Historical Framework

The period from 1610 to 1615 marks the beginning of the French presence in Ontario.

Étienne Brûlé, scout and interpreter for Samuel de Champlain,  is thought to be the first Caucasian to have reached the area that is present-day Ontario. In the summer of 1610, he set out to explore the Pays d’en Haut (“upper country”), a region of New France that encompassed the majority of Ontario and beyond. He travelled up the Ottawa River, reaching Lake Nipissing by the Mattawa River, and ending his journey in Huronia, going as far as Georgian  Bay via the French River. Along with his First Nations allies, the Hurons, he set off to explore several regions surrounding the

Great Lakes, and would later report his discoveries of this countryside, rich in natural resources and expansive freshwater seas, to Champlain.

In May 1613, Champlain went in search of a “northern sea” (Hudson Bay). Accompanied by Brûlé and three other young scouts, he travelled up the Ottawa River as far as Allumette Island, Quebec, in the vicinity of Pembroke, Ontario. He took advantage of this journey to build alliances with an Algonquin tribe, the Kichesipirini, and then returned to Quebec City. It was during this journey that Champlain lost his astrolabe, which would be found 254 years later, in 1867, by Edward Lee, a 14-year-old farm boy.

It wasn’t until 1615 that Champlain would follow Brûlé as far as Huronia. Brûlé also took him to explore northern Lake Ontario, as far as the Bay of Quinte. He took the same route, the great trade route, to reach the heart of the Huron country on the banks of Georgian Bay. It was during this journey to the Bay of Quinte that he was wounded by an arrow to the knee during a battle with the Iroquois, and was forced to winter with his Huron-Wendat allies until spring 1616 before returning to Quebec.