Red ochre doesn't seem to be related to cinnabar at all. At least in the northeast and Canadian Maritimes, what the Natives used for red paint was bear grease and red ochre, which is a clay-based pigment. The earliest people who inhabited New England are called the "red paint people" by archaeologists because all of their burials have the body covered in red paint.
Cinnabar was certainly known to the Europeans. I have a chunk of it in my stash of stuff I show people at the museum. It is where they obtained mercury for treating stuff like the clap. Also in my medical kit is a 17th century urethral syringe for squirting mercury up your dick when you got the clap. It is kind of fun to show it to people because it makes everyone cringe. It is an original that came from an archaelogical dig, someday I'll have a replica made so I can squirt stuff out of it and really freak people out.