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Marquette and Joliet Explore the Mississippi in 1673

Introduction: Between 1492 and 1580 the Spanish invaded Central America in search of silver and gold. Between 1534 and 1673 the French invaded North America in search of furs and souls. Their occupation began at seaboard villages, grew with the founding of Quebec in 1608, and rapidly spread to the Great Lakes. By 1622, when the Mayflower Pilgrims had barely moved a mile inland from Plymouth harbor, French explorer Etienne Brule was skirting the Wisconsin shore of Lake Superior.

French exploration culminated in the famous voyage of Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet down the Mississippi in 1673. After that, led by the explorer LaSalle, the French built a great arc of military camps and trading posts that stretched from Newfoundland west through the Great Lakes and south to New Orleans. Down that curve trickled fur traders and missionaries, and back up it flowed thousands of beaver, marten, otter, and other skins. For the next century and a half, French culture and commerce dominated ʺOuisconsin.ʺ

Background Reading: ʺArrival of the First Europeansʺ http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/tp006/?action=more_essay

Document to Analyze: ʺThe Mississippi Voyage of Jolliet and Marquette.ʺ http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=370

Who, What, Where, When, Why: Father Jacques Marquette wrote this document as the clean copy of a journal he kept on the voyage; it was intended for his superiors in the Jesuit Order, and he expected it to be published. It began as a journal but because this copy was drafted afterwards, it at times reads like a letter or report. Most portions were composed around the campfire after the dayʹs events during the summer of 1673, while other parts are summaries written up to a year later. It was created to describe new things seen for the first time, as a documentary record of the trip.

Related Documents: Dablon, Claude. ʺRelation of the discovery of many countries situated to the south of New France, made in 1673ʺ http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=14 and Thevenot, Malchisedec. ʺCarte de la découverte faite lʹan 1673 dans lʹAmérique septentrionale.ʺ http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=103

Vocabulary: unfamiliar words are defined at www.wisconsinhistory.org/dictionary


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