The Native Peoples and Champlain
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Champlain's Itinerary
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Life and Death of Champlain

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Life and Death of Champlain

Very little is known about Samuel de Champlain's early years other than the fact that he was born in Brouage and he grew up in a family of sailors. Although historians agree that Champlain was very discreet about his personal life, they do not agree, among other things, about the year of his birth, his social status, or his voyage from 1599 to 1601.

Adding to this confusion are two controversies surrounding Champlain's death: his will and the location of his grave.

Tablet on Samuel de Champlain's Statue

Tablet on Samuel de Champlain's Statue at Nepean Point in Ottawa
Canadian Museum of Civilization/96-9

Champlain died on December 25, 1635, following a few weeks of illness. His will gave rise to a famous trial. In short, Champlain, a devoted Catholic, left everything to the Virgin Mary. Given that this person was already dead, the will was null and void. His heirs, including his wife, did eventually get their share of the inheritance.

False Portrait of Samuel de Champlain

False Portrait of Samuel de Champlain, Based on an Engraved Portrait of Michel Particelli d'Emery by Balthazar Moncornet, 1854
National Archives of Canada/C-6643

For 150 years, Champlain's burial place in Quebec City has been the object of relentless searches and excavations. Recently, during the 1980s, some people have carried out searches, sometimes in secret, to unearth the burial site of the founder of Quebec. Experts have tried with their hypotheses and arguments to present a position in favour of or against these searches. As yet, no one has succeeded in finding the exact location of Champlain's grave.

Can you guess the population of New France at the time of Champlain's death on December 25, 1635?

150 Europeans.

Various sources estimate the Native population across the region claimed as New France in the early 17th century, prior to the great smallpox epidemic of 1639 - 1640, as being in the tens of thousands. Champlain himself, for the time period of 1615 - 1616, estimated the Huron population alone as being about 30 000. In 1623, Gabriel Sagard estimated the Huron population as being 30 000 to 40 000 (Trigger, p. 233). More recent researchers have estimated the entire Native population across all of eastern North America as being from 110 000 to 160 000 (Trigger, p. 241).

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