The first European to set foot on the island, Jacques Cartier left us an account of his visit to Hochelaga village in 1535, along with the earliest description of the territory and its mountain, which he named “Mont Royal.”
In 1603, Champlain sailed up the St. Lawrence River as far as the Lachine Rapids. From his Amerindian guides, he learned about the territory upstream from Montréal that stretched to Lake Huron, and about the role of the Ottawa River in transporting goods. In 1611, well aware of Montréal’s strategic position, he chose this site for a future trading post. On a map he published in 1613, the toponym “Montréal” is used for the first time to designate the island.
In the summer, Montréal became a central meeting place for Amerindian and French traders, where furs from the North were traded for European goods.
From time to time, Champlain joined the Algonquins and the Hurons in military forays against the Iroquois, who traded furs with merchants from New Amsterdam (later to become New York). Their goal was to eliminate all competition; their raids were designed to harass competitors, create a climate of insecurity and disrupt the movement of furs along the St. Lawrence River.
When Champlain was able to open a second permanent trading post in 1634, he chose Trois -Rivières.
Even though the arrival of French settlers had already begun to disrupt the ecological, economic and political equilibrium of the St. Lawrence Valley, more than a century would pass before they settled permanently on the Island of Montréal.