Government of New Brunswick

Extracts from Maliseet &Mi’kmaq:
First Nations of the Maritimes by Robert Leavitt

According to archaeological investigations, people are known to have been living in the Maritime region of Canada for at least 10,600 years. No doubt there were people here earlier than that, but no physical traces of their presence has yet been found.

Before 13,000 years ago no one could have been living in the Maritime region because according to geological evidence almost all the land was covered by ice. The earliest known inhabitants were making weapons, butchering game animals, cleaning hides and cooking meat about 10,600 years ago at a campsite discovered in Debert, Nova Scotia. Even at the time of those hunters, small ice-caps remained in the nearby mountains.

Later this ice disappeared, the climate gradually became warmer, different kinds of forests and animals appeared (and some died out), and even the shape of the land itself changed, until the environment of the Maritime provinces came to be as we know it today.


The human presence in the Maritimes

Although people have lived in the Maritime region for more than 10,000 years, those from Europe and other continents have been here for less than 500 years - or less than five per cent of that time.


It is easy to identify the enormous changes introduced into the region by European settlement and colonization, and by the technology of the twentieth century. Such changes also occurred in the distant past.

During those thousands of years, local initiatives and communication and trade with other peoples resulted in significant developments in the Maritime way of life - in technology, design and religious practices.

In spite of all the historical and contemporary changes there are still distinct traces of the distant past to be found in the Maritimes today - in the languages spoken by Native people and familiar to everyone in geographical place-names, in the oral tradition and in other characteristics of Mi'kmaq and Maliseet culture (skill in the use of herbal medicines, for example) which are retained by both the Native and non-Native people of the region as part of a common Maritime heritage.