What Was Canada Called in Ancient Times?

Canada, as we know it today, is a country that has been shaped by its diverse history and culture. However, before the arrival of European explorers and settlers, Canada was home to a variety of Indigenous peoples and cultures. These early inhabitants had their own names for the land that we now call Canada.

The Indigenous Names for Canada

The Indigenous peoples who lived in what is now Canada for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans had many different names for the land they inhabited. Some of these names include:

  • Turtle Island – This name is commonly used by some Indigenous cultures to refer to North America as a whole, including Canada.
  • Kanata – This word means “village” or “settlement” in the language spoken by the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, who lived in what is now Quebec and Ontario.
  • Mi’kma’ki – The Mi’kmaq people, who are indigenous to what is now Atlantic Canada, called their homeland Mi’kma’ki.
  • Inuit Nunangat – The Inuit people who live in northern Canada refer to their traditional homeland as Inuit Nunangat.

European Exploration and Colonization

The first recorded use of the name “Canada” was by Jacques Cartier, a French explorer who arrived in what is now Quebec in 1535. Cartier used the word kanata to refer to the area surrounding present-day Quebec City. Over time, the name “Canada” came to be used more broadly to refer to all French colonies in North America.

When British explorers began arriving in North America in the late 16th century, they also used the name “Canada” to refer to French colonies. However, after Britain gained control over the French colonies in 1763, they divided the territory into two provinces: Upper Canada (present-day Ontario) and Lower Canada (present-day Quebec).


In conclusion, while Canada has been known by many different names throughout history, it is important to recognize and acknowledge the Indigenous peoples who lived on this land long before it was named by European explorers and settlers. By understanding and respecting the diverse history and cultures of Canada, we can build a more inclusive and equitable society for all who call this country home.