His biggest problem apart from the intrigues among the civil servants at Quebec and Montreal, was to keep the Iroquois under control. The French were inclined to treat them with contempt, and there is a French word “Iroquois” that means a boor, peasant, or clown. it was not an accurate description of a proud race whose discipline and strategy in war can be admired even today.
In June 1673, Frontenac set out from Quebec to survey his domain, and to build a fort where Lake Ontario flowed into the St. Lawrence. The 185-mile trip to Montreal was not too difficult. Then came the hard task of transporting 400 men and supplies up the river to Lake Ontario. Frontenac had two flat-bottomed boats built at Montreal on which were loaded the equipment and canon for the fort. The men travelled in 120 canoes, taking turns dragging the flat-bottomed boats against the current. Getting through the rapids was back-breaking. The men pulling the boats had to wade along the shore, sometimes up to their necks in water.
Meanwhile, Frontenac had sent La Salle ahead to call a conference of Iroquois. The historic meeting took place where Kingston, Ontario, now stands. Frontenac put on a great show to impress the Indians. Sixty chiefs were invited to his tents, which they reached by passing through a double rank of soldiers. Frontenac spoke to them through an interpreter. The evil days of strife were ended, he said, and the Indians’ enemies from then on would be France’s enemies. He was building a fort so that the Indians would not have to go all the way to Montreal to trade. The Iroquois took it all with a grain of salt. They could make better trade deals with the English and the Dutch in the heart of their own territory.
What did impress them was the speed with which the French built the fort. It was ready by July 28, 1673, obviously impregnable to attack. Frontenac, who was anything but modest, called it “Fort Frontenac,” and raised over it the fleur-de-lis of France.