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Discoverers - Saguenay : An exceptional fjord!

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Musée du Fjord

(1535 to 1663)

The second phase that begins in the XVIth century is better known than the previous one. Indeed, documents from travellers, missionaries, traders and land surveyors punctuated this period. Jacques Cartier heard about a "Sagné Kingdom". The Iroquois from Stadaconé, former name of Quebec City, suggest a magic region bursting with precious metals, where people live as the French do. Our discoverer was then attracted by this promised land. He described it as a "Kingdom" in his texts. From then on, the Saguenay aroused the curiosity of the eventual explorers. During his second trip (1535-1536), Cartier discovered that there was no wealth in this Kingdom. The following are his first impressions when he stopped at the mouth of the Fjord:

"There is a very deep river with a strong current that is the river and the road to the Saguenay Kingdom and lands, as was said by our two men of the country. This river is between high mountains of bare stone, where there is little soil, where a large number of trees grow in spite of this, and several species, that grow on the said bare stone as if on good soil" 1

During this period, fur remained the only wealth. In this perspective, an agreement was signed between the Montagnais natives and the Frenchman. This is how the Montagnais became the sole fur suppliers for the French clientele. In return, the Frenchmen did not intrude the territory. Nevertheless, the Montagnais agreed to meet European dealers every summer during the Tadoussac fairs. Why did they choose this specific place?

The fur traders established trading posts where it was convenient for their bartering, generally at the mouth of the Saint-Lawrence River or other rivers. Thus, one of the first trading posts of New-France was set up at Tadoussac under the reign of Pierre Chauvin in 1600.

Located at the confluence of the Saguenay River and the Saint-Lawrence River, Tadoussac served as a meeting and trading place with the various numerous Amerindian communities.

During the second half of XVIIth century, Tadoussac was a business hub for fur trading in North America. Basques, Norsemen, Bretons and other Europeans therefore did business with the Montagnais of the Saguenay and surrounding regions. The latter were the go-between for the Whites and the other aboriginal nations.

Besides its trading function, Tadoussac also became a centre of intense religious activity with the arrival of the Jesuits around 1640. However, Tadoussac maintained its first commercial vocation during the next two centuries.

1 Translation of excerpt rewritten in Le Saguenay historique, nº 2, "Mon pays" collection, Éditions Fides, Montreal, 1940, p.10

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