The first recorded contact with the North American Natives happened around 1000 A.D. in areas named Markland and Vinland by Norse explorers. The Norse called the natives Skraeling’s an old Norse derogatory term. The Sagas speak about initial trade with the natives followed by encounters with hostile natives. Which lead archeologists to believe the decision of abandoning their settlements in North America. There is evidence that the Skraeling’s of Vinland were Natives of the Newfoundland Beothuk and Labrador Innu. Norse explorers likely encountered other Native tribes along the Saint Lawrence river. The Natives that inhabited these areas were Micmac, Maliseet, and Iroquois. The Native groups in these areas of Gaspe and the Strait of Belle Isle were much larger than the subarctic coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. The small Nordic group would have to exercise extreme caution when encountering these tribes.

Medieval Norse sailing routes and geography of the North Atlantic, based on the saga texts (after Árni Ibsen, Svart á hvítu, 1987)
Medieval Norse sailing routes and geography of the North Atlantic, based on the saga texts (after Árni Ibsen, Svart á hvítu, 1987) wikicommons
Hostile Encounter

Archeologists have found evidence of Viking settlements in L’Anse aux Meadows with remains of Native peoples but nothing that conclusively shows that the Natives lived there at the same time as the Norse settlers. With the recent find in 2016 at Point Rosee of a potential Viking Settlement, new evidence can appear until then we will have to wait and see. As it stands the only possible hint of contact comes from an archeological find in Greenland; a stone projectile point, very similar in style and material to those used by the Natives in Newfoundland and Labrador. It was found eroding in the Norse graveyard at Sandnes in the Western Settlement.

It is currently widely believed that Norse and Native contact was short lived and exactly as described in the Vinland Saga accounts. Trading attempts that were quickly undermined from misunderstandings and outbreaks of violence. The fact that the Vikings were so far from their home base in Greenland would make a bad situation worse. Exploration from the Norse parties in Markland and Vinland would have been small compared to the Native communities they were to encounter. Contact from then on would have been limited and cautious. The alien woodlands would contribute to their anxiety. The projectile found at the graveyard at Sandness must have been an accurate reflection of the relationship between the Natives and the Nordic people.

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  • Ron Ryan

    Greetings from Newfoundland Island! (Markland?)
    I will take issue with the information presented here. It is only partially correct!
    I grew up on Newfoundland Island and, amidst much ridicule, always understood that I was “Beothuck.” (i.e., descendent from the people who lived on this island at the so-called “age of discovery” (i.e., circa 1400+).
    I recently had my mtDNA “done”. My zero degree (i.e. identical) mtDNA siblings are for the most part in Finland, with a smaller number in Sweden and Norway.
    I will let the significance of that be pondered before I expand on that information.