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This webpage reproduces an appendix to
Early History of Illinois

by
Sidney Breese

published by E. B. Myers & Company,
Chicago, 1884

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p235  Appendix

The appendix of Judge Breese, as found among his manuscripts, we append as part of his own work. It shows the labor he performed to obtain his materials, although, as will appear from the notes which the editor has attached, he was deprived of all access to several publications since issued, which would have led him to correct errors, to which we have referred in the notes.

A

Voyage and discovery of Father Marquette and Sieur Joliet in North America, translated by Sidney Breese, from Mons. Thevenot's collection of voyages, published at Paris in 1682 — "Discovery of some Countries and Nations of North America."

I embarked with the Sieur Joliet, who had been chosen to conduct this enterprise, the 13th of May, 1673, with five other Frenchmen, in two bark canoes, with a little Indian corn and some jerked meat for all our provisions. We have had the care to collect from the savages all the knowledge they have of these countries; we have traced a  p236 map from their information, the rivers being marked upon it, the name of the nations we shall pass through, and the course that we should be obliged to pursue in this voyage.
(facing p78) 
[image ALT: A sketch map of the Mississippi River, West at the top. In the printed edition of this book, it is given as being by Fr. Marquette.]

[A larger, fully readable version opens here (828 KB).]

The first nation we encountered was that of the Folle Avoine.1 I got into their river to go to visit these people, to whom we had preached the gospel for many years — so we found them very good Christians.

The Folle Avoine bear this name on account of what is found upon their land: it is a kind of herb that grows naturally in the little rivers of muddy bottoms, and in their marshes. It is very like that which grows among our wheat, the heads are upon knotted stalks, from space to space; they gathered in the water about the month of June, at which time it shows itself about two feet above water; the grain is not so heavy as our oats, but it is much larger, and therefore the flour in it is more abundant. In the month of September, which is the month for their harvest, they come in canoes across from the country of the Folle Avoine, they shake off the heads into the canoes gradually as they advance, the grain falls easily, as it is ripe, and makes their provision; but to clear it of the chaff and of the little husk in which it is inclosed, they place it to dry upon a gridiron of wood, under which they make a little fire for some days, and when the oats are well dried, they put it in a skin in the form of a pocket or bag, which they sink in the ground in a hole made for the purpose, then they tramp it with their feet,  p237 so much that the grain is separated from the chaff, which they winnow easily, after which they pound it, to reduce it to meal, or without being pounded they boil it in water, which they season with some grease, and from this custom they find the wild oats almost as good as rice, when they cannot get any better seasoning.

I recounted to the people of the Folle Avoine the design I had in coming to discover the remote nations, to instruct them in the mysteries of our holy religion. They were extremely surprised, and did all that was possible to dissuade me.

They represented that I would encounter those nations who never pardon strangers, kill without remorse and without cause; that the war which had broken out between different people, who would be upon our route, would expose us to the manifest danger of being carried off by some of the bands of warriors who are always in the field; that the great river is very dangerous when the channel is not known; that it is full of hideous monsters who devour altogether men and canoes; that there was also a demon, whom they could see from a great distance, and who closed the passage of the river, and who destroyed those who dared to approach him; and, in conclusion, that the heats were so excessive that we should meet death inevitably.

I thanked them for their good advice, but I said to them I had not the power to follow it, since the salvation of souls influenced us for which I would gladly give up my life; that I ridiculed this pretended demon; that we  p238 could protect ourselves well against these marine monsters, and that as to the rest we could keep upon our guard to avoid the other dangers with which they threatened us.

After having made a prayer to God, and given them some instructions, I separated from them, and having embarked in our canoes we arrived where our fathers worked usefully for the conversion of these people.

This bay bears a name which has not so bad a meaning in the language of the savages, for they call it as often the Salted bay as the Stinking, which among them is nearly the same thing. It is also the name which they give to the sea; this obliged us to make very close researches to discover if they had in these parts any fountain of salt water, such as there is in the country of the Iroquois, but we could not find any.

We judged that they gave this name to it because of the quantity of slime and mud which is met with, from which rise continually bad vapors, causing the grandest and most constant thunders that I ever heard. The bay is about thirty leagues long and eight broad at its commencement, this breadth increases even to the further end, where is observed a tide, which has its regular flux and reflux precisely like that of the sea.

