RUE Episode 103: Nouvelle France

Welcome to the Episode 103 page of Ramping Up your English. This episode – entitled Nouvelle France – focuses on the effects of French exploration and trade on Native Americans in the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes regions.

Saint Lawrence Iroquois at Hochelaga meeting with French Explorer Jacques Cartier.
Samuel de Champlain arrives in the Saint Lawrence River 60 years after Jacques Cartier. The Wait Lawrence Iroquois are no longer present. The region has changes from villages to hunting grounds.

Watching Episode 103

Watch epode 103 as free video on demand ad-free on Click here to access the episode. You can also download it from here.

Episode Summary

Episode 103 is an example of focusing on content. Recent episodes focussed on the first contact with Europeans and the spread of Spanish control over much of North and South America. This episodes looks at the actions of the French, beginning with exploration by Verrizano and Jaques Cartier and the foundation of Nouvelle France by Samuel de Champlain.

The key Native American group were called the Saint Lawrence Iroquios. These are the people who welcomed Cartier and helped them survive brutally cold winters. Chief Donnacona’s sons travelled back to France with Cartier to learn the language and experience French culture. It was a positive experience for the boys, but when Cartier kidnapped the beloved chief, that first strong relationship broke down quickly, especially when Donnacona and the others died in France. Cartier had been forced to include convicts as red members, and some of them abused their Native American hosts, resulting in hostilities.

Sixty years later when Samuel de Champlain entered the Saint Lawrence river, there were no longer any traces of the Saint Lawrence Iroquois. Champlain made contact with the Wendat people – traders from Georgian Bay who came to be called the Huron by some French traders.

Champlain proved his loyalty to the Wendat when he helped them confront warriors in the Iroquois League, killing two chiefs with a single shot from his archibus. With that single shot – and later being wounded in another skirmish – made Champlain an adopted member of the Wendat and long-time enemy of the Iroquois Confederacy.

The trade in beaver furs kept the French engaged in America and led to a friendly approach to relations with Native Americans. The French traders and missionaries approached indigenous groups with respect and saw them as partners. Sons of French settlers lived among the tribes with which the French did business. Some became so attached to their Indian hosts that they refused to live among French society; preferring to live among Native Americans. French trappers and traders often married Native American women, further strengthening the bond and producing children who were bi-racial. These became known as the Metis.

After the virtual destruction of the Wendat nation from a massive attack by the Iroquois League, French influence spread westward. Meanwhile, Jesuit missionaries spread throughout the Great Lakes region, establishing missions where some Native Americans chose to live. Missionary Pere Marquette teamed with trader Juliet to explore the upper two-thirds of the Mississippi River, contacting native tribes along the way using cultural knowledge learned from the Algonquian people in the Great Lakes region.

Thus, French influence spread throughout much of North America. Their contact often led to widespread death of Native Americans due to European diseases. The beaver trade also interrupted native ways of life, diminishing the bonds of family, the indigenous economy, and the balance of nature. It also made many Native Americans dependent on the French. Nonetheless, relations were cordial and often warm. Nouvelle France left North America with huge areas dominated by French or Spanish influence.

Language Objectives

Listening Comprehension: Given the previous episodes about Native Americans and the influence of Native Americans, viewers have the opportunity to comprehend and summarize the main themes of this video. They should be able to characterize the nature of French/Indigenous interactions.

Academic Content Objectives

Name early French explorers to the Saint Lawrence River and Great Lakes region.

Name Native American groups who interacted with French explorers and colonizers.

Characterize the reception by indigenous Americans to French Explorers, and the treatment they received for French Explorers.

Characterize the relationship between Samuel de Champlain and the Iroquois League.

Identify the goods that were traded between Native American tribes before the arrival of the French.

Explain how the beaver trade functioned between Native Americans and the French.

Trace the beaver trade from the living animals to the furs that were used to make hats. Be sure to include the trappers, traders, transportation and exchange of goods.

Identify the challenges to the French beaver trade and explain how they affected the parties of this commerce.

Characterize the approach of French traders and colonists to Native American culture and traditions.

Explain the role that Jesuit missionaries played in expanding the reach of French influence.

Characterize the approach that Jesuit missionaries took in converting Native Americans to Christianity.

Explain the connection between French attitudes about indigenous people and the success in expanding the influence of the French beyond the Great Lakes region.

Explain the significance of exploration of the Mississippi River by Marquette and Joliet and by La Salle.

Based on the explorations of the French and the relationships they built with Native American groups, extrapolate the likely future of French influence in North America.

Videos Included in Episode 103

Click here to watch the video Novelle France.

Linked Videos

A major driver of relations between the French and many Native Americans in the Great Lakes region was the American Beaver. Click here to see an excelent video about beavers by Sir David Attenborough. It’s a fascinating video with a little surprise.

Click here to see a video about the Iroquois Confederacy.

I used images from trail cams for parts of this episode. Click here to see trail cam video that captures cougars aka mountain lions aka pumas.

Learning Materials

There are no learning materials beside the video for this episode.


While we didn’t include direct instruction materials within the episode, this is an excellent time to compare and contrast the experience Native Americans had with French explorers with their experience with Spanish and Portuguese explorers and colonizers.

Jot down some notes about the differences you’ve noted while watching this and previous episodes. We’ll explore the language forms that help communicate how these experience are the same and how they are different.

A Timely Note

This episode is produced during a time of high stress in the United States. Along with the world-wide struggle with COVID 19, much of the west has been devastated by wildfires. People have lost their homes and some have lost their lives. Climate research has predicted more frequent and more servere weather events, including the drought that has intensified this unprecedented level of forest and grass fires. Powerful Hurricanes have ripped apart Southwest Louisiana, especially the city of Lake Charles. Others have caused destruction in Central America. Our current administration and many members of Congress refuse to believe the overwhelming science that predicts and explains the horrific events that have devastated so many lives. Some have died with the belief that the pandemic is only a hoax.

Some hope has come in the form of the 2020 election of Joe Biden as president. Yet for the first time in U.S. history, the sitting president refuses to concede. Hence, the stress level has not reduced that much. There’s little that rational people can do to halt the belief of some in bizarre conspiracy theories, but at least we won’t have the president believing and promoting them from the White House. At least not after January 20, 2021.

We just celebrated Thanksgiving – a holiday of great importance in the United States. This holiday is linked to Native Americans in a mythical way. For many indigenous people, every day is a day to give thanks. It was that way long before Europeans arrived, and it’s very much that way today.

Next Episode

Episode 104 is now available. Click here to go to the Episode 104 page.