The Coming of the Europeans
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The Coming of the Europeans

After the departure of the Vikings, the next European visit to Newfoundland wasn't for five centuries when Giovanni Caboto or John Cabot made the voyage. In the intervening 500 years, the Atlantic Ocean was deemed a barrier not worth crossing.

The Europeans were fixated on points east where Asia lay with its Oriental riches. Cinnamon, ginger, pepper and even gold, diamonds and pearls were collected from all over the Orient and shipped through Constantinople, into the markets of Europe.

This was the time of the Renaissance, a time of knowledge and new ventures. The Europeans thought there was nothing more to the world than their own continent, the storehouses of Asia and the emerging shape of Africa.

Scholars knew that the world was round but the merchants ignored the academics. What did they care that the Atlantic waters off Europe may lead a ship around to the Orient through open water speckled with but a few exotic islands?

They had their single, precious overland trade route, through the narrow gap at Constantinople. At least, they did have that route until 1453 when Constantinople fell from the hands of the Christians to the Ottoman Turks.

The gateway to Asia was closed and sailors started to consider the possibilities of crossing the Atlantic to get to the Orient. They never suspected that there might be an entire continent lying in the way.

And not an empty land, but one where hundreds of generations had passed since the first hunters crossed onto the North American soil. As the centuries rolled onward the seeds sown by those hunters had taken root in a thousand places and had blossomed in countless different ways.

There was a continent of nations established here, unlike anything else the world had ever seen. The northern part was occupied and claimed by hundreds of tribes, dozens of distinct peoples, each with its own way of life, its own gods, its own kind of wealth, its own name and lands.

In the Northwest there were the Dene: the Athapaskan, the Slavey and the Dogrib, the Tutchone, the Tlinget and the Gwii'Chen.

In the Arctic was the distant, exotic world of the Inuit.

Among the nations of the Pacific coast were the Haida, the Salish, the Kwakiutl and the Nootka, the Nis'ga and the Gitskan.

On the plains were the Blackfoot, the Blood, the Sarcee and the Peigan.

In the northern woodlands the Cree and the Chipwyan found their home. Near the Great Lakes lived the Annishnaube, the Algonquin, the warriors of the Iroquois and the farmers of the Wendat or Huron.

Along the Atlantic shore were the Beothuk, the Maliseet, the Innu, the Abenaki, and the Micmac.

All of them knew the land as their own, corners of the country they called Denendeh, Us-Qui, Nunavut, Kanata -- Canada.

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