This is not the place here to examine if these be the true tides, or if they are caused by the winds; if it is the winds which are the forerunners of great moon upon her course, they consequently agitate the lake and give to it its flux and reflux all the time that the moon is ascending  p239 into the horizon; this I can say, that it is certain when the water is very calm, it is plainly seen to rise and fall according to the course of the moon, although I cannot deny but that this motion may be caused by the winds, which passing upon the middle of the lake make at the shores an increase and decrease in the form that it appeared to our eyes.

We left this bay to enter into the river which discharges itself there; it is very beautiful at its mouth, and glides along generally, it is full of bustards, of ducks, of teals and other fowls, which are attracted by the wild oats, of which they are very fond. When we had advanced a little way into this river, we found it very difficult, caused very much by the rocks in the current, which cut the canoes and the feet of those who drew them, more especially when the waters are low.

We surmounted, fortunately for all, these rapids, and on approaching to the Maskoutins or the nation of fire, I had the curiosity to drink the mineral waters of a river which is not far from this borough. I took also time to examine an herb that a savage, who knew the secret, had shown to father Allouez; its root is a specific against the bite of serpents, God having chosen to give this remedy against a poison which is very common in this country. This root is very warm, and has the taste of powder when it is crushed by the teeth.

It should be chewed and placed upon the sting made by the serpent; they have so great a horror of it that they run away from a person who has been rubbed with  p240 it. It produces several stalks about a foot high, of which the leaf is a little long, and the flower white, and resembles the stalk — gilliflower. I placed one in my canoe to examine it.

It is here that the discoveries made by the French terminate, and they have not yet advanced further. This borough or village is composed of three different nations, who are banded together, the Miamies, the Maskoutens and the Kickapoes. The first are the most civil, the most liberal and the best made.

They wear two long whiskers toward their ears, which give them a good appearance; they pass for warriors and rarely go out in parties without success; they are very docile and listen to every you wish to say to them, and appeared so willing to hear the Father Allouez when he was instructing them that they gave him little repose during the night. The Maskoutins and the Kickapoes are more homely and resemble boors in comparison.

As bark, to make their cabins, is scarce in this country, they use the rushes which serve them for roofs and walls. The convenience of these cabins of rushes is very great, they put them in bundles and carry them where they wish during the hunting season.

At the time I visited them, I was very much rejoiced to see a handsome cross planted in the middle of their village, adorned with many white skins, red girdles, bows and arrows, which these good nations have made offerings to their Great Manitou, this is the name they give to God, to thank him that he has had pity upon them during the  p241 winter, and given them a profitable hunt. I took pleasure to see the situation of this village. It is beautiful and pleasant; far from the eminence, upon which it is placed, we could discover all portions of the prairie, as far as the eye can reach, divided by groves and wood of tall trees. The land is very good and produces a good deal of Indian corn; the savages also gather quantities of plums and grapes.

We had no sooner arrived than Mons. Joliet and I assembled the old men. I said to them, that he had been sent on the part of Monsieur, our governor, to discover new countries, and I on the part of God to make clear to them the lights of the gospel, who being the sovereign master of all things, desires all the nations to know him, and that to obey his will, I did not fear death, to would I was exposed in such perilous voyages; that we had occasion for two guides to conduct us on our route. We made them a present on asking them to accord this to us, which made them very civil, and at the same time, voluntarily answered us by a present, which was a mat to serve us as a bed during our voyage.

The next day, which was the 10th of June, two Miamies, which they gave us for guides, embarked with us in the sight of all the inhabitants, who could not but be astonished to see seven Frenchmen alone in two canoes, daring to undertake an expedition, so extraordinary and so hazardous.

We were told that three leagues from the Maskoutins  p242 there was a river which discharged itself into that of Mississippi.

We learned also that the course we should go to find it was west south-west; but the way is so divided by ponds and small lakes that it is easy to lose one's way, the more so, as the river which was to lead us is so filled with wild oats that we could hardly make out the channel; it was in this we had occasion for our guides, as they conducted us fortunately to a portage of two thousand seven hundred paces, and helped us to transport our canoes into this river, after which they returned, leaving us alone in this unknown country in the hands of Providence.

