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Way of Life
Despite the fact that the Native peoples had been living, hunting, fishing and raising crops on the "new" continent for thousands of years, in the sixteenth century the French king claimed the land in New France belonged to France.
The land along the rivers was divided into long thin strips called rotures and given to important people called seigneurs. These were men who were friendly with the king. The land ran from the river to the forest. Each family got a strip to farm. The tenant farmer was called a habitant. He had to build a house, clear and farm his land, pay taxes to the seigneur and work on the seigneur's land a few days each year. In return, the seigneur was expected to build a mill, pay part of the cost of building a church and to help build bridges and roads. When a habitant's sons grew up, the land was divided into thinner strips and one was given to each son.
Life was hard for the habitants. They had to first clear their land, cutting down trees with an axe and removing tree stumps and rocks. They then had to grow crops. They grew wheat for bread and hay for their animals. They raised chickens and pigs, kept cows for milk and meat, sheep for wool, and horses to pull plows and sleighs.
Children had many farm chores to do such as weeding and hoeing the garden.
Even though life was hard, it was better than what they could expect in France. In New France, they owned their own farms and there was plenty of wood for heating and lots of fish and wild animals for eating. When they weren't working, families liked to visit friends and family and have parties. Such events had lots of good food, singing, and dancing.
Diseases such as cholera and smallpox provided hardships for many families and wiped out Aboriginal populations.