Die Stromschnellen von St Marie (The Rapids Of St Mary), Frank Buchser, 1868
By kind permission of the Kunsthaus Art Gallery, Zurich, Switzerland
This website was created by teacher Peter White for the Algoma District School Board
Étienne Brûlé c. 1592 – c. June 1633
Accompanied by another Frenchman named Grenolle, Étienne was the first European to ever reach Bawating, the place we now know as Sault Ste. Marie. We can't really say that he discovered Sault Ste. Marie because the Anishnaabe had lived there for hundreds of years.
Étienne actually named it "Sault de Gaston." Gaston was the name of the brother of the French king Lo uis XIII.
"Sault" is an old French word meaning "jump" that refers to the rapids that were once a ferocious, mile-long cauldron of dangerous water.
Today the rapids are usually just a trickle, calm enough for fishermen to stand right in the middle of it to cast their fishing lines.
This is what the Sault Ste. Marie rapids looked like when Étienne first saw them.
This is what the Sault Ste. Marie rapids look like today. They flow down a narrow channel controlled by giant metal walls called "compensation gates."
Settlers Running the Rapids; watercolour; by William Armstrong 1871 ROM2006_7855_1
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Why can fishermen stand in the Sault rapids today?