Early American History
Encounters in the Americas
beaver fur
Gulf of St. Lawrence
iron tools
Jacques Cartier, 1534
Key Concepts
The French in North America
Montreal, 1611
New York
Northwest Passage
Nova Scotia
pots and pans
Quebec, 1608
St. Lawrence River

Spain was growing rich and powerful in Middle and South America. Then the French and the Dutch began to make their own claims in North America. First, the French and the Dutch found good fishing waters along the Northeast coast. Then, the French and Dutch fishermen began to trade with the Native Americans. They bartered for animal furs with the local Native peoples. The Indians traded furs for European goods. Beaver furs from America became almost as valuable as gold. In France, the beaver furs were made into hats. The Indians traded for French and Dutch iron tools, pots, pans, and guns.

Jacques Cartier, was a French explorer. In 1534, he sailed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The next year he sailed up the St. Lawrence River. Cartier was looking for a Northwest Passage through North America to Asia. He thought the St. Lawrence River might be the route. If there were a Northwest Passage, it would have been shorter than traveling from Europe to Asia by going around Africa. If a French explorer found a Northwest Passage, France would have become very rich and powerful.

Jacques Cartier did not find the Northwest Passage. But he did begin to trade with the Native American people known as the Hurons. By 1600, trade with the Huron Indians was very important to the French. The French and Indian fur trade grew following the two voyages of Jacques Cartier.

In 1603, the French trading company sent Samuel de Champlain to North America. Champlain was a cartographer, or map maker. He spent three months exploring what is now Eastern Canada. He called this area, New France. Champlain described New France as a "wonderful country across the ocean." His report encouraged people to want to go to New France.

Champlain returned to New France as the French King's geographer. He spent five years exploring the lands along the St. Lawrence River, and the areas today known as Nova Scotia and the state of New York. Champlain built a French settlement on the St. Lawrence River. He began his settlement at the place the Hurons called "Kebec," meaning "the place where the river narrows." Three years later, he began a trading post at Montreal.
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Additional Information

claims - In 1524, the King of France sent Giovanni Verrazano to America to find the Northwest Passage. France wanted to control the passage so that it could control the route to China and its spices and jewels. Verrazano sailed into what would become New York Harbor. When he did not discover the passage, he sailed north, up the coast to Newfoundland.

fishermen - French fishermen fished in the waters off the coast of Newfoundland. There they found the waters full of fish. French fishermen came in the spring. They fished, salted and dried their catch all summer. Then they returned home to France for the winter.

French trading company - A group of French businessmen formed a company to begin a colony in North America. The business men invested their money in the company. They thought they would earn back more money than they invested, if they could trade in

traded furs - People in France and England wore beaver hats to keep warm. Houses had no central heat and were cold in winter. The American forests were full of beavers. French trappers and traders came to America to trap beavers or to trade with the Indians for beaver skins.

Champlain - After his first visit to the New World, Champlain wrote a book about what he had seen. He also drew pictures and made accurate maps for the book.

Kebec - In 1608, Champlain started a colony called Quebec on the St. Lawrence River. Quebec is the second-oldest city in North America.

Jacques Cartier - When Verrazano was unable to find the Northwest Passage or gold in America, the King of France sent Jacques Cartier to
America in 1525. Cartier made two voyages to North America. He returned to France with samples he thought were gold. But the minerals turned out to be pyrite, or fools gold.