We were perhaps the first part of the New World to be explored by Europeans. Around the year 1000, Norse explorer Leif Ericson made several voyages west and southwest from Greenland. The discovery of nine Viking buildings near L’Anse aux Meadows shows that Ericson established a temporary settlement there. The site is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and a National Historic Site.
Five hundred years later, Portuguese and English explorers looking for the Northwest Passage to the Orient came to our shores. There are also strong indications that Newfoundland was the site of John Cabot’s landfall during his first voyage to North America in 1497. In the wake of European voyages of “discovery,” migratory fishers from Portugal, France, and Spain began to harvest cod off the coast of Newfoundland in the early sixteenth century lured by the rumor that you could “pull buckets out of the sea filled to the brim with cod.”
Even before the first Europeans arrived on our shores, Newfoundland and Labrador had a rich and ancient aboriginal history. Archeological evidence shows that people have lived here for over 9,000 years. The first settlers developed a culture strongly oriented toward the sea and belonged to the Maritime Archaic tradition. They were gradually displaced by the Palaeoeskimo people of the Dorset Culture, the Mi’kmaq and finally by the Innu and Inuit in Labrador and the Beothuk on the island.
The population of Newfoundland and Labrador came mostly from the southwest of England and the south and southeast of Ireland. Migration to the island was intimately linked to the fishery and occurred mainly between the mid eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries. The province is also home to four native groups (the Inuit, the Innu, the Mi’kmaq and the Métis) and to a French-speaking population, found mostly in the western portion of the island.