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Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Strait of Belle Isle

"The Strait of Belle Isle has been home to many different cultures, indigenous and European, over the past eight thousand years, all drawn to the area by its rich marine resources. The earliest inhabitants were Maritime Archaic Indians who over the next millennia were followed by a number of Palaeoeskimo and Amerindian cultures. The most recent populations were European: Norse, Basques, French and English. Today, descendants of the English and French call the area home.

All these cultures were attracted to the bountiful resources of the strait of Belle Isle, in particular fish, seal and whales. For the seasonally nomadic indigenous peoples, the Strait of Belle Isle was a highway along which family groups moved to access particular resources in particular places. The European populations also moved throughout the Straits, the Norse in search of raw materials, the Basques in search of whales, and the French and English fishing for cod. Some locations stand out as particularly resource-rich and consequently are archaeologally rich as well. Three of these are National Historic Sites: Port au Choix, L'Anse aux Meadows and Red Bay.

Port au Choix tells the indigenous story of the Strait of Belle Isle from 5500 to 800 years ago. L'Anse aux Meadows is the site of a 11th century winter base camp used by Greenland Norse. Red Bay tells the story of Basque whaling activities during the 16th century. Together these National Historic Sites interpret the cultural variability of the Strait of Belle Isle. Each culture had its own history and tradition and configured its economy uniquely, but all relied on the bountiful nature of what the Strait of Belle Isle had to offer. That bounty is a central element in the economy practiced here today."
- Dr. M.A.P. Renouf

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