OTD: Champlain defeats Iroquois on Richelieu River

On today’s date in 1610, Samuel de Champlain and his Huron and Algonquin allies began an attack on an Iroquois party on Québec’s Richelieu River.

Champlain’s group defeated the Iroquois party five days later. The attack echoed a similar incident a year earlier, when another group led by Champlain defeated a separate Iroquois party. This skirmish, near Crown Point (present-day Ticonderoga), saw the French explorer kill two chieftains with his arquebus (a shoulder-fired firearm).

“These humiliating defeats inflicted on the Iroquois were not soon forgotten,” wrote Bernd Horn in his 2006 book, Perspectives on the Canadian Way of War: Serving the National Interest.

“The consequences of these events would rock the colony for generations. The Iroquois Confederacy became the intractable enemy of the French. ‘Between us and them,’ conceded an intendant in New France, ‘there is no more good faith than between the most ferocious animals.”


Born into a family of French mariners in 1574, Champlain began exploring North America in 1603 and eventually climbed to the top of society on this side of the pond.

Tasked with mapping the New World and finding a western route to the Orient, Champlain built on the earlier achievements of fellow explorer Jacques Cartier. Champlain eventually made the first attempts at a permanent settlement in 1608, when he built a habitation that would eventually become Québec.

From 1608-16, Champlain deepened trading relations with local Indigenous communities in present-day Québec. As he began to explore the western interior with Indigenous guides, his quest for new territory was slowed by demands for a permanent settlement as well as his growing role as the Lieutenant General of New France.

On March 1, 1632, Champlain was appointed as New France’s first governor.

He died there three years later on Christmas Day. By the time of his death, the first Québécois settlers were beginning to arrive in New France.


In 2014, the Royal Canadian Mint featured Champlain on the third coin of its “Great Explorers” series.

The $200 pure gold Proof coin features the French explorer alongside an Indigenous guide as they disembark from canoes on the Ontario shoreline. The coin was designed by Glen Green and has a mintage of 2,000 pieces; a weight of 15.43 grams; and a 29-millimetre diameter.

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