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Introduction

According to Gerald Thomas of the Folklore Department of Memorial University, Port an Port may have been a French corruption of the Basque "Apoportu". The Basques were certainly active in the area in the 1500s, but most activity was by St. Pierre merchants. There were also summer fishermen from St-Malo and St-Brieuc in Brittany and Granville in Normandy. Mi'kmaq camped in the St George's Bay area along with the Beothuk long before this.Acadians arrived from Cape Breton after 1755, together with Mi'kmaq, Scottish, Irish and English settlers. Settlements were mainly French speaking, for example, Cap-St-Georges, la Grand'Terre, Maisons-d'Hiver and L'Anse-a-Canards. Mi'kmaq people deliberately kept their heritage and culture quiet- as it was not fashionable to be Mi'kmaq in those times.

Fishing activity from summer stations around the Port au Port Peninsula had reached a peak in the late 1700s, with Ilsle Rouge (Red Island) and Fox Island important bases. Fishing rights on the French Shore set by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, the Treaty of Versailles 1783, and Treaty of Paris 1814, were finally relinquished in 1904.

Lovell's Directory of 1871 lists the following people living in the Port au Port area: Francis Benoit- (Mi'kmaq) fisherman, Lewis Benning,-fisherman, Levi Brown- fisherman, John Duffy-fisherman, William Hynes-fisherman, Robert Joyce-fisherman, Henry Joy- fisherman, Simeon Maine-fisherman, Henry Young-fisherman.

Early reports referred to the South and North Shores, but boundaries were blurred as many families moved among the various communities. The first geological survey was carried out in 1873 and indicated mineral deposits along the shores of St. George's Bay.

The lobster fishery was of utmost importance as the House of Assembly Journal of 1908 reported: The lobster fishery is the all-important fishery in Bay St. George and Port au Port Bay. Its value this year....is $42,400. Surely a fishery which brings in such a golden harvest to those engaged in it is worth preserving.

.It is the opinion of the intelligent and law-abiding factory owners of Port au Port and Bay St. George that if this fishery is strictly wardened, and the law enforced for five years, the output can be doubled.... The majority of opinion among the fishermen is in favour of abolishing band-traps. These traps are set close to shore, and catch the spawning fish. What happens after they are caught at the present figure of $16.20 per case tor lobsters, is not hard to conjecture.

The Abbott and Haliburton company, which was based in Port au Port, opened branch factories at De Grau, West Bay, Three Rock Cove and Black Duck Brook. In 1935, Abbott and Haliburton purchased the wharf and cold storage facility at Piccadilly. A new cold storage plant was completed in 1951 and became the fisheries store. The Three Rock Cove store survived, but the smaller stores closed when a road was completed in the late 1930s.

The retention of Breton and St. Pierre dialects continued even after assimilation with English-speaking settlements. In 1971, the Port au Port Peninsula was officially designated a bilingual district, the only one in Newfoundland. Les Terre-Neuviens Francais was formed at Cape St. George in 1971 with other branches at Mainland (La Grand'Terre) and Black Duck Brook (L'Anse aux Canards). The first French immersion classes were started at Cape St. George in 1973. Although the 1976 census listed just 705 people on the Port au Port peninsula with French as their first language, there were, according to Gerald Thomas, more than 2,000 people who spoke French and no one speaking Mi'k Maq as a first language.



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