Jacques Cartier (Saint-Malo, France, December 31, 1491 – January 19 1557) was a French explorer who is popularly thought of as one of the major discoverers of Canada, or more specifically, the interior region that would be part of the first area that could become that nation.
The King of France, François I, chose him to find "certaines îles et pays où l'on dit qu'il se doit trouver grande quantité d'or et autres riches choses" ("certain islands and lands where it is said there are great quantities of gold and other riches"). In 1534 he set sail looking for a western passage to Asia. He explored parts of what are now Newfoundland (starting on May 10 of that year) and the Canadian Maritimes and where he learned of a river further west (the St. Lawrence River) that he believed might be the much searched-for northwest passage. He landed for the first time at present day Gaspé, Quebec where he planted a cross and claimed the territory for France. He then sailed up to Québec City, then called Stadacona. During this trip he kidnapped Chief Donnacona's 2 sons, Domagaya and Taignoagny and took them back to Europe.
Cartier set sail for a second voyage on May 19 of the following year with 3 ships, 110 men, and the abducted boys (who were returned to the chief). He sailed upriver to the Huron village of Stadacona and Iroquois Hochelaga (Montreal) and arrived on October 2, 1535. He heard of a country further north, called Saguenay, that was said to be full of gold and other treasures.
On May 23, 1541 he departed Saint-Malo on his third voyage. This time he was looking for Saguenay; however, he again did not get further than Hochelaga. After a fierce winter spent in Canada, he returned to France the next year. A large part of the sailors died of scurvy when the ship got stuck in the ice without proper food. Cartier had to ask the natives for local traditional medicine, which they gave. Cartier spent the rest of his life in Saint-Malo and his nearby estate, and died in 1557. He died before any permanent settlements were made in the area; that had to wait for Samuel de Champlain in 1608.