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Banner: Pathfinders and Passageways: The Exploration of Canada About This Site
The Mapmakers: An Essay in Four Parts
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Expanding in All Directions

17th Century

Well over a hundred years had passed since fishermen had begun their seasonal exploitation of Canada's rich Atlantic waters. Before the turn of the 17th century, another industry had begun to emerge: the fur trade.

Native peoples had been trading furs with European fishermen and explorers since the first early encounters, but as beaver-fur hats became a coveted fashion item in Europe at the end of the 16th century, contact between the two cultures dramatically increased. It also led to the establishment of the first permanent European settlements in Canada. Of those involved in these new outposts, Samuel de Champlain stands out as the primary agent of French expansion. He and his contemporaries left written accounts of their experiences and it is from them that we begin to learn in more detail the nature of the land and its inhabitants.

There were other motives leading to exploration. French clergy such as the Jesuits and the Recollets began arriving in New France as part of a missionary drive to convert the Native peoples to Catholicism. Although perhaps misguided in purpose, these educated men made extraordinary observations during their travels. The writings of the Jesuits were published in France as the "Relations".

In the north, throughout the century, the search for the elusive passage to the East continued.

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