"Where the river narrows"

The Amerindians Named
That Area "Kebec",
Meaning "Where the River Narrows"

(9,000 years ago to 1533)

Years Ago


The beginnings of human occupation in the Québec City area can be traced back to 9,000 years ago, as revealed by many archaeological sites. Those first inhabitants are said to have favored the Pointe de Lévy (currently called "Lévis" and opposite to Québec City on the south shore), due to its ideal location on the St. Lawrence River. Some historians even think that Pointe de Lévy could have been one of the main centers of the early Amerindian population development in the Province of Québec.

6,000 years ago — Global warming completed the melting of glaciers in the Québec City area and created a local environment with vegetation comparable to what exists today.

1,500 years ago — A large number of Amerindian nations and tribes had developed highly sophisticated cultures in the northeastern part of North America. Those cultures were centered more on oral traditions than written traditions. Sustained by hunting and fishing, the peoples of the "First Nations" (as they are now called in Canada, in the same manner that Amerindians are now called "Native Americans" in the United States) occupied a vast territory and became experts at surviving in the forests on whose wildlife and plants they subsisted.

At the beginning of the 16th Century, before French explorer Jacques Cartier discovered Canada in 1534, this is the way the northeastern part of North America looked. There was no Canada nor United States. Approximately 225,000 Amerindians inhabited what is the country of Canada today. More than 20,000 members of the "First Nations" (as Amerindians are now called in Canada) lived in what today is the Province of Québec. An Iroquois village called "Stadacona" was located where Québec City stands today, "where the river narrows", per the meaning of the Amerindian word "Kebec".
© 2010 U-Haul International, Inc. / Graphic by Steve King and Guy Hévey.

Here is an example of the kind of wooden palisades which Amerindian nations and tribes built around their villages. This particular wooden palisade was built around an Algonquin village, in the 16th Century.
Image Credit: From "Geoff Mangum's Guide to Native American History and Culture".
Image Source: puttingzone.com/indians.html
1,000 years ago — Corn cultivation brought important changes in the St. Lawrence Valley. Major Amerindian villages arose along the St. Lawrence River. But they kept moving after a while, in order to not overexploit the fertile soils of a certain area. The need to protect such villages also arose as they became less mobile, and this led to the appearance of wooden palisades around them. Some Amerindian nations and tribes were at war with each other, so each village needed to protect itself against its enemies.

1300 — The Québec City area was called "Kebec" by local Amerindians, a word meaning "where the river narrows", in reference to the narrowing of the St. Lawrence River in that area. The village in the Québec City area was called "Stadacona" and was inhabited by Iroquois.

1500 — Between 1300 and 1500, the village of Stadacona was moved 12 times in the general Québec City area, in order to preserve the fertility of the soils and not overexploit them. 

In 1533 — From 500 to 800 Iroquois lived in the village of Stadacona at that time. They lived in "long huts" of 82 to 98 feet by 20 feet (25 to 30 meters by 6 meters). Up to nine families lived in each one of them, for a total of about 40 Iroquois per "long hut". The village area covered 53,820 square feet (5,000 square meters), which is roughly equivalent to a football field today. In this painting representing French explorer Jacques Cartier meeting Chief Donnacona and the Iroquois at Stadacona in 1535, you can see those "long huts" as well as a wooden palisade all around the village. This wooden palisade could be considered an indirect "ancestor" of Old Québec's Fortified Wall. In that same Québec City area, the French would soon use wooden materials extensively for the construction of their first habitations and forts.
Image Credit: From "Les éphémérides d'Alcide, 14 septembre".
Image Source: lessignets.com/?signetsdiane/calendrier/?sept/14.htm