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Canadian History for Kids: Samuel de Champlain

June 3, 1613 – Samuel de Champlain reaches site of Ottawa; names Rideau Falls.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at the remarkable life of Samuel de Champlain.

Explorer Samuel de Champlain was born in 1570 in Brouage, France. Champlain’s earliest travels were with his uncle, and he travelled as far as Spain and the West Indies.

From 1601 to 1603, he was a geographer for King Henry IV, and then joined François Gravé Du Pont’s expedition to Canada in 1603.

The group sailed up the St. Lawrence and Saguenay rivers and explored the Gaspé Peninsula, ultimately arriving in Montreal.
Given his usefulness on Du Pont’s voyage, the following year Champlain was chosen to be geographer on an expedition to Acadia led by Lieutenant-General Pierre Du Gua de Monts.

In the summer of 1605, the team sailed down the coast of New England as far south as Cape Cod. Although a few British explorers had navigated the terrain before, Champlain was the first to give a precise and detailed accounting of the region that would one day become Plymouth Rock.

In 1608, Champlain was named lieutenant to de Monts, and they set off on another expedition up the St. Lawrence. When they arrived in June 1608, they constructed a fort in what is now Quebec City. Quebec would soon become the hub for French fur trading.

The following summer, Champlain fought the first major battle against the Iroquois, reinforcing a unfriendly relationship that would last for more than a century.
In 1613 Samuel de Champlain was searching for the northern sea ( Hudson Bay). As he approached an area where one river emptied into the Ottawa River, he wrote this in his journal: “There is an island in the centre, all covered with trees, like the rest of the land on both sides, and the water slips down with such impetuosity that it makes an arch of four hundred paces; the Indians passing underneath it without getting wet, except for the spray produced by the fall.” Champlain thought the falls looked like a rideau, French for curtain.

In 1615, Champlain made a brave voyage into the interior of Canada accompanied by a tribe of Native Americans with whom he had good relations, the Hurons. Champlain and the French aided the Hurons in an attack on the Iroquois, but they lost the battle and Champlain was hit in the knee with an arrow and unable to walk.

He lived with the Hurons that winter, between the foot of Georgian Bay and Lake Simcoe. During his stay, he composed one of the earliest and most detailed accounts of Native American life.

Champlain headed the Quebec settlement for years, until the English attacked and took the Fort at Quebec in July, 1629. Champlain once again returned to France. After a French-British peace treaty in 1632, Quebec was once again French, and Champlain returned as its governor (1633). He died from a stroke on Dec. 25, 1635.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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