For hundreds, perhaps thousands of years, the native Mi’kmaqs hunted and fished the bountiful lands and waters of present-day Nova Scotia. Soon after John Cabot’s exploration of North America in 1497, European fishermen sailed to the shores of the new land, eager to take advantage of the seemingly endless cod stocks.
In 1605, the French established the first permanent European settlement in what is now Canada. They named their small settlement Port Royal, and named the vast lands surrounding it, Accadie. However, the British wanted the land for their own. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht gave the British a strong foothold in this part of the New World they gave it their own name, Nova Scotia, Latin for “New Scotland.”
The French and English vied for dominance, moving people to and for as chess pieces in the battle. The British recruited a large number of German and Swiss Protestants to come to this untamed land as farmers. In 1755,they also ordered the deportation of 10,000 French Accidens, who wandered across North America, dispossessed of all they knew. Long fellow immortalized their plight in his epic poem, Evangeline. Some of the Accidens made their way to Louisiana their descendants are known today as ‘Cajuns.’ The Expulsion of the Accidens, as it is known, has gone down in history books as a tragic event in Canadian history.
Over the years, more settlers came, for reasons as diverse as their heritage. The America Revolution forced colonists loyal to the British Crown to flee the New England states. Thousands of these Loyalists, both black and white, came to Nova Scotia. Around the same time, thousands of Scots expelled from their lands by the Highland Clearances sought a new life on the shores of New Scotland.
Since the age of steam, well over a million immigrants from around the globe have arrived through the port of Halifax at Pier 21, the ‘Gateway to Canada.’ Some ventured to other parts of North America, but many remained, enhancing Nova Scotia with their skills, experience and cultural distinction.
Today, our cultural mosaic is made up of more than 100 different ethnic groups province-wide. For a list of associations, contact your nearest Visitor Information Center. These groups come together each June at the Multicultural Festival on the Dartmouth waterfront