We left then the waters which flow to Quebec about five or six hundred leagues from here, to take those which should conduct us hereafter into strange lands. Before we embarked we commenced a new worship to the blessed immaculate Virgin, that we practiced every day, addressing her by particular prayers to place us under her protection, and our persons and the success of our voyage, and after encouraging one another we embarked in our canoes. The river upon which we embarked is called the Masconsin; it is very broad, its bottom is of sand which makes many bars, rendering the navigation very difficult; it is full of islands covered with vines; upon the bottoms good land appeared, interspersed with wood, with prairies and with little hills. We saw walnut trees, oaks, white wood, and another species of tree with its branches armed with long thorns. We saw no game nor fish, but deer and buffalo cows in great quantity.

 p243  After we had navigated thirty leagues, we approached a place which had all the appearance of an iron mine. Indeed, one of those with us, who had seen it before, assured us that those we had found were very good and very abundant; they are covered by three feet of good earth, near to a chain of rocks, the foot of which is covered with very beautiful woods. After a navigation of forty leagues in the same direction, we arrived at the mouth of our river and found it forty‑two degrees and a half of longitude. We entered without any incident into the Mississippi the 17th of June, with a joy that I cannot express. We were then upon that famous river, and I attempted to observe attentively all its peculiarities.

The river Mississippi takes its rise in different lakes in the country of the people of the north. It is narrow at the discharge of the Masconsin, its current which bears from the hill to the south being gentle; on the right is seen a great chain of hills very high, and on the left fine lands and islands interspersed of various shapes. In sounding we found nineteen fathoms, its breadth is very equal, being sometimes three-quarters of a league. We followed generally its course which goes to the south, and south-west up to the forty-second degree of latitude. It was here we perceived that every thing had changed its aspect; there was not near so much of wood nor of mountains, the islands were covered with the most beautiful trees, and we saw deer, and buffalo cows, and bustards and swans without wings, because in this country they  p244 lose their feathers. We encountered time after time monstrous fishes, one of which struck so rudely against our canoe that I was afraid that it had been a large tree that was about to tear it to pieces.

A monster that had the head of a tiger, the nose pointed like that of a wild‑cat, with a beard, his eyes standing upright, his head gray and his neck black. We did not regard him further. When we had cast our nets into the water, we took sturgeons and an extraordinary species of fish — it resembled the trout, with this difference, that it had a mouth, eyes and nose very small, and near the nose an appendage like the whalebone of a woman's stays, three fingers broad, and in length a cubit or eighteen inches, at the end of which is a ring as wide as the hand, which obliges it in leaping out of the water to fall backwards.

Having descended upon the same course to the latitude of forty‑one degrees and twenty-eight minutes, we found turkey cocks had taken the place of game, and buffaloes or wild bulls that of other beasts.

We called the buffaloes (pisikious) wild bulls, because they resemble much our domestic bulls; they are not any longer, but they are much more fat and heavy; our people having killed one, thirteen persons had much trouble to move him; their head is huge, the forehead broad and flat, a foot and a half between the horns, which resemble those of our bullocks but much blacker and larger; they have under the neck something like a long tuft which hangs down, and upon the back a high hump;  p245 all the head and a part of the shoulders are covered with long hair like that of horses; it is matted for a foot long, which renders them hideous, and falling over their eyes, they are prevented from seeing before them; the rest of the body with a coarse frizzly nap, something like that of our sheep but much stronger and thicker; it falls off in summer, and the hide becomes as soft as velvet; it is then that the savages use their hides to make their robes, painting them of different colors. The flesh and the fat of the buffaloes is excellent and makes the best mess for their feasts; as for the rest they are very dangerous, and not a year passes that some Indians are not killed; when they go to attack them they will take a man upon their horns, toss him into the air, then throw him upon the ground, and trampling him under their feet, kill him. Thus they kill them from a distance with their bows or fusees, and it is necessary after the shot to throw themselves to the ground and hide in the grass, for they perceiving him who has fired run after him and attack him; as they are heavy of foot and very short, they are not swift; so when they are not irritated they are scattered in groups over the prairies. I have seen a band of four hundred together. We continued to advance, but as we knew not where we were going, having made already more than a hundred leagues without seeing anything but beasts and birds, we were, nevertheless, upon our guard. For this cause we made but little fire upon the land by night to prepare our repast, and after the meal we put off from the land as soon we could to pass the  p246 night in the canoes, which we held by an anchor in the river, far enough from the shore that we might not be delayed, and some one of us was always on guard for fear of a surprise.

