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The Heath Anthology of American Literature, Fifth Edition
Paul Lauter, General Editor

Samuel de Champlain
Champlain first explored North America as Royal Geographer on an expedition in 1603 intended to repeat Jacques Cartier’s famous trip up the St. Lawrence in 1534–1535. He returned a year later as part of a Huguenot expedition led by de Monts and participated in exploration, fur trade, and settlement projects for several decades. In addition to discovering the lake that bears his name and founding Quebec, the second permanent European city north of Mexico, he escalated the French alliance with the Hurons into an active role in their war against the Iroquois. This decision, dictated by necessity, turned the Iroquois into relentless enemies of the French. The first selection shows Champlain’s curiosity about the landscape through which he is traveling, one oriented toward observations about the exploitable potential of the wilderness. In the context of his affiliation with the fur trade, his comment on the abundance of beaver assumes commercial significance. His introduction of firearms into native warfare, with awesome impact, coincides with Villagrá’s description of a similar application of European technology in New Mexico. Around this time the Dutch began supplying their native allies with arms and powder. Native warfare, and thus their societies, were forever altered.

The second selection seems to be simply another story of the European lost in the American landscape which turns out to be familiar home territory to the native. Yet more significant is the ending in which the natives of the area admit, perhaps unknowingly, that they no longer really control their world, for Champlain is its new center. If he dies their mobility would be curtailed, so they must keep him alive, guard, and guide him. The European has assumed central value here. Just as in the first selection, the introduction of the European element changes Native American life.

Juan Bruce-Novoa
University of California at Irvine

Carla Mulford
Pennsylvania State University

In the Heath Anthology
The Voyages of Samuel de Champlain
      from The Voyages of 1615 (1907)
      from The Voyages of the Great River St. Lawrence, 1608-1612 (1907)

Other Works

Cultural Objects
Image fileChamplain's Maps

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de Champlain: Geographer and Builder of a Colony
Site offers information about de Champlain's place in early Canadian history.

Historical Biographies: Nova Scotia
Biography, photo and links.

Samuel de Champlain's 1607 Map
This primary source is part of the Library of Congress' Treasures page and shows early pictoral representation of New England and Canada.

Secondary Sources

W.J. Eccles, France in America, 1990

Marcel Trudel, Dictionary of Canadian Biography, v. 1, 1966