The history of Lanaudière is first and foremost a story of the great settlement movement along the St. Lawrence River, the only major highway for the original Indian inhabitants and, later on, for the new arrivals from France.
Settlement continued along the region’s rivers and close to waterfalls or rapids, where the hydro power could be harnessed for saw and flour mills. Most of the villages of the plain and foothills sprang up this way. Barthélemy Joliette built towns by skillfully exploiting the forests and waterfalls, and in the 1820s he founded the town that now bears his name. It became the archdiocese, in effect, the regional capital. More than a century later, in 1960, the name of his wife, Charlotte de Lanaudière, was adopted as the regional name. The final stage of settlement was the conquest of the Laurentian heights. This pioneering movement was led in large part by the curates Provost and Brassard in the 1860s with the opening of the Matawinie region, seen at that time as the gates to the promised land of the North.
Lanaudière’s history is symbolized by the traditional arrowhead sash, also known as the L’Assomption sash. With its striking flame and lightning design, the sash is an outstanding example of the hand-weaver’s art. It originally served as a medium of exchange with the Indians of the region as well as being worn about the waists of the fur trade voyageurs as they travelled West. Artisans still produce the sash by hand in our region. This ancient skill, unique to Quebec, is being kept alive in Lanaudière.