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Article

Marie de l'Incarnation

Marie de l’Incarnation, born Marie Guyart, founder of the religious order of the Ursulines in Canada, mystic and writer (born 28 October 1599 in Tours, France; died 30 April 1672 in Quebec City). Her writings are among the most important accounts of the founding of the colony of New France and the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church in the Americas. Her work as a teacher helped to lay the foundations for formal education in Canada.

Article

Loyalists in Canada

Loyalists were American colonists, of different ethnic backgrounds, who supported the British cause during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). Tens of thousands of Loyalists migrated to British North America during and after the war. This boosted the population, led to the creation of Upper Canada and New Brunswick, and heavily influenced the politics and culture of what would become Canada.

(This is the full-length entry about Loyalists in Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see Loyalists in Canada (Plain-Language Summary).)

Article

Masumi Mitsui

Masumi Mitsui, MM, farmer, soldier, Canadian Legion official (born 7 October 1887 in Tokyo, Japan; died 22 April 1987 in Hamilton, ON). Masumi Mitsui immigrated to Canada in 1908 and served with distinction in the First World War. In 1931, he and his comrades persuaded the BC government to grant Japanese Canadian veterans the right to vote, a breakthrough for Japanese and other disenfranchised Canadians. Nevertheless, Matsui and more than 22,000 Japanese Canadians were displaced, detained and dispossessed by the federal government during the Second World War (see Internment of Japanese Canadians).

Article

Jamaican Maroons in Nova Scotia

The ancestors of the Maroons of Jamaica were enslaved Africans who had been brought there by the Spanish in the 16th and 17th centuries, and later by the British (who captured Jamaica from Spain in 1655), to work its lucrative sugar plantations. The word maroon was widely used to describe a runaway, and maroonage to denote the act and action of escaping enslavement, whether temporarily or permanently. After a series of wars with the colonial government in Jamaica, one group of Maroons was deported to Nova Scotia in 1796. While Maroon communities existed in Nova Scotia for only four years before they were sent to Sierra Leone, their legacy in Canada endures.

Article

Shawnadithit

Shawnadithit (also known as Nance or Nancy April), record keeper of Beothuk history and culture (born circa 1800-6 in what is now NL; died 6 June 1829 in St. John’s, NL). Shawnadithit was captured by English furriers in 1823 and later worked as a housekeeper for merchant John Peyton Jr. In 1828, Shawnadithit was brought to Scottish merchant and naturalist William Cormack, who wanted to record information about the language and customs of the Beothuk. Shawnadithit drew maps of Beothuk territory as well as items of Beothuk material culture. While it is popularly believed that Shawnadithit was the last Beothuk, Mi’kmaq oral histories reject that claim. They argue that Shawnadithit’s people intermarried with inland Indigenous peoples after fleeing their homeland. The legacy of Shawnadithit as an important record keeper of Beothuk history and culture remains undisputed. In 2007, the federal government announced the unveiling of a Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada plaque recognizing Shawnadithit’s importance to Canadian history.

Article

Demasduit

Demasduit (also known as Demasduwit, Shendoreth, Waunathoake, and Mary March), creator of a Beothuk dictionary (born 1796; died 8 January 1820 at Bay of Exploits, Newfoundland). Demasduit was a Beothuk woman taken captive by English fishers in 1819. She was subsequently sent to an Anglican missionary where she created a list of Beothuk vocabulary. After her death, her remains and those of her husband were taken to Scotland. After much lobbying, the remains were returned to Newfoundland in 2020. The Government of Canada has recognized Demasduit as a Person of National Historic Significance.

Article

Beothuk

Beothuk (meaning “the people” or “true people” in their language) were an Indigenous people who traditionally inhabited Newfoundland. At the time of European contact in the 16th century, the Beothuk may have numbered no more than 500 to 1,000. Their population is difficult to estimate owing to a reduction in their territories in the early contact period. While it has been said that the Beothuk are now extinct, Mi’kmaq oral tradition denies this claim. Indigenous oral histories teach that the Beothuk intermarried with other Indigenous nations along the mainland after they had been forced out of their coastal territories by settlers. According to this perspective, Beothuk descendants live on in other Indigenous communities.

Article

Jesuits

The Society of Jesus was founded in Paris in 1534 by Saint Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish soldier who underwent a profound religious experience while recovering from serious wounds. Loyola called the society "The Company of Jesus" to indicate its military spirit. The order was authorized in September 1540 to ordain its members. The name "Jesuits" (meaning those who too frequently use or appropriate the name of Jesus) was used against the order as a term of reproach but in time was accepted by its members.

Article

French Canada and the Monarchy

French Canadian attitudes toward monarchical government and members of the French and, later, British royal families have changed over time. King Louis XIV of France made New France a crown colony and supported its expansion and economic development. King George III of Great Britain granted royal assent to the Quebec Act in 1774, which guaranteed freedom of worship and French Canadian property rights. Early royal tours of Quebec were well received by the public. There was republican sentiment expressed during the Lower Canada Rebellion of 1837, however, and support for the monarchy in Quebec declined sharply following the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. Today, polling data indicates that a majority of people in Quebec support the abolition of the monarchy in Canada.

