René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle
When La Salle arrived in New France in 1667, he settled on the island of Montréal where his brother was already living. Drawn to adventure and exploration, he dreamed of finding a route to China. His first trip was a failure and to mock him, people called his starting point “Little China”.
The name stuck and even today this part of the island of Montréal is called “Lachine” (from La Chine, the French word for China). Governor Frontenac supported and protected La Salle’s projects. At the governor’s request, La Salle founded Fort Frontenac on Lake Ontario. For several years, La Salle explored the Great Lakes region and founded several trading posts. The fur trade helped to pay for the costs of his explorations.
La Salle eventually abandoned his dreams of travelling to China and shifted his focus to the Mississippi, a vast river that the French were just starting to explore. In 1682, he was the first European to travel the entire length of this river to the Gulf of Mexico. It was with great ceremony that he took possession of the entire Mississippi basin for France. He named this region “Louisiana” in honour of the King, Louis XIV.
Other French explorers contributed to the discovery of North America. For example, La Verendrye explored the interior of the continent, while Radisson explored further north, reaching James Bay.
Author: Léon Robichaud
See also: Traces of the past: