Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Canadian History dull......?
Not when you read a book like "Champlain's Dream" by David Hackett Fischer. (Winner of the Pulitzer Prize). It's exciting to read about the early exploration of Novia Scotia, then Acadia, the grandeur of the country and river St Lawrence, the encounters with the Indian nations and the struggle for survival in New France. Champlain is described as being friendly towards the Indians and treating them with respect, unlike the Spanish and English colonizers further south. He seems to have been soldier, sailor, adventurer, diplomat, peacemaker, economist, explorer, cartographer, artist, commander and gardener. His marriage was not a happy one at first but his wife eventually came to Quebec for a while and learned enough of the Indian languages to teach the children and nurse the sick. Early colonies were decimated by scurvy during the long, cold winter months when supplies ran out, and ships carrying provisions were not able to cross the Atlantic until spring. There was cooperation between Indians and the French thanks mainly to Champlain's treatment of them. They exchanged young men to be brought up in the customs of the other and to learn their language. Champlain worked under three different rulers: the favourable Henri IV (1589-1610), the hostile regency of Marie de Medici, and the young Louis XIII. He also worked with the famous Cardinal Richelieu, King Louis' chief minister, but the two of them never saw eye to eye. Recollet fathers and later Jesuit priests went out to the new colonies, to attend to the religious needs of the people and to convert the Indians. I'm about 3/4 way through the book and enjoying it, especially since we lived in Montreal for many years, and know some of the territory mentioned. I'm also familiar with the winters! I wish I had known more about Champlain when we lived there, but this book was only published in 2008.