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This article is about the First Nations chief. For the town, see Donnacona, Quebec.


Postcard of butter sculpture tableau of the meeting of Jacques Cartier and Donnacona, Franco-British Exhibition,London, 1908.jpg
Meeting of Jacques Cartier and Donnacona. Postcard of butter sculpture tableau, Franco-British Exhibition, London, 1908.
Died c. 1539
Cause of death
Other names Chief of Stadacona
Known for First Nations chief being taken to France by Jacques Cartier

Chief Donnacona (died c. 1539 in France) was the chief of Stadacona located at the present site of Quebec City, Canada.[1] French Explorer Jacques Cartier, concluding his second voyage to what is now Canada, returned to France with Donnacona. Donnacona was treated well in France but died there. Later Cartier would have a third voyage, returning to the same area.

Cartier's first voyage[edit]

Jacques Cartier had three voyages to present day Canada, in 1534, 1535 and 1541. In late July 1534, as part of his first voyage, he and his men encountered around two hundred people who were fishing,[2] near Gaspé Bay.[2] Cartier's men erected a "thirty foote" cross which caused a reaction from the leader of this fishing party.[2] After some presentation of gifts to the people there, he left the area the next day, with two men on board, Domagaya and Taignoagny.[2] These men were part of ones who were fishing there. He returned to France with them, concluding his first voyage in September 1534.[2] Some sources say that these men were the sons of Donnacona and the fishing party's leader was Donnacona himself,[citation needed] although the original 16th century report does not mention this.[3]

  • Upon the 25 of the moneth, wee caused a faire high Crosse to be made of the height of thirty foote, [...] in the top was carved in the wood with Anticke letters this posie, Vive le Roy de France. [...] And after wee were returned to our ships, their Captaine clad with an old Beares skin, with three of his sonnes, and a brother of his with him, came unto us in one of their boates, but they came not so neere us as they were wont to doe : there he made a long Oration unto us, shewing us the crosse we had set up, and making a crosse with two fingers, then did he shew us all the Countrey about us, [...] One* of our fellowes that was in our boate, tooke hold on theirs, and suddenly leapt into it, with two or three more, who enforced them to enter into our ships, whereat they were greatly astonished. But our Captain did straight- waies assure them, that they should have no harme, nor any injurie offred them at all, and entertained them very friendly, making them eate and drinke. Then did we shew them with signes, that the crosse was but onely set up to be as a light and leader which wayes to enter into the port, and that wee would shortly come againe, and bring good store of iron wares and other things, but that we would take two of his children with us, and afterward bring them to the sayd port againe: and. so wee clothed two of them in shirts, and coloured coates [...] we gave to each one.of those three that went backe, a hatchet, and some knives, which made them very glad. After these were gone, and had told the newes unto their fellowes, in the afternoone there came to our ships sixe boates of them, with sixe men in every one, to take their f arewels of those two we had detained to take with us [...] How after we were departed from the sayd porte, following our voyage along the sayd coast, we went to discover the land lying Southeast, and Northwest* The next day, being the 25 of the moneth, we had faire weather, and went from the said port : and being out of the river, we sailed Eastnortheast, for after the entrance into the said river[...][2]

Cartier's second voyage[edit]

Jacques Cartier's second voyage began May 19, 1535,[2] with the Domagaya and Taignoagny, who were valuable as guides for the explorer. They showed him the entrance to the St. Lawrence River, and piloted him up the river[2] to Donnacona's capital, Stadacona. (Cartier described Donnacona's title as Agohanna,[2] an Iroquoian word for chief). Also as part of this voyage, Cartier without Domagaya and Taignoagny (who weren't permitted to go with him, by the chief), went further up the St. Lawrence to Hochelega, present day Montreal, in October 2, 1535.[2]

NASA satellite image of the Gaspé Peninsula. Part of Anticosti Island (Cartier's Island of the Assumption)[2] appears to the northeast.
  • In the yeere of our Lord 1535, vpon Whitsunday, being the 16. of May, by the commandement of our Captaine Iames Cartier, and with a common accord, in the Cathedrall Church of S. Malo we deuoutly each one confessed a selues, and receiued the Sacrament [...]. The Wednesday following, being the 19. of May, there arose a good gale of wind, and therefore we hoysed sayle with three ships [...][3]
  • [...]beyond the abouesayd hauen about ten leagues, where we found a goodly great gulfe, full of Islands, passages, and entrances toward what wind soeuer you please to bend: for the knowledge of this gulfe there is a great Island that is like to a Cape of lande [...] We named the sayd gulfe Saint Laurence his bay. [...] The next day after being our Ladie day of August the fifteenth of the moneth, hauing passed the Straight, we had notice of certaine lands that wee left toward the South, which landes are full of very great and high hilles, and this Cape wee named The Island of the Assumption [...][3]
  • But for a resolution of the matter Taignoagny and Domagaia tolde our Captaine, that their Lord Donnacona would by no meanes permit that any of them should goe with him to Hochelaga vnlesse he would leaue him some hostage to stay with him: our Captaine answered them, that if they would not goe with him with a good will, they should stay, and that for all them he would not leaue off his iourney thither.[3]
  • [...] our Captaine with all his Gentlemen and fiftie Mariners departed with our Pinnesse, and the two boates from Canada to goe to Hochelaga: and also there is described, what was seene by the way vpon the said riuer.[3]
Route of Cartier's second voyage.

As recorded in Cartier's journal, the French wintered in Canada. Relations between the St. Lawrence Iroquoian and French deteriorated over the winter. In spring, Cartier intended to take the chief to France, so that he might personally tell the tale of a country further north, called the "Kingdom of Saguenay", said to be full of gold, rubies and other treasures. In May 1536, he took Chief Donnacona to France. It was an arduous trip down the St. Lawrence and a three-week Atlantic crossing. During the journey to France twenty-five died of scurvy. Donnacona and nine others from the tribe, including Domagaya and Taignoagny, arrived in Saint-Malo, France on July 15, 1536, concluding his second voyage.

Donnacona was treated well in France[citation needed] but died there. He was being looked after at the king's expense.[citation needed] He whetted the French appetite for New World exploration with tales of a golden kingdom called "Saguenay". However he died there in c1539.[citation needed] So did all but one of the others—a little girl whose fate is unknown.[citation needed]

Cartier returned to the new land in May 1541, on his third voyage, without any of those whom he had brought to France. That voyage was to last until May 1542, concluding his third voyage.

A report printed of Cartier's second voyage was printed in France in 1545, and is today in the British Museum. Excerpts here are taken from Burrage, using Richard Hakluyt's English translation published in 1589–1600.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Donnacona". Retrieved September 29, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Burrage, Richard (1906), Early English and French Voyages: Chiefly from Hakluyt, 1534-1608, C. Scribner's Sons 
  3. ^ a b c d e Hakluyt, Richard (1600). "The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation. Vol. XIII. America. Part II". 
  • Richter, Daniel K. (2001). Facing east from Indian country. A native history of early America. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00638-0.