French explorers came to the area in the early 1600s, following the lead of Etienne Brule who came up the Ottawa, and over the French River into Lake Huron. In 1615, Samuel de Champlain, the French commander of New France, himself visited the area for the purpose of trading for furs. He was accompanied by Jesuit missionaries who began attempting to convert the natives to Christianity. When the Iroquois started running low on furs in 1649, they began pushing the Hurons (and the Jesuit missionaries) northwards out of the area. By 1660, with the help of several tribes on the west shore of Lake Huron, the Iroquois were driven back across Lake Ontario and the area stabilized.
In 1849, the Hudson's Bay Company set up a post at Lake Nipissing, but the post was not a competitive and commercial success, and closed in 1879. By 1850, however, the region became very busy with lumbering and mining activity, and the British government sought a treaty with the Indians. After Treaty 61 was signed with fifteen elected Huron chiefs, there were disputes over lumber company encroachment on forests inside Indian reserves that continued until early in the 1900s when the Indians were paid for timber rights. More history of Sudbury