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Lifelines: Canada's East Coast Fisheries

Cross Currents
500 Generations of Aboriginal Fishing 
in Atlantic Canada
Cross Currents: 
500 Generations of Aboriginal Fishing in Atlantic Canada


Throughout their long history, aboriginal peoples in Atlantic Canada have relied heavily on the region's rich marine resources for survival. Their intimate knowledge of the environment, combined with specialized fishing technologies, has enabled them to successfully harvest these resources.

Although each aboriginal community had its own distinctive character, they benefited from shared knowledge and technologies over hundreds of generations. Cross Currents offers a glimpse into their way of life, through the archaeological and historical record of their fishing technologies.

La pesche des Sauvages - 
National Library of Canada

Charles Bécard de Granville (?) (1675-1703)
La pesche des Sauvages
Ink on paper
Originally published in Codex canadensis

(Courtesy: National Library of Canada)

Our knowledge of past peoples relies on oral traditions, historical records and archaeological evidence. The farther back in time we go, the more this archaeological evidence becomes our only window on the past, and we must often use scant information to speculate on how aboriginal peoples lived.

For at least 11,000 years - long before the arrival of European fishermen - aboriginal peoples have regarded Atlantic Canada as home. Although never densely populated, even in early times, Atlantic Canada did support significant populations. These peoples adapted well to seasonal shifts in the availability of resources from the land, rivers and sea. Descendants of these ancient peoples are known today as the Algonkian-speaking Mi'kmaq, Maliseet-Passamaquoddy, Montagnais and Innu.

First Peoples in 
Today's Atlantic Canada

First Peoples in Today's Atlantic Canada

  1. Innu
  2. Mi'kmaq
  3. Maliseet-Passamaquoddy

Although much less essential to their subsistence than in the past, fishing remains a traditional lifestyle for many Native people today. Cross Currents examines new conservation initiatives and some of the challenges facing today's Native fishery, profiling a resource and an economy facing an uncertain future in the twenty-first century.




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