whom Champlain was to come into contact, were of three great families—the Algonquian, a wandering, shift-less people scattered from the Atlantic to the western plains; the Huron, living in populous villages in a limited area between Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay; and the Iroquois, fierce hunters of men, who, though comparatively small in number, by their powerful league held paramount place among the tribes east of the Mississippi.'
In the hope of making his colony secure, Champlain entered into an alliance with the Indians who visited Quebec—Algonquians and Hurons. To make permanent this alliance Champlain and some of his followers joined their allies in an attack on their hereditary foes the Iroquois, and in the early summer of 1609 set out westward on the first military expedition in which the French took part after permanently establishing themselves in New France. The result of this expedition was a forest skirmish on the shores of Lake Champlain, a slight affair in itself, but the initial battle of the hundred years war between the Iroquois and the French.
The Lake Champlain region in its primitive state might have been a veritable paradise for the Indian hunter and trapper; but the fates willed otherwise. Deadly tribal feuds, resulting in a perpetual state of savage warfare of the most brutal and destructive type, existed among the various races, and this particular lake was one of the most important links in the chain of water communication used by the Iroquois, or Five-Nations Indians,2 and by the Algonquians and Hurons in the conduct of their unceasing warfare. One day a war
1 Champlain estimated the population of the Hurons between 20,000 and 30,000, distributed in eighteen villages. The Five Nations in 1677 had a population of 16,000 and could not have been much less in Champlain's day. It is impossible to approximate the population of the Algonquian family, but it was vastly greater than the combined population of the Hurons and Iroquois.
2 Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. About 1726 the Tuscaroras joined the League of the Iroquois, which was henceforth called the Six Nations.