2015 marked the 400th anniversary of the arrival of Samuel de Champlain in the lands that would one day be known as Ontario. Not only was this an opportunity to commemorate the long history of French presence in the province, but it also provided a chance to reflect on four centuries of contact and interaction between western European and Indigenous civilizations.
As part of the Champlain 400 activities, and with the support of the Office of Francophone Affairs, the Ontario Heritage Trust conducted extensive historical research and undertook community consultations to create a provincial plaque translated into six languages that tells the story of Champlain’s first and most extensive journey in Ontario.
The plaque reads:
Champlain in Ontario, 1615
In April 1615, Samuel de Champlain (c.1574-1635) embarked from Honfleur, upon his seventh voyage to New France. Upon arrival in Quebec, Champlain was informed of increasing tensions with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) the traditional rival of his Anishinabe (Algonquian) and Wendat (Huron) allies. He travelled west to Huronia on a diplomatic and military expedition where he visited several villages including Cahiagué, a large and important Wendat settlement. With a mixed force of 400-500 First Nations warriors and a few Europeans, Champlain travelled southeast along the Trent River system, crossed Lake Ontario and attacked a fortified Haudenosaunee village in present-day New York State. Lacking reinforcements, facing a formidable enemy and an early winter, the allies withdrew to Cahiagué with the wounded Champlain. During his recovery in Huronia he visited nearby Anishinabe and Tionontati (Petun) settlements. Although later European contact brought epidemics and escalating conflict that had a profound impact on Indigenous peoples, the alliances that Champlain helped establish survived. He returned to France the following August and later published important detailed descriptions of the peoples, societies and landscapes of what would become Ontario.