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From the French River to Lake Ontario
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From the French River to Lake Ontario


French River
Lake Huron
     Ste.-Mary-Among-the-Hurons
Lake Ontario

French River

Five Finger Rapids, Little French River, Ontario [ca. 1927]


Five Finger Rapids, Little French River, Ontario [ca. 1927]
Department of the Interior/National Archives of Canada/PA-43322/Detail

Champlain in his canoe then headed down the French River. The explorer saw many trees and rocks but deplored the lack of ploughable land near the waterway. Yet the Amerindians still managed to grow Indian corn and pumpkins.

Lake Huron

Lake Huron at Goderich, Ontario, 1913

Lake Huron at Goderich, Ontario, 1913
William James Topley/National Archives of Canada/PA-10949/Detail

Near Lake Huron, they came across the ouendate nation, from the family of Ottawa Indians. He named them Cheveux Relevés, "High Hairs", "because their hair is lifted and arranged very high on their heads, and better combed than our courtiers." The French finally gave them the name "Huron".

Indian Wigwam, Parry Island, Georgian Bay, Ontario [ca. 1890]

Indian Wigwam, Parry Island, Georgian Bay, Ontario [ca. 1890]
Frank W. Micklethwaite/National Archives of Canada/PA-68322/Detail

To show his goodwill, Champlain gave the Huron chief an axe, a highly prized gift. The chief spoke to him of his country, of the territory that he knew and even drew him a picture of it on a piece of bark using charcoal.

French Axes Found in Ontario

French Axes Found in Ontario, First Half of the 17th Century
Jean-Luc Pilon/Canadian Museum of Civilization

The voyageurs continued their adventure on Lake Huron. Champlain was always well received by the tribes of the villages where the feasts continued to grow. He found this part of the country to be quite pleasant with its hills, streams and fields of Indian corn: "This country is beautiful and good, and we must follow its course."

There were many very large fish. Champlain even said that the trout found here were "monstrously large".

Trout

Trout
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Champlain met with Father Le Caron who celebrated the first mass in the province of Ontario, near the present village of La Fontaine, not far from Penetanguishene. The Hurons travelled several kilometres to see their friend Étienne Brûlé, meet Samuel de Champlain and closely observe rituals of the priest.

A few years later, the missionary Fathers settled very close to what is known today as Penetanguishene and Midland. They called their mission Sainte-Mary-Among-the-Hurons.

Yroquois Fort, 1870

Yroquois Fort, 1870
National Archives of Canada/C-9898/Detail

When he arrived at Georgian Bay, Champlain travelled the Severn River and Lake Couchiching to Lake Simcoe before reaching Lake Ontario.

The Hurons asked for Champlain's military support. The explorer understood the importance of maintaining good relations with his allies and gave his word of honour. He agreed to go and fight the fortified Iroquois village south of Lake Ontario.

Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario, October 1901

Lake Ontario, October 1901
William James Topley/National Archives of Canada/PA-12012/Detail

The Hurons told Samuel de Champlain that the shores of Lake Ontario used to be their land. Fear of their enemies, the Iroquois, forced them to withdraw from the area.

On more than one occasion, Champlain participated in battle against the Iroquois. His harquebus often gave him the advantage over his enemies' bows and arrows. In 1610, an arrow cut off the end of his ear.

Onondaga Town

Onondaga Town. Attack by the Hurons and Algonquins
and the French Auxiliaries, 1615 [ca. 1632]
National Archives of Canada/C-5749/Detail

In 1615, at the end of his exploration voyage in Huronia, he went on an expedition against the Iroquois with several Huron and Algonquin warriors. Amidst the war cries, the fires and the chaos with his "army", Champlain was injured by two Iroquois arrows in the leg and knee. The Iroquois won that battle, and the Hurons quickly left the region of Lake Ontario.

The Hurons carried the wounded on their backs, including Champlain, who was secured to a kind of stretcher. The bumps and uncomfortable position tired Champlain. Despite his suffering, he decided to walk the return trip to Lake Huron, where he spent the winter.





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