Explorer Jacques Cartier Named Canada in 1534
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).
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.
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.
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.