT THE TIME OF
EUROPEAN CONTACT? ?? conflicting estimates, and the significance of these debates
5. HOW DO WE KNOW WHAT WE THINK WE “KNOW” ABOUT NATIVE PEOPLE PRIOR
TO EUROPEAN CONTACT? the nature of, and problems with, our main primary sources
1. archaeological and geological sources
2. native oral traditions
3. written accounts by European explorers, traders, and missionaries
6. SOME WIDELY ACCEPTED GENERALIZATIONS ABOUT NATIVE PEOPLE AT THE
TIME OF CONTACT:
1. a close relationship with their natural environment
It is indicated that native people lived in a close relationship with their natural environment
However: They often did burn down sections of the forest for agriculture/ hunting/ turned
the land over for agriculture/ cut trees down for living arrangements/ Conclusion: they were
not wasteful of resources but they did use their surroundings.
2. a division of labour by gender that reflected complementary work roles