Traveling to Hochelaga

In September 1535, while staying at Stadacone, the French sailors decided to explore the St. Lawrence sailing up the river as far as they can. But Chief Donnacona, “Lord of Canada,” came over with five hundred men, women, and children, and tried to dissuade the French from continuing their voyage. Cartier explained to him that he had been ordered by his master, the King of France, to go as far forward as possible.

The next day, Donnacona approached Cartier again, this time offering him his two young sons and a young girl, his niece, as gifts. Later, three Natives dressed in dog skin as malevolent spirits, with blackened faces and horns as long as their arms, appeared gesticulating in front of the ships. They claimed that Cudouagny, their god, had contacted Hochelaga and predicted that the French would die if they went on.

At the same time, Taignoagny, one of Donnacona’s sons who had traveled to France and promised to go with Cartier upstream, announced that he changed his mind.

Undoubtedly, Donnacona feared possible friendly contacts between the French and the Iroquois of Hochelaga: he didn’t want to lose his new powerful European allies and trading partners.

All that, however, did not influence Jacques Cartier’s decision. On September 19, 1535, he left two of his big ships at Stadacone and sailed farther upstream the St. Lawrence on board the Emerillon.

In the account of that voyage, Cartier described the banks of the St. Lawrence as a virtual paradise: the best lands that could ever be seen, covered with beautiful trees and vines laden with grapes. Everywhere, the French saw hospitable natives who were busy fishing and who approached the ship in a friendly manner as if the French had been one of their own.

On September 28, 1535, the Emerillon reached the St. Pierre Lake. There appeared to be no navigable outlet upstream. Besides, the water was lowest at that time of year. Jacques Cartier thus decided to anchor the Emerillon and to use two small boats. On October 2, 1535, the explorers arrived at the St. Lawrence’s largest island: the future island of Montreal.

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