and Joliet Explore the Mississippi River
In 1672, Father Jacques Marquette and fur trader Louis Joliet
were sent by Governor Frontenac of New France
(now Canada) to look for a route to the Pacific
Ocean. The Governor had been hearing tales of a
mighty river to the south, and it was this river
that Marquette and Joliet were being sent to
find. He thought that if the river existed it
might offer the passage to China that many
explorers of the New World had been seeking (the
fabled Northwest Passage). He also thought that if the river did
exist but did not provide a passage to China it
might at least offer a direct route from the St.
Lawrence to Mexico.
In May, 1673, Marquette,
Joliet, and five other Frenchmen paddled across
Lake Michigan to present-day Green Bay,
Wisconsin, then up the Fox River to what is now
Portage, Wisconsin. From there they carried their
canoes across land to the Wisconsin River, where
their two Indian guides deserted them for fear of
what lay ahead. The Marquette-Joliet party pushed
The expedition went down the Wisconsin
River until, on June 17, they suddenly came to a
broad, majestic stream -- the Mississippi River.
They went south on the Mississippi, stopping for
a peaceful meeting with the Illinois Indians. The
chief of the Illinois gave them a calumet
(peace pipe), which later saved their lives.
Marquette and Joliet led their
party down the Mississippi to the mouth of the
Arkansas River. Strange Indians with guns
suddenly surrounded them there. Only the sight of
the calumet kept these Indians from attacking.
Some of them became friendly enough to tell
Marquette that the guns came from white explorers
who were about 10 days' journey farther south.
These could only be Spaniards, and it would have
been dangerous to go on, so the French explorers
ended their trip down the Mississippi and
returned to Canada by way of the Illinois River.
They passed the present site of Chicago on this
part of the trip, and returned to Green Bay in
late September. Their four-month journey had
carried them more than 2,500 miles.
The Marquette-Joliet expedition
proved that the Mississippi River flowed into the
Gulf of Mexico, and were probably the first white
men to enter what is now Illinois.
"Explorers of the Mississippi, Father
Marquette and Captain Joliet" The
Book of Knowledge, The Children's Encyclopedia
New York:Grolier Incorporated, 1962
Father Jacques Marquette
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