In 1605, Samuel de Champlain founded the French settlement of Port Royal on the eastern shore of the Bay of Fundy (Nova Scotia). While the ocean held an abundance of fish, Champlain concluded that Port Royal did not have sufficient resources to support a larger settlement. Consequently, Champlain founded Quebec on the St. Lawrence River on 7 July 1608. Quebec was in Montagnais territory, and Champlain immediately established trade relations.

The Montagnais and neighbouring First Nations in the Eastern Woodlands, however, viewed trade as more than an economic arrangement. Trade also had important political implications. The exchange of goods signified the acceptance of a mutual political and military alliance. As a consequence, a war party of Algonquin and Montagnais invited the French to join them in a raid on the territory of the Iroquois Confederacy (the Five Nations-Mohawk, Seneca, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Oneida) in the summer of 1609. Champlain felt obliged to accompany them.

The war party travelled down the Richelieu River and confronted a Mohawk force near Lake Champlain. The French loaded their muskets and fired. Three Mohawk warriors collapsed, and the rest of the force hastily retreated, abandoning their stockade. In the pursuit that followed, Champlain and his French colleagues killed 13 more warriors.

In subsequent years, the hostility between the French and the Iroquois Confederacy would intensify-and not just because of the confrontation along the shores of Lake Champlain. The French had become an enemy of the Iroquois the moment they had exchanged goods with the traditional foes of the Iroquois, the Algonquin and Montagnais.

 

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