Le Canada faict par le Sr de Champlain: où sont La Nouvelle France, La Nouvelle Angleterre, La Nouvelle Holande, La Nouvelle Svede, La Virginie


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Le Canada faict par le Sr de Champlain: où sont La Nouvelle France, La Nouvelle Angleterre, La Nouvelle Holande, La Nouvelle Svede, La Virginie




“Le Canada faict par le Sr. de Champlain” is considered by many scholars to be one of the most fascinating maps of the New World published in the 17th century . It depicts eastern Canada (and parts of America) as a sum of its various colonies; these include “la Nouvelle France” (New France), “la Nouvelle Angleterre” (New England), and “Virginie” (Virginia). This particular version of the map was published in France in 1677 and is credited to French geographer Pierre Duvale. The map is an elaboration of a blueprint originally created by another, more prolific French explorer, Samuel de Champlain. His earlier proofs contained observations from his many explorations conducted between 1603 and 1615. The present state of the map, which is believed to be its fifth iteration, can be identified by the addition of places such as Boston, Manhattan, Quebec, and Port Royal. This is not to say that the significance of Champlain’s earlier contributions has been overshadowed; this map is revered for being the first to include depictions of Lake Huron and Ontario.


Pierre Duval






Imaiya Ravichandran


Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License


Full-sized digital item can be found in McMaster's Digital Archive at: http://digitalarchive.mcmaster.ca/islandora/object/macrepo%3A32261


Map, 35 x 55 cm








North America/Canada/Eastern Canada

Still Image Item Type Metadata

Original Format

Printed map, hand coloured

Physical Dimensions

43 x 57 cm

Contributor's Research

"Le Canada faict par le Sr. de Champlain", though originally credited to French geographer Pierre Duvale, is actually an extension of a blueprint created by the famed “Founder of the New World”, Samuel de Champlain (BLR Antique Maps, n.d.). Champlain’s version is heralded as a seminal piece of cartography for many reasons; for one, it marks the first appearance of Lake Huron and Lake Ontario on a printed map. It also signifies the first recording of the elusive route up the Ottawa River (BLR Antique Maps, n.d). However, scholars rarely discuss the significance of this map as it pertains to the relationship between European explorers and the New World’s Indigenous peoples. This map makes many references to Indigenous tribes and territories; examples include the “Nations Algonouines”, “Nations des Puants”, and “Torontorai”. This, and other evidence uncovered in contemporary study of Champlain’s explorations, suggest that the famed explorer had in fact a close relationship with Canada’s Native people. This essay explores the interactions between Champlain and Indigenous communities that helped him conduct his explorations and thus create his map. It also examines the role that Indigenous knowledge has played in the development of colonial cartography, and how even in this seemingly depoliticized field, Aboriginal narratives have been intentionally silenced to preserve European supremacy.

In 1603, Champlain embarked on his first voyage to New France at the request of King Henry IV. It was intended as a fur-trading expedition on which Champlain served as head geographer (SoftSchools, n.d.). Though he had no formal training in cartography, he was lauded for his exceptional skills of observation, logical thought process, and knowledge of the natural environment (Dawson, 2003). However, he was inexperienced in piloting and navigation and eventually required the assistance of the Native people. Upon reaching New France, he commissioned an interpreter to question the Aboriginals and tap into their deep knowledge of the Canadian interior (Brûckner, 2011). In his writings, he documents an instance of him arriving at the Lachine Rapids and requesting a group of Aboriginals to draw him a rudimentary map (Brûckner, 2011). This interaction is significant for two reasons: firstly, it proves that Champlain required assistance to such an extent that he actively sought out the help of Indigenous people, and secondly, that the Indigenous people possessed refined cartographic skills well before Champlain’s arrival.

Champlain traveled between France and New France (at this point called Acadia) for the following 6 years, all the while interacting with Native Americans. These sporadic collaborations proved very useful for Champlain and the King of France took note of this fruitful relationship. He recognized the wisdom of the Aboriginal people and their potential to help proliferate the burgeoning French fur trade. He ordered Champlain to cement an alliance with his Aboriginal colleagues, specifically the Huron and Montagnais tribes (SoftSchools, n.d.). With their help, the French fur industry expanded towards the Mississippi River and Lake Michigan (SoftSchools, n.d.); prior to their alliance, there was little European knowledge of these regions, and this likely would have remained the case due to the dangerous terrains that discouraged exploration. In return for Indigenous knowledge, Champlain and his accompanying Frenchmen joined the Huron and Montagnais in battle against the enemy Iroquois tribe. During one of said battles in 1615, Champlain was severely injured and had to spend the winter with the Huron people. He used this time to further learn about not only Indigenous navigation, but medicine, customs, and vegetation, and documented his observations in his writings and maps (CanadaHistory, 2013).

