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Explorer Jacques Cartier Named Canada in 1534

Updated on June 29, 2020
Village of Hochelaga
Village of Hochelaga
Cartier's Voyages
Cartier's Voyages

Jacques Cartier, Explores and Names Canada

Jacques Cartier was born December 23, 1491, in France to Jamet and Geseline (Jansart) Cartier. Very little is known of his early life, but it is assumed he learned his navigation skills in his village as it was customary for young boys to be schooled in cartography, navigation, and seamanship.

Cartier would make three voyages across to the New World, all commissioned by the King of France. Sailing from Malo, France April 20, 1534, with two ships and 61 men crossing the Atlantic Ocean and after 21 days, reached Newfoundland.

He explored the coast of Labrador then went inland about 1000 miles up the St. Lawrence River, becoming the first European to explore the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the River. It was on the Bay of Gaspe's Hill that Cartier placed a huge cross and claimed the area for France. This is shown on the map above. He then named it Canada, even though it wouldn't be until 1550 before the name Canada would be found on maps.

Cartier then found two settlements of Natives at Stadacona (later called Quebec City) and Hochelaga Village,(Montreal).

Cross Placed  for France
Cross Placed for France

Village of Hochelaga

The Village of Hochelaga was an Iroquois village, found during Cartier's first trip to the New World. He described the village in his journal as some 50 houses in a circle surrounded by a sharpened stake palisade surrounding the village. These stakes were 45 feet high with stones nearby to ward off enemies. Today, the village is listed as a National Historic Site, even though the village no longer exists and no remains have been found, It is believed to be beneath the streets of Montreal and perhaps within sight of Mount Royal. The word "Hochelaga" means 'beaver path' in the Iroquois language.

Second Voyage of Cartier

Again the King of France commissioned Cartier to return to seek riches the Natives had said were there. The ship was on the St. Lawrence River, and some 1000 Natives greeted him hoping to trade for tools and trinkets. As he headed down the river, he was stopped by rapids preventing him from reaching China. Cartier was still convinced this was the Northwest Passage. He attempted to find the Hochelaga Village, but it was gone entirely. It's possible enemies killed them, or disease from the Europeans annihilated the tribe.

It was decided to winter here as it was too late to return to France. Unaccustomed to the severe weather conditions, the men were restless, and Cartier was finding it difficult to control them. Then, scurvy struck the crew. The Indians told him of a cure by boiling together the bark and leaves of the Sassafras Tree to make a tea. Cartier wrote in his journal that he could not believe the "cure" this tea did for his crew.

Cartier now decided he would kidnap Chief Donnacona and his two sons and take them to France as a gift for the king. As soon as he had them on board, the ship sailed home.

Chief Donnacona
Chief Donnacona

Cartier's Third Voyage

The third voyage of Cartier was disastrous for him. He had returned to the New World, minus Chief Donnacona, who had died while in France. The Iroquois were upset by this news. But the natives allowed Cartier and his crew to gather the "diamonds" and to take them back with them. Unfortunately, when France examined the "diamonds," they turned out to be nothing but crystals.

This was one of the reasons France diminished Cartier's claim to fame. They were embarrassed by not having any riches and upset with Cartier and his treatment of the Iroquois.

While plenty of explorations and settlements are attributed to Cartier, he never received another commission. Cartier in 1557 and is buried in St. Vincent's Cathedral, Malo, France.

Cartier Bridge, Montreal
Cartier Bridge, Montreal
Cartier Square, Old Montreal
Cartier Square, Old Montreal
Cartier River
Cartier River

2017 Film

In 2017, a film, Hochelaga, Land of Souls, written and directed by Francois Girad was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and won four Canadian Screen Awards.


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    • powers41 profile imageAUTHOR

      fran rooks 

      6 days ago from Toledo, Ohio

      yes, it is

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 days ago from UK

      I was wondering if it was St.Malo as a couple of times we have taken a ferry there from the UK. There's a very quaint walled town oberlooking the sea and the harbour.

    • powers41 profile imageAUTHOR

      fran rooks 

      7 days ago from Toledo, Ohio

      Yes, St. Malo, France. Thanks for reading. Hope you liked it.

    • surovi99 profile image

      Rosina S Khan 

      7 days ago

      Liz, this is for you: Have you checked out my article, "Keily, the Bookworm Part-15"? Even if you have read it and already commented, sometimes the comments just disappear and I never get to see them. Can you comment on this article again if you have already, please? There is no comment from you there and I also never saw one from you. You can check out my profile. (Username: surovi99)

    • surovi99 profile image

      Rosina S Khan 

      7 days ago

      Nice to know about Explorer Jacques Cartier who found Canada and named it. Great article.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      7 days ago from UK

      This is all new and fascinating to me. By Malo do you mean St.Malo in France?


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