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Discover the region > History Print this page
Boat Launch in Chevery
Boat Launch in Chevery

The history of North America is palpable on the Lower North Shore. For thousands of years, the plentiful resources of the Lower North Shore have attracted many different peoples seeking fish, whale, seal oil and fur. Thanks to the low population density of the Coast, many traces of their passage have withstood the test of time and remain right on the surface. A dynamic mix of Inuit, Innu, French, Basque and English once frequented this coastline.


The first people to arrive on the Lower North Shore were the Early Maritime Archaic about 9,000 years ago. These earliest inhabitants and the many different Aboriginal peoples that followed left burial mounds, tent rings, caches, and arrowheads. These vestiges are constantly being uncovered today.  Local place names suggest the historical presence of Inuit along the Coast, which is unusually far west and south. The ancestors of today’s Innu arrived to the Lower North Shore 2,000 years ago.

Dog Sled
Dog Sled

Archaeological sites along the Lower North Shore are exceptional because they have uncovered traces of human presence spanning from 9,000 years ago to the contact period in the 16th century and beyond.


In the late 15th century, Breton fishermen began fishing cod along the Lower North Shore every summer. Whalers in search of oil for European lamps spent summers living and hunting along the Coast before returning to their native Basque country on the border between Spain and France. Fragments of their terracotta roofing tiles have been found near the water scattered along the Coast. In 1534, French explorer Jacques Cartier sailed along the Lower North Shore and proclaimed it “the land God gave to Cain.”  Major exploration of much of North America began and ended with a trip along the Lower North Shore. Explorers Louis Jolliet and Jean-François de la Roque de Roberval also explored and mapped the region.

"Downtown" Harrington Harbour
"Downtown" Harrington Harbour

In the early 1700s, the king of France dispatched various noblemen residing in New France to manage vast tracts of land along the Coast called seigneuries, where they acquired seal oil and fur for the new colony. In the 1760s, Britain gained control of North America, and British companies took over many of these trading posts. Bilingual fishing merchants from the Jersey Islands arrived next, setting up industrial codfish processing plants and drawing new waves of settlers. Over the decades, some arrived from Acadia and elsewhere in Quebec.

The biggest and most recent wave of settlement came from Newfoundland in the 19th century. These newcomers introduced Newfoundland traditions and contributed to the unique cultural mix of the Coast.


Once seemingly endless, the cod stocks that initially attracted so many settlers and fishers to the region collapsed in the 1990s. International trawling and overfishing around the Gulf of St. Lawrence eventually depleted this resource. Although the stocks are currently being rebuilt, the collapse of the Atlantic cod fishery is one of the great environmental lessons of the world. Residents are shifting to other economic activities out of necessity, and as a result, the Lower North Shore is experiencing dramatic economic and social changes.

Boat Builders
Boat Builders
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