To celebrate and honour Black History Month, follow me on a journey where we will meet and learn about some “blacks” who have had an impact in Canada.
There is conflicting information among historians, but the story that follows is generally surmised to be true:
The first record of a black heritage person to set foot on Canadian soil was almost 400 years ago. Mathieu Da Costa (sometimes referred to as de Costa, and d’Acosta) arrived around 1604. He came over as a member of the exploration party of Pierre du Gua De Monts and Samuel de Champlain.
When he was hired for three years as an interpreter, he was in Amsterdam, Holland. Little less is known about his early life.
He was a talented linguist. He spoke Dutch, English, French, Portuguese and pidgin Basque (the dialect many Aboriginals used in trades). And so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he was hired as an interpreter. He quickly learned to speak Mik’maq.
Canada honours Da Costa’s contributions at the Port Royal Habitation National Historic Site of Canada in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia. Also, since 1996, the Department of Canadian Heritage holds an annual Mathieu Da Costa Challenge, a creative writing and artwork contest. In July 1996, a plaque was unveiled at the Mathieu da Costa African Heritage Trail in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley.