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Étienne Brûlé (c. 1592 – c. June 1633) was a French explorer and coureur des bois in Canadamarker in the 17th century. A rugged outdoorsman, he took to the lifestyle of the First Nations.

Early life

Brule was born c. 1592 in Champigny-sur-Marne, Francemarker.

Life in New France

Brûlé travelled to New France in 1608. He became a sort of 'exchange student' when he was sent by Samuel de Champlain to live with the Huron in 1610, and Champlain in turn accepted the company of a Huron youth named Savignon. Brûlé traveled with the Huron and their chief (Iroquet) to the shores of southern Georgian Baymarker. There he spent a year in their village, learning their language and customs. He became a scout for Champlain and explored much of what is now Quebecmarker, Ontariomarker, and Michiganmarker.

He was probably the first European to see all the Great Lakes: Lake Huronmarker, Lake Ontariomarker, Lake Eriemarker, Lake Michiganmarker and Lake Superiormarker, and one of the first Europeans to set foot in the future states of Pennsylvaniamarker and Michiganmarker. He travelled widely, going as far south as the Chesapeake Bay, and as far west as the site of Duluthmarker, Minnesotamarker. On the way back to Quebec, he was tortured by the Iroquois.

Champlain and the Jesuits often spoke out against Brûlé's adoption of Huron customs, as well as his association with the fur traders, who were beyond the control of the colonial government. Brûlé left Quebec to live with the natives in the 1620s and became the first European to travel up what would be named the St. Marys Rivermarker and into Lake Superiormarker. Brûlé was later confined in Québec for a year, where he taught the Jesuits the natives' language. He was then sent back to Europe and prohibited from coming back to New France. Brûlé set out for England and helped the Englishmarker capture Champlain and Quebec Citymarker in 1629 (though the colony was returned to France in 1632).

Brûlé continued to live with the natives, acting as an interpreter in their dealings with the French traders. Though the circumstances of his death are unclear, it is most thought that he was captured by the Seneca Iroquois in battle and left for dead by his Huron group. He managed to escape death by torture, but when he returned home, the Hurons did not believe his story and suspected him of trading with the Senecas. Treated as an enemy, Brûlé was tortured to death by his allies. He died at Toanche, on the Penetanguishenemarker peninsula, Ontariomarker, and was buried by the Hurons, who interred only those who met death by violence.

See also


  1. Brule, Etienne, 1592?-1632


  • Douglas, Gail (2003). Étienne Brûlé: The Mysterious Life and Times of An Early Canadian Legend, Canmore, Alberta: Altitude Publishing Canada, 141 p. (ISBN 1-55153-961-6)
  • Jurgens, Olga. " Brûlé, Étienne", in Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, University of Toronto and Université Laval, 2000
  • Baker, Daniel ed. Explorers and Discoverers of the World. Detroit: Gale Research, 1993
  • Cranston, James Herbert (1949). Etienne Brulé, Immortal Scoundrel, Toronto : The Ryerson Press, 144 p.
  • Butterfield, Consul Willshire (1898). History of Brulé's Discoveries and Explorations, 1610-1626, Cleveland: Helman-Taylor, 184 p. (online:, Library of Congress)

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