Some estimate that Champlain covered 3 500 kilometres of coasts, lakes and rivers in Canada. All the energy he put into exploration is still remembered and we pay homage to him each day. How? In the geographical names of lakes, rivers, cities and ports that we still use today.
Inauguration of Champlain Monument, Quebec, Quebec, September 21st, 1898
National Archives of Canada/PA-23977
The most obvious example is Lake Champlain, located in Vermont and New York and on the Quebec border. In Champlain's time, this lake was in Iroquois territory.
Here is an explanation of certain place names and their origins. "Toponymy" comes from the Greek topos, place and onuma, name.
Champlain baptized this body of water "Mer douce".
For a long time, he cherished the dream to find a sea that would lead him to the Orient and he thought this "smooth and fresh sea" was the way to go.
Many lakes in Quebec bear the name "Champlain", including the lake he named himself on the Canadian and American border. A village is also named after the founder of Quebec. Located on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, near Cap-de-la-Madeleine, this enchanting piece of territory attracts many tourists and includes Champlain's seigneury. The explorer also lent his name to an island in Ontario.
Champlain Island, Ontario [ca. 1890]
A.M. Ross/National Archives of Canada/PA-120324/Detail
Some say that Champlain himself changed the name of this village from "Grande-Chute" to "Chute-à-Blondeau" in memory of Blondeau, a close friend of Champlain's from Paris. However, according to more recent toponymy, this little village got its name in 1875, and for completely different reasons than the aforementioned one. Blondeau was a farmer who lived close to the falls and with his help, the economy of this little village flourished. They named this village in his honour after he drowned in the falls.
In this area, the risk of being ambushed was great. This name is said to have three other meanings: hunting beaver, the place where axes are made or where winter is spent. The French changed the name to "Montreal".
In 1669, Cavelier de La Salle left the area to explore the west with the Native Peoples, hoping to find a passage to China. When the voyage failed, the population mockingly called La Salle's seigneury "Lachine". Champlain was already speaking of the "Lachine" rapids during his first voyage in 1603, showing his determination to find the Orient.
Champlain tended to write "Lake (of the) Attigouautan (or Attiguantan)" in 1615. He also named it "Grand Lac" (Great Lake).
The word "Huron" comes from the old French "hure" which means "rufian" or "boar's head". Champlain and the first missionaries actually called the tribes of this region the "Cheveux Relevés" (High Hairs). Before being renamed "Hurons" by the French, they were called Wendats (Ouendats).
Champlain referred to this lake in 1615, writing "Lake of the Nipisierinij". This name was changed to "Lake of the Biserenis" on the map in 1632. Nipissing means, "peoples of the little water".
Champlain spoke of "Lake of the Irocois" or "Lake of the Entouhonorons" and even "Lake St. Louis". This lake already carried the name of another historical character of the 17th century, also governor of New France. Do you want a hint? He said, "I have no reply, other than from the mouths of my cannon and muskets." You guessed it! Lake Ontario used to be called "Lake Frontenac".
The Native Peoples named this lake from the Cree name Peyakwagami (Piecouagamik), meaning, "the areas surrounding the lake are flat." It was customary for the missionaries to set aside one day to meet the Native Peoples of the region. They chose the feast of St. Jean-Baptiste.
Lac Saint-Louis (Sault Saint-Louis)
Champlain himself named this lake in honour of a young Frenchman by the name of Louis, an amateur fisher and hunter who begged the team to allow him to partake in the voyage. Louis drowned in the rapids of this lake.
Lac de Soisson
Nobody really knows where this name comes from, but today it is called the "Lac des Deux-Montagnes". Located near Montreal in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, it lies between two mountains.
Samuel de Champlain named it "Great Lake" (Grand Lac) on his map in 1632. This lake also appeared by the name "Lake Tracy", in honour of the Marquis de Tracy, on maps from 1670 and 1671 drawn by other explorers. It had already been named Lake Superior before this because it is higher than the other Great Lakes.