A term of contempt of Algonquian origin, the word Eskimo means "eater of raw meat." However, this nation referred to itself by the name Inuit, that is, "human being." At the time of New France, the Inuit occupied the northern region of present-day Quebec, from the shores of Hudson Bay to Labrador, as well as the northern reaches of the North Shore of the Gulf of the St. Lawrence River. Though they were widely dispersed over an immense territory, these great hunters of sea mammals were well adapted to the harsh conditions of their environment. The Inuit maintained their traditional way of life much longer than other Aboriginal peoples. Until the 19th century, they had only sporadic contact with the English of Hudson Bay, and the French who had settled farther to the south. The knowledge the French had of the Inuit—their customs and environment—was based as much on imagination as on reality.

The Inuit
Inhabitants of North America near Hudsons Bay with their manner of Killing Wild Fowl, ca. 1650
CA ANC Peter Winkworth Collection R9266-2429