Very few written records exist about specific members of the Iroquoian language family around 1500 because many Iroquoian languages were spoken. They did not have a writing system around this time.

The name of one man has been passed down in the written journals of French explorer Jacques Cartier, who met him in 1534. This man was Donnacona. Donnacona was the chief of Stadacona (known today as Québec City), a village of about 500 people.

During Cartier’s first visit, he claimed the territory for the king of France. Donnacona was one of the Indigenous Peoples who opposed this. Donnacona’s two sons, Domagaya and Taignoagny, ended up going back to France with Cartier after the first voyage.

Jacques Cartier brought back Donnacona’s two sons on his second voyage to New France in 1535. Cartier and his crew spent the winter near Stadacona. Cartier and some of his crew were saved from scurvy thanks to the chief and his sons, who knew of a remedy. But this did not stop Jacques Cartier from capturing Chief Donnacona, his two sons and six other Iroquoians and taking them back to France at the end of this second voyage. There, Donnacona met King Francis I and told him of the riches of his country. His words encouraged the French to pursue their explorations. But the chief would never return to Stadacona. He died in France around 1539.

If you look at a map, you will see that there is a town near Québec City called Donnacona.

Author: Service national du Récit de l’univers social

Translation and adaptations by LEARN/RÉCIT for the Anglophone Community


Important concepts and big ideas:

Chief – Chef
Social Structure – Structure sociale
Power structure – Structure du pouvoir


*Stadacona – Name given to Quebec City at the time of Jacque Cartier
– A sickness caused by not enough vitamin C and not eating fresh foods.

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