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What is now New Brunswick was originally the land of the Mi’kmaq and, in the western and southern areas, the Maliseet Aboriginals. Many places still bear their aboriginal names although the Aboriginal people (who today number around 17, 000) are now concentrated on small pockets of land.

Following in the wake of explorer Samuel de Champlain, French colonists arrived in the 1600s. The Acadians, as they came to be known, farmed the area around the Bay of Fundy. In 1755 they were expelled by the English, many returning to settle along the Bay of Chaleur. In the years following, the outbreak of the American Revolution brought an influx of British Loyalists from Boston and New York seeking refuge in the wilds of New Brunswick. These refugees settled the valleys of the St John and St Croix Rivers, established the city of Saint John and bolstered the garrison town at Fredericton. The majority of the population still has British roots. Irish ancestry is dominant in Saint John and Miramichi.

Through the 1800s lumbering and shipbuilding boomed and by the start of the 20th century other industries, including fishing, had developed. That era of prosperity ended with the Great Depression. Today, pulp and paper, oil refining and potato farming are the major industries.