Lost Village of Hochelaga

Contributor: Suzanne Riordan. Lesson ID: 13325

Would you like to visit the National Historic Site of the Iroquois village of Hochelaga in Canada? Sorry, you can't. No one knows for sure where it is, and some people doubt that it ever existed!



learning style
Kinesthetic, Visual
personality style
Lion, Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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In the city of Montreal, Canada, there is a large hill (or small mountain) called Mount Royal. From this mountain, you can look out over the whole city. It's a beautiful, peaceful, quiet spot in the middle of a bustling city.

Mount Royal, Montreal

Many years ago, this hill may have overlooked a busy Iroquois village.

However, there are no remains or physical evidence that the village ever existed.

  • So, why do historians think it was there?

In the year 1535, French explorer Jacques Cartier visited the area that is now Montreal.

Jacques Cartier, 1844

Image by Théophile Hamel after François Nicholas Riss, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Cartier and Hochelaga

Cartier wrote to King Francis describing a large Iroquois village that he visited there and the friendly reception he received from the natives.

Jacques Cartier at Hochelaga, 1933

Image by Lawrence R. Batchelor, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

Cartier described a circular village with about 50 longhouses and 45-foot high palisade (a defensive wall made of pointed wooden stakes).

wooden palisades

The name of the village, Hochelaga, comes from the Iroquois words meaning either "beaver path" or "large rapids". Click the blue audio button below to hear its pronunciation:

Image - Video

Cartier saw a mountain nearby, which he named Mount Royal. Cartier even drew a map of the village:

map of Hochelaga

Image from the National Archives of Canada, via Wikimedia Commons, is in the public domain.

This is a model based on Cartier's descriptions:

model of Hochelaga by Michel Cadieux

Image by Pierre5018, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.

  • It seems as if Cartier was pretty clear about the layout of the village, its location, and its people, right?

However, although Cartier returned to the area, he never mentioned visiting Hochelaga again.


In 1603, almost 70 years later, another French explorer named Samuel de Champlain came to the area.

statue of Samuel de Champlain

Image by D. Gordon E. Robertson, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

However, de Champlain could not find the village Cartier had described, which made some people question whether it ever existed.

  • If there had been a village there, what happened to it and all the people who lived there?

Let's take a moment to learn about them.

St. Lawrence Iroquois

The St. Lawrence Iroquois is the name given to a group of native tribes that farmed the area near the St. Lawrence River from about 1200 - 1600 AD. They occupied a wide area, from New York to Vermont and into Canada.

This map shows where they lived:

approximate area occupied by the St. Lawrence Iroquoians in 1535

Image by Joseph B, via Wikimedia Commons, is licensed under the CC BY-SA 2.5 license.

The name Canada, in fact, comes from a word in the Iroquois language meaning "settlement".

Historians believe the St. Lawrence Iroquois were not one group but were made up of about 25 different tribes with a similar culture and language. It's thought that they numbered up to 10,000 people.

Historians have several theories as to why the village of Hochelaga disappeared:

  • The people could have been wiped out in wars with other tribes.
  • European diseases could have killed many of them.
  • They may have migrated westward.
  • Another tribe may have absorbed them into their own.


Hochelaga is considered important because it's the origin of modern-day Montreal. Jacques Cartier's descriptions of the well-organized village and friendly people helped to draw settlers to the area and helped grow a great city.



In 1920, Hochelaga was named a National Historic Site by the Canadian government. It was the first Historic Site named in Montreal.

In 1925, a memorial stone commemorating the lost village was placed on the campus of McGill University in Montreal:

Hochelaga National Historic Site, McGill University

Image by Daderot, via Wikimedia Commons, was released into the public domain.

Head over to the Got It? section to review what you learned and find out why the Hochelaga rock was moved almost 100 years after it was placed!

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