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Samuel de Champlain: Explorer

Samuel de Champlain (1567?-1635) was a French explorer and navigator who mapped much of northeastern North America and started a settlement in Quebec. Champlain also discovered the lake named for him (Lake Champlain, on the border of northern New York state and Vermont, named in 1609) and was important in establishing and administering the French colonies in the New World.

In 1603, Champlain sailed to France on Francois Grave Du Pont's expedition. They sailed up the St. Lawrence River and the Saguenay River; they also explored the Gaspe Peninsula. He returned to France in 1603, and decided to search for a Northwest Passage and to settle the Gaspe Peninsula.

He returned to Canada in 1604 on Pierre de Mont's expedition. From 1604-1607, he sailed around and charted most of the coast of Nova Scotia (to the Bay of Fundy) and down the coast to Cape Cod and Martha's Vineyard (Massachusetts), and later to Rhode Island. After a short time in France, Champlain returned to Canada and helped found a colony in Port Royal, Nova Scotia (1605).

In 1608, Champlain led 32 colonists to settle Quebec in order to establish it as a fur-trading center. Only nine colonists survived the first bitter winter in Quebec, but more settlers arrived the following summer.

In 1609, Champlain befriended the Huron Indians and helped them fight the Iroquois (this battle led to 150 years of bitterness and hostility between the Iroquois and the French). It was during this venture that he discovered Lake Champlain. In 1613, he again sailed up the St. Lawrence, and explored the Ottawa River. Two years later, after returning from France, he retraced this route and ventured into what is now northern New York state and the eastern Great Lakes (Georgian Bay of Lake Huron, and Lake Ontario).

Champlain headed the Quebec settlement for years, until the English attacked and took the Fort at Quebec in July, 1629. Champlain once again returned to France. After a French-British peace treaty in 1632, Quebec was once again French, and Champlain returned as its governor (1633). He died from a stroke on Dec. 25, 1635.

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