It is often suggested that the relationship between Champlain and his Aboriginal allies was one of mutual respect and admiration. “Champlain found the Aboriginals to be a fascinating and kind people, as they did him,” historian Charles Vandrei writes (2009). However, most modern analysis of these colonial relationships claim that Champlain’s actions are overly romanticized in order to humanize what otherwise would be considered blatant tyranny. They provide evidence of an “unreflective and self-centered nature” that bound Champlain to his preconceived prejudices (Trigger, 1971). His actions were not motivated by genuine good-will, but rather, by a desire on the part of his own nation to acquire and monopolize land and to convert Aboriginal people to Christianity (Heritage Trust, n.d.). Considering the devastating impact of colonisation on Aboriginal communities and the continued success of colonial agents, this second interpretation, though more brutal and unforgiving, seems truer.

Colin Calloway poignantly sums up the erasure of Indigenous narratives from New World cartography as follows: “Early America was a cloth woven from many threads, but the Indian strands that ran through it have often been ignored, forgotten, and allowed to fade from the nation's history” (Short, 2009). The Indigenous influence on white explorations has been dismissed and subsequently replaced by a European-centered tale of heroics. The first assumption we make is that Native Americans, while possessing immense knowledge about their native land, could not translate their expertise into tangible maps. However, historical accounts demonstrate that this is simply not true. Rough maps have been found etched into rocks, ivory tusks, and birch trees, well before the arrival of any European explorers (Short, 2009). We also assume that Indigenous people provided merely peripheral assistance to Western explorers though in reality, they were integral to the success of most expeditions. Jacques Cartier, often referred to as the “Father of Canada”, went so far as to lure two Aboriginals onto his boat under the pretense of completing a fur trade, where they remained in confinement for the rest of his trip. Many speculate that his iconic “discovery” of the St. Lawrence River would not have been possible without the guidance of his two unwilling companions (Short, 2009).

Evidence from these early explorations illuminate just how vital Indigenous contributions were to the exploration and mapping of the New World. Unfortunately, over time, these contributions have been diminished to such an extent that they have been forgotten altogether. Instead, Aboriginals are portrayed as barriers to European exploration, or worse, as complacent, inanimate components of the natural landscape. The fact that Indigenous contributions are not widely acknowledged in our study of cartography brings to light an interesting, but ultimately worrisome issue; maps are not uncomplicated, objective pictures of the geographic world as one would think. They are reflections of power relations and our ignorance of the wider social world. In the end, the art of mapping is as much a political act as it is a scientific one.


Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps Inc. (n.d.). Pierre Du Val: Le Canada faict par le Sr.
de Champlain. ou sont La Nouvelle France, La Nouvelle Angleterre, La Nouvelle
Holande, La Nouvelle Suede, La Virginie… Retrieved from https://www.raremaps.com/gallery/archivedetail/26519/Le_Canada_faict_par_le_Sr_de_Champlain_ou_sont_La_Nouvelle_France_La/Du%20Val.html

Brückner, M. (Ed.). (2011). Early American Cartographies. (M. Brückner, Ed.). University of
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Dawson, S. E.. (2003). The St. Lawrence, Its Basin & Border-Lands: The story of their
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Short, J.R.. (2009). Cartographic Encounters: Indigenous Peoples and Exploration of the New
World. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

SoftSchools. (n.d.). Samuel de Champlain Timeline. Retrieved from

Trigger, B. G.. (1971). Champlain Judged by His Indian Policy: A Different View of Early
Canadian History. Anthropologica, 13(1/2), 85–114. http://doi.org/10.2307/25604843

Vandrei, Charles. (2009, August). Samuel Champlain: Intrepid explorer. Retrieved from


Pierre Duval, “Le Canada faict par le Sr de Champlain: où sont La Nouvelle France, La Nouvelle Angleterre, La Nouvelle Holande, La Nouvelle Svede, La Virginie,” Omeka Testbed, accessed July 21, 2018, http://mapexhibit.mcmaster.ca/items/show/44.