Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
January 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Indian Reactions to Europeans in their First Encounters



[This text was written by J. Castell HOPKINS in 1898. For the full citation, see the end of the document.]


When the white man first encountered the Indians there can be no doubt as to the latter's kindly feeling toward the intruders. Columbus found this to be the case, and The first Relation of Jacques Cartier, 1534, further illustrates the fact : "In St. Martin's Creek," says the discoverer, " we saw a great number of the wild men ; they went on shore, making a great noise, beckoning us to land, showing us certain skins upon pieces of wood, but because we had only one boat we would not go to them, but went to the other side. They, seeing us flee, followed, dancing, and making many signs of joy and mirth, as it were desiring our friendship, saying in their tongue, "Napeu tondamen assurtah," with many others that we understood not. But we having but one boat would not stand to their courtesy, but made signs to them to turn back, but with fury they came about us and we shot off two pieces among them and terrified them. The next day they came to traffic with us. We likewise made signs to them that we wished them no evil, and two of our men carried to them knives, with other ironware, and a red hat for their captain. They seemed very glad to have our ware and other things, and came to our two men, still dancing, with many other ceremonies. They gave us whatsoever they had, not keeping anything, that they were constrained to go back again naked, and made signs that the next day they would bring more skins." In this description are other similar accounts, and Cartier took with him to France two sons of a native chief, by the consent of the father. In the next year he went again to Canada with the two Indians safe, and met with people throughout the country equally well inclined to friendly intercourse. At Hochelaga "all the women and the maidens gathered themselves together, part of which had their arms full of young children, and as many as could came to rub our faces, our arms, and what part of the body they could touch, showing us the best countenance that was possible, desiring us, with signs, that it would please us to touch their children . . . . As far as we could perceive and understand this people it were an easy thing to bring them to some familiarity and civility, and to make them learn what one would. The Lord God for His mercy's sake set thereupon His helping hand when He seeth cause."


In the first Report of Sir Walter Raleigh's expedition to Virginia it is also stated by his captain and followers, in 1584, that they "were entertained with all love and kindness, and with as much bounty (after the manner of the natives) as they could possibly devise. They found the people most gentle, loving, and faithful, void of all guile and treason, and such as live after the manner of the golden age." The Report says further that "There came to us Granganimeo, the king's brother, with forty or fifty of his people. When we came to the shore to him with our weapons he never moved from his place, nor even mistrusted any harm to be offered from us, but sitting still he beckoned us to come and sit by him, which we performed, and being seated he made all signs of joy and welcome, striking on his head and breast, and afterwards on ours, to show we were all one, smiling and making show the best he could, of all love and familiarity. A day or two after this we fell to trading with them, exchanging some things that we had for chamois, buff, and deerskins. He afterwards brought his wife with him to the ships, his daughter, and two or three children. His wife wore pearls in her ears, whereof we deliver your worship a little bracelet. Granganimeo was very just of his promise, for many times we delivered him merchandise upon his word, but ever he came within the day."


A settlement was made here, but the settlers seem to have soon outraged the rites of hospitality so bountifully shown to them. Within two years after the date of the Report, Sir Francis Drake touched upon the same coast, where he found the colony in deep distress, and almost despairing of relief. Sir Francis consented to leave two or three ships with them, so that they might come away in case of urgent necessity. But a storm arising drove most of the fleet suddenly to sea. "Those on land perceiving this hasted to those three sail which were appointed to be left there, and for fear they should be left behind they left all things confusedly, as if they had been chased from thence by a mighty army. And no doubt so they were, for the hand of God came upon them for the cruelties and outrages committed by some of them upon the native inhabitants of that country." This latter statement is by Hakluyt, Prebendary of Bristol, an earnest supporter of the early colonists, and the faithful compiler of their histories.


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Source : J. Castell HOPKINS, Canada. An Encyclopaedia of the Country, Vol. 1, Toronto, The Linscott Publishing Company, 1898, 540p., pp. 236-239.

© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College