Indigenous People of Quebec - dummies

By Eric Bedard

Part of History of Quebec For Dummies Cheat Sheet

When the Europeans colonizers first arrived, three main aboriginal groups populated the territory of Quebec: the Algonquians, Iroquoians, and Inuit people. Each was subdivided into tribes and occupied a specific part of the territory. Here’s a quick overview of the three groups:

  • The Algonquians: Made up of nomadic tribes, the Algonquian peoples were divided as follows:

    • The Montagnais (or Innu) roamed along the north shore of the St. Lawrence as far as the St. Maurice River.

    • The Cree lived south of James Bay; the Maliseet lived along the St. John River.

    • The Odawa inhabited the Témiscamingue region and the area north of Lake Huron.

    • The Algonquians covered an area along the north shore of the Ottawa and St. Lawrence rivers extending from the Témiscamingue region to west of the St. Maurice.

    Other Algonquian tribal groups lived outside Quebec’s current boundaries (such as the Mi’kmaq of the maritime provinces and the Ojibwe of Lake Superior). The French settlers generally maintained good relations with these peoples.

  • The Iroquoians: When Jacques Cartier arrived from France in 1535, Iroquoian tribes were settled at Stadacona (in what is now called Quebec City) and Hochelaga (present-day Montreal). In the second half of the 16th century, they abandoned these posts and settled farther south and west.

    When the French returned early in the 17th century, the Iroquoians had disappeared. Consisting mostly of semi-sedentary tribes, this major aboriginal family included the Iroquois, divided into the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy — Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. They lived in the areas around Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The Hurons of the Great Lakes, with whom the French established close relations, were also part of the broader Iroquoian cultural family.

  • The Inuit: Completely isolated from the two other First Nation families in Quebec and from the early French colonists, the Inuit lived in Labrador and the far north.