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Celebrating Champlain's Legacy at Trent and in Peterborough

This story is featured in the Spring 2015 issue of Showcase: The Canada Edition

Celebrating Champlain's Legacy at Trent and in Peterborough
Celebrating Champlain's Legacy at Trent and in Peterborough

2015 marks the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s visits to the Peterborough area and three Trent University professors emeriti have been charged with raising awareness of this important milestone.

Under direction from the board of the Trent Valley Archives, Drs. Elwood Jones, Al Brunger and Peter Adams are planning a number of events and initiatives to engage the community in local anniversary. The first event will be held on May 2 as part of Doors Open at Trent, and the group hopes to publish a collection of articles on Samuel de Champlain in the fall.

“We tend to forget that the first European contact with this region was French. It was 200 years before European settlers arrive and, during the lumbering era, they included many Quebecers. It is important that we try to remember our heritage as it really was,” says Professor Emeritus Adams.

Champlain was brought to the local area in 1615, by 500 Huron and Algonquin warriors, en route from Huronia (the Lake Simcoe region) to an Iroquois village near present-day Syracuse NY. The expedition was a raid on the Iroquois, traditional enemies of the Huron. The party travelled through the Kawartha Lakes (via a route which is today roughly followed by the Trent Severn Waterway) and down the Otonabee and Trent rivers to Lake Ontario. This trip, in early September 1615, was Champlain’s first visit to our area.  

Despite the advantage of firearms, the Huron and Champlain were defeated and retreated back through this region later that fall. As Champlain was wounded, he and some of the Huron spent time in this region while he recuperated. This, more extended stay was his second visit to the Peterborough area.

From these visits, we have the first European perceptions of Peterborough and the Kawarthas. Champlain’s maps and writings were the only source of such information for decades.

Champlain’s legacy is alive and well at Trent, in the form of Champlain College, one of only three Champlain Colleges in North America. It was founded, on the Otonabee River, in 1965, in the presence of Premier Lesage of Québec and Premier Robarts of Ontario. There are two bilingual cornerstones.

Today, Champlain College students at Trent still celebrate L’Ordre de Bon Temps as their winter carnival. Champlain founded this Order to keep his men’s spirits up during the long Canadian winters. In the College and elsewhere there are other Champlain memorabilia including a bronze bust and a portrait by Charles Comfort. The College coat of arms carries the motto, “Continuer Mes Découvertes”, in memory of the explorer.

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Posted on Tuesday, May 26, 2015.

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