Native Americans were the first settlers of the land that became Orleans, and had lived here from the earliest of time. The predominant tribe east of the Bass River was the Nausets, an Algonquian tribe subject in some respects to the chief sachem of the Wampanoag. European explorers and fishermen, known and unknown, had been visiting the area at least from the 15th Century. Three years after Bartholomew Gosnold gave Cape Cod its name, in 1602, French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed into what is now known as Nauset Harbor in 1605. In his narrative of his voyage, Champlain wrote:

The next day, the 20th of the month, we went to the place which our men had seen, and which we found a very dangerous harbor in consequence of the shoals and banks, where we saw breakers in all directions. It was almost low tide when we entered, and there were only four feet of water in the northern passage; at high tide, there are two fathoms. After we had entered, we found the place very spacious, being perhaps three or four leagues in circuit, entirely surrounded by little houses, around each one of which there was as much land as the occupant needed for his support…….It would be a very fine place if the harbor were good…….Many savages, men and women, visited us, and ran up on all sides dancing…..We named this place Port de Mallebare.

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