Combined Council of Labrador
Labrador by Region
Labrador was first inhabited by aboriginal Innu and Inuit people who established patterns of land and resource use across the entire Labrador peninsula. Both populations hunted the migratory caribou herds. Innu hunters pursued animals in the interior, while Inuit hunters relied largely on animals found along the coast. Archeological data to quantify early existence of these indigenous peoples dates back 9000 years in Labrador.

The earliest Europeans to visit the Labrador coast were Basque whale hunters from northeastern Spain. From about 1540 to 1620, Basque Galleons traveled annually to the Strait of Belle Isle in southern Labrador, to pursue large whales whose oil was a very valuable commodity in European trade centers. At the peak of production, Red Bay, was known as the Basque whaling capital of the world with 2000 men processing 20,000 barrels of whale oil annually.

In the early 17th century French cod fisherman and sealers settled new and existing locations along the coast and became the first permanent European residents in Labrador. Quebec government officials tried to encourage settlement by giving merchants exclusive licences, or concessions, to fish and to trade for fine furs within specific areas. Sieur Augustin de Courtemanche developed his concession at "Baye de Phelypeaux" in southern Labrador, now known as Bradore Bay, Quebec. Louis Fornel applied for a concession at "Esquimaux Bay" in central Labrador, and established a trading post in 1743 at North West River.

Labrador became a British territory in 1763 under the terms of the Treaty of Paris that ended the Seven Years Year between France and Britain. Subsequently, French merchants lost their concessions in Labrador and British merchants began establishing new fishing and trading stations. Captain George Cartwright was the best known trader to settle Labrador during this period. He began his trading operation in 1770 near Cape Charles in southern Labrador and moved north to Sandwich Bay in 1775 where he lived for eleven years. Cartwright recorded his experiences in a journal which was published in 1772.

At about the same time, missionaries of the United Brethren or Moravian Church, made contact with Inuit in northern Labrador. The Moravians' objective was to teach the Inuit Christian religious principles and to improve their often hostile relations with British fisherman in southern Labrador. Jens Haven led a Moravian party along the north coast which resulted in the establishment of a mission station at Nain in 1771. The Moravian Church expanded its mission communities and established settlements such as Hebron. In 1811, missionaries Benjamin Kohlmeister and George Kmoch traveled along the northern Labrador and Ungava Bay coasts making contact with Inuit who never before met Europeans.

European settlement accelerated in the 1800's with the development of the fur trade by the Hudson's Bay Company (HBC) The Company hired men, mainly from Scotland, to work as traders or labourers at their trading posts. Many company employees decided to become permanent settlers after their contracts ended; they married native women and established themselves as independent trappers, fisherman and hunters. Today decedents of these explorers are known as the Metis people of Labrador. The HBC had aggressive trade policies and sponsored exhibitions into the Labrador interior in search of new supply routes. In 1836, the "Honourable Hudson's Bay Company Service" set up trading posts at Rigolet and North West River.

Budgel, Richard/ Staveley, Michael. The Labrador Boundary: Labrador Institute of Northern Studies, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1987
 
 

2011 Combined Councils of Labrador

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