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Topic – Explorers Depended on Indigenous Peoples

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Explorers Depended on Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous peoples in Canada shared their knowledge of the land and their inventions with the early explorers and settlers to help them survive. 

Eating Well and Staying Healthy

There were many plants in Canada that the Europeans had never seen before. Indigenous peoples taught the newcomers which berries, roots, and fruit were safe to eat, and which were poisonous. The Indigenous peoples also showed explorers how to trap Canada’s animals for food and furs.


Indigenous women were skilled at preparing a number of foods that were very nutritious, which explorers could easily carry with them. Pemmican is a high-protein mixture of dried meat, fat, and dried berries. Bannock is a flat cake also called “trail bread” or “bush bread.”


Indigenous peoples made medicines from the plants around them. In winter, early settlers often suffered from scurvy, which is a disease caused by not getting enough vitamin C. Indigenous peoples taught the Europeans how to make tea from cedar bark and leaves. The tea was full of vitamin C and helped save the settlers’ lives.

Getting Around

Indigenous canoes

Indigenous peoples invented canoes, snowshoes, and sleds to get around in Canada. Explorers and settlers quickly realized how useful these inventions were, and the Indigenous peoples taught the Europeans how to use them. 

When the explorers first came to Canada, there were no maps for them to make their way through the wilderness. Indigenous men acted as guides. They showed the Europeans the best land trails and water routes for travelling across this vast country. The Indigenous men drew maps on birchbark, on the ground, or in the snow.

Surviving the Cold

Winters in Canada were longer and colder than the Europeans had ever experienced. Indigenous and Inuit peoples taught the explorers and settlers how to survive here. The Indigenous women sewed fur coats, leggings, and mittens for the Europeans.

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