The unrelenting winter cut through the colony of New France. An explorer and mapmaker, Samuel de Champlain had been sent across the Atlantic to build an outpost in what we now call Canada. In 1608, along with his men, he constructed a fortified trading post to support the vast French fur trade network and to act as a base for his own colonial ambitions. Some of the Indigenous people who lived there called it kebec – the place where the river narrows. Champlain claimed the land and its resources for France. By that first winter, he could only watch as disease claimed the lives of most of his men. The few that survived to spring were weakened by scurvy and hunger. Out of necessity, Champlain and the remaining French relied on alliances with the Indigenous peoples in the area: the Innu of the St. Lawrence, the Nations of the Ottawa River and the Huron-Wendat of the Great Lakes. From these relationships, they learned how to survive the harsh winters. With Indigenous guides, Champlain was able to successfully navigate the territory’s rivers. He claimed that their birch bark canoes were the “only craft suitable” for navigating these important trade routes. Convinced that Indigenous peoples had no legitimate religion, he introduced Catholic missionaries to the growing colony in 1615. The priests’ mission was to convert these allies to Catholicism, which they believed would save their souls and “civilize” them to European ways of life. By the time of Champlain’s death in 1635, several French families had settled on the land… … and the few Indigenous groups he had convinced to farm in the region lived just outside the city walls. Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec City at the place where the river narrows. It became the most important settlement in the colony of New France.