April 20, 2010

Jacques Cartier begins a “Voyage of Discovery” – 1534

On this date in 1534, Jacques Cartier set sail from France, attempting to find for his king just what so many other explorers were trying to find: a westward passage to Asia and lands filled with gold and spices.

He didn't find these things.

What he did find was the mainland of Canada, Newfoundland, and Prince Edward Island. He found what he called the "Islands of the Birds," and his crew slaughtered around 1000 birds, most of them great auks. (Great auks are now extinct, but presumably not entirely because of Cartier's men!) And of course, he found people already living on the land. He engaged in some trading, but he also planted a 10-meter cross in the ground and declared the territory the property of his king.

That was a prequel to kidnapping two Iroquoians. (Yikes!)

This event may not have been quite as violent as the word “kidnapping” suggests, because (after they had the native captain's sons in their possession), Cartier apparently bargained with the captain for the right to take them back to Europe. The captain at last agreed on the condition that they return with European goods to trade.

On Cartier's return the next year, he brought back the two Iroquoians and things to trade.

He and his men ended up staying the winter that year. Scurvy broke out among the Iroq
uoians and the French, but one of the men he had previously kidnapped paid a friendly visit to the French and told them of a medicine they could make from a local tree. According to Wikipedia, the remedy probably saved the French expedition, with 85 of the 110 men surviving the winter. (Cartier guessed that perhaps 50 of the Iroquoians died from scurvy, despite the medicine.)

Cartier ended up describing and mapping the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and the shores of the Saint Lawrence River, and he gave Canada its name.

Play a game about explorers.

Here is a matching game, and this is a version of concentration.

Learn about Canada.

Canada is the second largest country in the world, after only Russia. (We're talking area, not population.) Also, the border it shares with the U.S. is the longest in the world.

Canada is a bilingual nation,
with both English and French as official languages. As you might guess, this is because both England and France laid claims to parts of Canada. France let go of its claims to the land in 1763, and soon Canada became a federal dominion of the United Kingdom (which is made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland).

Canada never fought a war of independence against England. Instead it slowly-and-stea
dily became more and more independent, until 1982 when the Canada Act ended the nation's dependence on the British parliament. Even now, however, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is considered the head of state of Canada is pictured on some of its money!
NOTE: I would avoid the quiz, since it is not oriented toward topics of interest to kids, plus it's really hard!!

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