Search for a Route to the Orient
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Cartier and Donnacona
Search for a Route to the Orient
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Search for a Route to the Orient

Trade and relations with the natives were of marginal interest to Cartier who was mostly focused on probing the coast for a passage to Asia. As they moved westward, Cartier was encouraged at least by the land, which was more fertile than Newfoundland, and by the abundance and exoticism of the wildlife.

They stopped at les aux Oiseaux and killed more than a thousand birds, many of them great auks, which were eventually hunted to extinction.
Sidd Bobb and Levi Aguonie portray Donnacona's sons Domagaya and Taignoagny in Canada: A People's History.
Sidd Bobb and Levi Aguonie portray Donnacona's sons Domagaya and Taignoagny in Canada: A People's History.

He explored the Strait of Belle Isle as a possible route to the Orient, but off Anticosti Island he was defeated by fog and had to turn back.

At the Baie de Gasp, Cartier met the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, the group with whom he would have his most lasting relationship in the New World, one that would prove both beneficial and destructive to both parties.

He gave them presents and was introduced to their chief, Donnacona. An alliance was quickly formed and sealed with dancing and celebrating.

As the summer was coming to an end, Cartier's expedition had yielded nothing other than some new maps and encounters with natives. He planned to convince his King to allow another expedition, to pick up where they left off.
Near the Baie de Gasp, Jacques Cartier erected a 30-foot cross engraved with the words Vive le Roi de France. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Near the Baie de Gasp, Jacques Cartier erected a 30-foot cross engraved with the words Vive le Roi de France. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)

Trying to impress Francis I, Cartier erected a thirty foot cross with a fleur-de-lys shield and a wooden board engraved with the words, "Vive le Roi de France". The French knelt and worshipped and looked to heaven. But the move, which had territorial overtones, was not welcomed by the Iroquoians.

"When we had returned to our ships," Cartier wrote, "the captain, [Donnacona], dressed in an old black bear-skin, arrived in a canoe with three of his sons and his brother; but they did not come so close to the ships as they had usually done.

And pointing to the cross he made us a long harangue, making the sign of the cross with two of his fingers; and then he pointed to the land all around about, as if he wished to say that all this region belonged to him, and that we ought not to have set up this cross without his permission. And when he finished his harangue, we held up an axe to him, pretending we would barter it for his skin.

To this he nodded assent and little by little drew near the side of our vessel, thinking he would have the axe. But one of our men, who was in our dinghy, caught hold of his canoe, and at once two or three more stepped down into it and made them come on board our vessel, at which they were greatly astonished."

Cartier told Donnacona that he would go to France and return the next spring with more iron goods to trade. He wanted to take two of the chief's sons, Dom Agaya and Taignoagny, as a gesture of faith between the men.

"We dressed up his two sons in shirts and ribbons and in red caps, and put a little brass chain around the neck of each, at which they were greatly pleased."

Donnacona, having not much choice but to let his sons go, bid them farewell and Cartier left. He made a cursory search for a passage to the Orient then returned to France, arriving on September 5 with his two captives, an exotic anticlimax to his first voyage of discovery.

Dom Agaya and Taignoagny were Cartier's insurance, and they would guide him back, into the mouth of the river and beyond, he thought, to the Orient.


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Search for a Route to the Orient

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Cartier's Second Voyage
Cartier's First Voyage
Cartier's First Voyage
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Cartier's Second Voyage
Cartier's Second Voyage
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Cartier in Hochelaga
Cartier in Hochelaga
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The Healing Man
The Healing Man
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Winter and Disease at Stadacona
Winter and Disease at Stadacona
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Capture of Donnacona
Capture of Donnacona
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Death of Donnacona
Death of Donnacona
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Cartier's Third Voyage
Cartier's Third Voyage
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Biography of Jacques Cartier
Biography of Jacques Cartier
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Biography of Chief Donnacona
Biography of Chief Donnacona
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