Editorial

Editorial: The Arrival of Black Loyalists in Nova Scotia

The following article is an editorial written by The Canadian Encyclopedia staff. Editorials are not usually updated.

“Freedom and a Farm.” The promise was exciting to the thousands of African Americans, most seeking to escape enslavement, who fought in British regiments during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83). Following the war, they joined tens of thousands of Loyalists — American refugees who had sided with the British. Between 80,000 and 100,000 Loyalists eventually fled the United States. About half came to British North America. The main waves arrived in 1783 and 1784. The territory that now includes the Maritime provinces became home to more than 30,000 Loyalists. Most of coastal Nova Scotia received Loyalist settlers, as did Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island (then called St. John’s Island).

Article

Lumberjacks

Lumberjacks hold a permanent place in Canadian folklore and history. While the practice of felling trees has been taking place for thousands of years — beginning with Indigenous people and continuing with the arrival of the first Europeans — the professional lumberjack was born around the turn of the 18th century. Though the profession has undergone many changes, lumberjacks still play an important role in the Canadian forestry industry.

Article

Black Fur Traders in Canada

The role of Black people within the history of the fur trade is rarely considered. Black people were rarely in a position to write their own stories, so often those stories went untold. This owes to a complex set of factors including racism and limited access to literacy. Black people are also not the focus of many historical documents. However, historians have identified several Black fur traders working in different roles, and even an entire family of Black fur traders who left their mark on history.

Article

Joseph Lewis

Joseph Lewis, alias Levi Johnston, also Lewes and Louis, fur trader (born c. 1772–73 in Manchester, New Hampshire; died 1820 in Saskatchewan District). Joseph Lewis was a Black fur trader, originally from the United States, who participated in the fur industry’s early expansion into the Canadian Northwest in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He is one of very few Black people involved in the fur trade whose name was documented in existing texts. Joseph Lewis is further notable for being the first Black person in present-day Saskatchewan, as well as, in all likelihood, Alberta.

Article

Sheila Na Geira

According to legend, Sheila Na Geira (also spelled NaGeira and Nagira) was an Irish aristocrat or princess who, 300 or 400 years ago, while travelling between France and Ireland, was captured by a Dutch warship and then rescued by British privateers. She fell in love and was married to one of the privateers, Lieutenant Gilbert Pike. They settled at western Conception Bay. By the early 20th century, the legend was being told as part of Newfoundland’s oral tradition, and has since been popularized by poems, novels, scholarly articles and several plays.

Article

George Morton and the Fight to Fight: Black Volunteers in the First World War

Archivist Barbara M. Wilson explores the significance of a letter sent to Sir Sam Hughes by George Morton, a letter carrier, barber and civil rights advocate from Hamilton, Ontario. In his letter, dated 7 September 1915, Morton asked the minister of militia and defence why members of the Black community were being turned away when trying to enlist for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. (See also Black Volunteers in the Canadian Expeditionary Force.)

Article

Women and the Fur Trade

An Algonquin man declared to Jesuit missionary Paul Le Jeune in 1639: “To live among us without a wife is to live without help, without home and to be always wandering.” While the importance of having a home and wife may have been lost on the itinerant and celibate Jesuit priest, for many First Nations this quote evokes the social, economic and political advantages of marriages, especially in the context of the fur trade. Indigenous women’s labour produced and mended clothing, preserved meats, harvested maple sugar and root vegetables like turnips, trapped small game, netted fish and cultivated wild rice — all crucial survival and subsistence activities in the boreal forests, prairie parklands and northern plains of fur trade society. Through intraclan marriages (see Clan), First Nations women forged extended kin lineages, established social obligations and reciprocal ties, and negotiated for the access and use of common resources across a vast and interconnected Indigenous world. Marriages between different Indigenous villages, clans and nations shaped regional politics, fostered lateral marital alliances and created a geographically diverse and widespread kinship network throughout the Great Lakes- St. Lawrence River Basin, the Hudson Bay watershed, and the Pacific Slope (see Pacific Ocean and Canada.)

Article

Indigenous Perspectives on the Fur Trade

Indigenous peoples in Canada were essential players in the fur trade of the early 17th to the mid-19th centuries. They provided animal furs, including highly sought-after beaver pelts, to European traders, who, in turn, gave Indigenous peoples manufactured items like pots, beads, textiles and weapons. While some past historians have framed the fur trade as a predominately unequal commercial exchange, it was conducted according to First Nations laws and principles, and worked to transform strangers into kin and sometimes even enemies into allies. When European traders arrived in North America, they entered an Indigenous world on Indigenous terms and travelled and traded there only with the co-operation and goodwill of First Nations. Indigenous peoples taught European newcomers how to behave in the fur trade, emphasizing the importance of gift-giving, reciprocity and family obligations. From an Indigenous perspective then, the fur trade was as much about family, co-operation and reciprocity as it was about commerce and exchange.