Its first inhabitants were a mix of native people, of whom the best known are the historic Montagnais Innu who called it Uashat (Great Bay). They were the first to meet Jacques Cartier as he travelled down the river, although Basque fishermen had been whaling and cod fishing in these waters for decades.
Early European economic activity in Sept-Îles was based on fishing and the fur trade. The fabled Louis Joliet established trading posts by 1679, but after the British had conquered New France, the Hudson’s Bay Company took over commercial activity. The village was not incorporated as a municipality until 1885.
Lacking road access at the time, the town got its first pier as late as 1908. But with the construction of the Quebec North Shore and Labrador Railway to Schefferville between 1950 and 1954, the population grew as iron ore mined in Labrador was transported by railway to be shipped abroad. Subsequent investment transformed the city into a major deep-water seaport, but the decline in worldwide iron ore prices in recent decades has since caused employment and population to decrease, although the port remains active.
In winter you can ski or snowboard at resorts not far from the city. While you are in Sept-Îles, you can take a boat trip to Anticosti Island whose relative isolation has preserved the feeling of Quebec's past.