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2.1 European Contact

Aboriginal people in Canada interacted with Europeans as far back as 1000 AD, but prolonged contact came only after Europeans established permanent settlements in the 17th and 18th centuries. European written accounts noted friendliness on the part of the First Nations, who profited in trade with Europeans. Such trade strengthened the more organised political entities such as the Iroquois Confederation.

There are reports of contact made before Christopher Columbus between the first peoples and those from other continents. Even in Columbus’ time there was much speculation that other Europeans had made the trip in ancient or contemporary times; Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés records accounts of these in his “General y Natural Historia de Las Indias” of 1526, which includes biographical information on Columbus. He discusses the then-current story of a Spanish caravel swept off its course while on its way to England winding up in a foreign land populated by naked tribesmen. The crew gathered supplies and made its way back to Europe, but the trip took months and the captain and most of the men died before reaching land. The ship’s pilot, a man from the Iberian Peninsula (Oviedo says different versions have him as Portuguese, Basque, or Andalusian), and others made it to Portugal, but all were very ill. Columbus was a good friend of the pilot, and took him to his house for treatment. The pilot described the land they had seen and marked it on a map before dying. People in Oviedo’s time knew this story in various versions, but Oviedo regarded it as myth.

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