War Begins Between the Iroquois and the French

Samuel de Champlain had first explored the Saint Lawrence in the spring and summer of 1603. That journey brought him into contact with Algonquin, Huron and Montagnais peoples, who were in a long-standing war between the Algonquian tribes and the Iroquois.

Champlain chose to ally himself with the former. The French tried to maintain and grow a fur trade, and this task was impossible without good relations with the people which lived near the first French villages in Canada. Throughout the years, however, Champlain was increasingly troubled by reports that the Iroquois were attacking the allies everywhere, disrupting the fur trade.

Samuel de Champlain left Quebec on 7 June, 1609. He travelled more than 2 thousand km downriver to Tadoussac, where he met Grave Du Pont, administrator for New France. The two friends discussed the problems and concluded that a negotiated peace between the two sides was impossible.

They concluded as well that French neutrality would be viewed by the Iroquois as a sign of weakness, and might very well transform allies into enemies. It seems that the two men decided in the occasion that an energetic action would be needed to show the Iroquois who was the best in the region. In July, 1609, Champlain set out up the St. Lawrence. He was accompanied by two Frenchmen (we don’t know their names) and a group of Amerindians, from Montagnais, Huron and Algonquin people. The expedition had the task to reach a great lake of Caniaderiguaronte – the lake that is the gateway to the country – to the south, and beyond that another great river.

The French explorers would hope than a North-West passage, a route leading to the Pacific Ocean, would start at that place. However, the French understand perfectly that the expedition go within the territory controlled by the Iroquois. No doubt, they knew that the Iroquois would learn at once than their eternal enemies were among the group. Champlain, thus, was quite sure than the conflict would ensue, and the French would show their military supremacy and give e a lesson to the Iroquois.

Indeed, the July 30, 1609, the first battle between the Iroquois and the French took place on the shore of the Caniaderiguaronte Lake (modestly christened as Champlain Lake by Samuel de Champlain). This battle would change for ever the destiny of New France. Thousands would die in one hundred upcoming years. Was there a possibility to avoid the war? Both sides were sure that the military action was the only way to ensure their rule. We can’t judge people of 17th century from our point of view.

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