Relations Between The French And Indigenous Peoples
During the time of this book the original inhabitants of Canada and the French who came here were more or less on an equal footing. Each side had something the other needed.
Mainly, the French wanted beaver pelts, used in Europe to make fashionable felt hats. The natives wanted the metal tools and utensils the French brought, which improved their quality of life. They also wanted guns, to hunt and defend themselves with.
There was no dispute over land, either. The French settlements of the mid-seventeenth century were little more than trading posts inhabited by fur traders, priests, and soldiers.
The Iroquois, Then And Now
Although the Iroquois have been cast as villains in this story, set during what has been called the Beaver Wars, in the course of time among Canadians they became heroes.
Without their help there would probably be no Canada today. During the American Revolution many Iroquois fought on the side of the Loyalists and when the rebel side won many followed the Loyalists to British territory on the north side of Lake Ontario.
Later, in the War of 1812, when the United States tried to take over Canada the Iroquois fought alongside the British and drove them back, striking terror into the hearts of the American invaders. The British then burned Washington to the ground, and ever since Canada and the United States have co-existed as peaceful neighbors sharing the longest undefended border in the world.
However, the Iroquois haven't completely given up their tough guy credentials -- every now and then reminding Canadians of their presence. The tragic Oka, Quebec standoff in the summer of 1990 and the Six Nations roadblock of an Ontario highway from 2006 to 2011 are two recent examples. Both confrontations were over unresolved land claims.
Neither have the Ottawa - also portrayed in the book - lost their reputation for being shrewd traders. Currently negotiating with the Ontario Government for the transfer of a huge piece of real estate in Georgian Bay, playground of Canada's and many of America's rich and powerful.
Did Radisson and Des Groseilliers Reach Hudson Bay?
Many historians have questioned whether Radisson and Des Groseilliers actually made it to Hudson Bay in the summer of 1660. They claim it was too far from Lake Superior to get there and back in one summer. Or the details of the landscape in Radisson's account are too sketchy, proof he made it up.
I believe they did. Starting out early in the spring of 1660 after spending the winter beside Lake Superior, it would have been possible to reach Hudson Bay in a month by taking the canoe route described in the book. Starting from Lake Superior they could have headed north up the Nipigon River, crossed Lake Nipigon, portaged to the Ogoki River, down it to the Albany, ending up on James Bay, at the south end of Hudson Bay.
I personally know people who starting out on the Ogoki were able to canoe to Hudson Bay in two weeks. Mind you they were flown to the Ogoki from Sioux Lookout, which they got to by train.
On the return to Lake Superior the explorers could have taken a shorter route from Hudson Bay. First heading southwest up the Moose River; then up the Missinaibi River; then portaging to the Michipicoten River, and paddling down it to Lake Superior at present-day Wawa, Ontario.
Finally, if they hadn't reached the Bay that summer would Des Groseilliers have gambled everything he had on the purchase of a ship to get to a place he'd never seen? I think not.