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Historia 1492-1635

"Portrait of a Man, Said to be Christopher Columbus" by Sebastiano del Piombo - Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Portrait_of_a_Man,_Said_to_be_Christopher_Columbus.jpg#/media/File:Portrait_of_a_Man,_Said_to_be_Christopher_Columbus.jpg

The state sponsored voyages of Cristoforo Colombo and Giovanni Caboto during the 1490's confirmed for European authorities what successful cod fishermen already knew. A vast land lay to the west. Preceded by almost 13,000 years of indigenous pre-history with possible coastal visits by Viking explorers around 1,000 A.D., our short story in what is now called Nova Scotia begins with Portuguese explorer João Álvares Fagundes attempting to establish a settlement on Cape Breton Island in 1521. Little is known about the location or fate of this settlement. The monument commemorating his exploits is located at Purdy's Wharf in Halifax.

Aside from Fagundes' aspirations, early contact was focused on fishing and not settlement. The advent of on-shore drying stations provided an opportunity for visitors and residents to meet. Exchanging furs for European manufactured items created closer ties. Similar to the Portuguese Lançados of West Africa, adoption of Basque, Portuguese and Spanish sailors into Mi'kmaw society occurred as a matter of choice or circumstance that by design or chance facilitated trade. Records from the 1530's reveal that the Mi'kmaq spoke Portuguese trade-pidgin; terminology the French also employed to establish relations.

With defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, England, France and the Netherlands became the dominant mercantile powers in the North Atlantic. The Mi'kmaq maintained trade and kinship relations with the French who honoured their agreements with a generous exchange of gifts. Chief Messamouet of the La Hève claimed to a rival chief that he visited Philibert de Grandmont in Bayonne, France and could personally vouch for the magnitude of gifts available. 

The first permanent European colony in Mi'kma'ki was established at Port-Royal by Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons in 1605 and was followed by the baptism of Grand Chief Henri Membertou in 1610. Membertou was the first North American native to be baptized Roman Catholic. The resulting concordat negotiated between the Mi'kmaw Grand Council and Holy See is woven on a wampum belt that was delivered by Jesuit missionaries to Pope Paul V as a bona fide sign of good faith and fair dealing. By 1630 Grand Council had declared Saint Anne Patron Saint of the Mi'kmaw people.  

In 1632, Isaac de Razilly naval commander and a Knight of the Order of Malta, founded Fort-Sainte-Marie-de-Grâce at present day La Have. The six Capuchin friars who accompanied de Razilly ministered to the Acadian families and their Mi'kmaw hosts from a chapel and school built next to the fort. Issac de Razilly died in 1635 and the capital of New France eventually passed to Quebec. A memorial erected by the Priory of Canada, Sovereign Order of St. John of Jerusalem in 1982 stands on the chapel site marking de Razilly's grave.