This beautiful bronze monument by British sculptor Vernon March is in Orillia, on the shores of Lake Couchiching in Ontario, Canada. It was erected in 1925 for the 300th anniversary of French explorer Samuel de Champlain’s visit to the area. Champlain was looking for a shorter passage to the West Indies. He explored and mapped the St. Lawrence waterway and parts of the Great Lakes, built the first settlement in New France, Quebec, and established fur trading with native peoples. He befriended the Hurons, pushed for their christianization and participated in their war against the Iroquois tribes. He became governor of New France until his death in 1635.
I don’t know how many aboriginal people are depicted on monuments across North America, I’m guessing not many. I’m reading that the positioning of the native figures below Champlain and at the feet of the fur trader and the missionary is raising questions amongst the aboriginal community. I found the inscription on the commemorative plaque quite offensive towards native people, showing the mentality of earlier times…
Champlain himself cannot be viewed from up close, being so high up, but the natives can be, and I did enjoy that tremendously. I don’t know what models the sculptor used, but he did a wonderful job. The broad, muscular back of one of the natives is beautifully modelled, and so are the feet. Not even the pitiful graffiti can ruin the awe.
Being so taken by the figures and detail, I neglected taking a picture of the whole monument. Here is a picture from Canuck with a camera:
And I found this picture at the Orillia Public Library site, taken outside the artist’s studio in England. It gives the viewer a good idea about the scale of the figures. Really impressive.