Who Was Jacques Cartier and His Crew?

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Jacques Cartier, a French navigator, and his crew formed the first European expedition that sailed up the St. Lawrence River and established the French claim to territory in Canada. Cartier was born in St. Malo's seaport and studied navigation in Dieppe, which was a French center for navigation studies.

Cartier was very learned and had also studied cartography, astronomy, seamanship and mathematics before making his voyages. When he and his crew arrived in what would now be known as Canada, Cartier named the area "Kanata." He did this because it meant "village" or "settlement" in the Huron-Iroquois language.

Cartier made the decision to return to France ultimately because of the terrible weather conditions there. He warned another man, Sieur de Roberval, not to go to Canada because of these same conditions, but de Roberval went anyway, attempted to start a settlement, and then left as well due to the freezing winter.

In 1545, Cartier published his own account of all of his voyages and expeditions to different places. He went to North America, Brazil and Canada on his many voyages. Cartier started positive relations with the Iroquois, which were later ruined by others. He gave them gifts on his visit, and the Chief even allowed two of his sons to sail to France with Cartier. He brought them back on his second voyage to Canada.

Unfortunately, during this second expedition, most of the crew members fell ill with scurvy. While the majority were saved by taking a remedy concocted by the Indians from the bark of a spruce tree, 25 of the crew died. On the third visit, when Cartier and his crew began a colonization project, the Indians were hostile, which resulted in many deaths among the settlers.