Going to the south and south by west, we found ourselves in the latitude of forty‑one degrees, and up to forty degrees and some minutes, partly by the south-west, after having advanced sixty leagues since our entrance into the river, we discovered nothing. At length, on the 25th of June, we perceived upon the brink of the water tracks of men, and a little well-beaten path which led to a beautiful prairie; we stopped and, judging that it a way which would conduct us to some Indian village, we formed the resolution to go and reconnoiter.

We left the two canoes in the care of our men, enjoining upon them not to suffer themselves to be surprised, after which Mons. Joliet and myself undertook the discovery, sufficiently hazardous for two lone men who were exposing themselves to the power of a barbarous and unknown people. We followed in silence the little path, and after walking about two leagues, we discovered a village upon the bank of a river, and two others upon a hill distant from the first about half a league.

We then commended ourselves to God with a good heart, and having implored his aid, we passed along without being discovered, and came so near that we could hear the savages talk.

We then thought that it was time to discover ourselves,  p247 which we did by as loud a cry as we could make, and then stopped without advancing further.

At this cry the savages promptly sallied out of their cabins, and having probably recognized us as Frenchmen, seeing the black robes above all, they had less to dread, since we were but two men, and had given notice of our approach, they deputed four of their old men to come and speak to us, two of them bearing pipes to hold tobacco, beautifully ornamented and decorated with various feathers, they marched at a slow pace, and elevating their pipes against the sun, they seemed to present it to him to smoke, without, however, speaking a single word. They took a long time to come the little way from their village to us. At length having drawn near to us, they stopped to consider us with attention. I felt encouraged, seeing their ceremonies, and that we should be among friends, and more so when I saw they had cloth coverings, judging by this they would be our allies or friends. I spoke to them first, I asked them who they were.

They answered me that they were Illinois, and in token of peace they presented us their pipes to smoke.

In conclusion they invited us to enter their village, where all the people impatiently awaited us. These tobacco pipes are called in this country the calumets; this word is used here so generally, that to be understood I shall be obliged to preserve it, having to speak of it frequently or oftentimes.

At the door of the cabin, where we were to be received,  p248 was an old man who waited for us in a very strange posture, which is a ceremony they observe whenever they receive strangers. This man was standing up entirely naked, holding his hands stretched out and raised against the sun, as if he wished to protect himself against his rays, which, however, passed upon his face, through his fingers. When we were near him he made us this salutation:

"The sun is beautiful, Frenchmen, when you come to visit us, all our tribe attend you; you shall enter in peace into all our cabins."

He introduced us into his own, where he had a great crowd who devoured us with their eyes, yet kept a profound silence. We understood only these words which he addressed to us from time to time in a low voice: "It is well, my brothers, that you visit us." After we had taken our places, he extended to us the usual civility of presenting to us the calumet. It would not do to refuse, unless we wished to be considered as an enemy, or as very uncivil; it is enough, however, to make the appearance of smoking. Whilst all the old men were smoking after us, in honor of us, they came on the part of the great chief of all the Illinois to conduct us to his village, where he wished to hold a council with us. We went there in a great crowd, for all the people who had never seen a Frenchman among them did not omit to regard us; they crouched in the long grass on the way, they came before us, and then returned upon their track to review us; all this was done without noise, and with  p249 all those marks of the great respect which they had for us.

Having arrived at the village of the great chief, we saw him at the door of his cabin, in the middle of two of the old men, all three standing, and naked, holding the calumet turned against the sun.

He harangued us in a few words, congratulating us on our arrival; he presented us afterward his calumet, and having smoked it, we entered into his cabin and received all the ordinary civilities.

Seeing all the people assembled and in silence, I spoke to them about four presents that I made them.

For the first I said to them that we were traveling in peace to visit the nations who lived upon the river near the sea. For the second I declared to them that God who created them, had pity on them, and since they had been ignorant of him for so long a time, he wished to make himself known to them; that I was sent on his part with this design, and it was their duty to acknowledge and to obey him.

For the third, that the Great Chief of the French would have them to know that it was him who had produced peace throughout, and had subdued the Iroquois.

Finally for the fourth we besought them to give us all the knowledge that they had of the sea, and of the nations through which we should be obliged to pass before we arrived at it. After this the chief sent a little slave to us and made us a present, which was that all‑mysterious calumet, on which they place more value than on a  p250 slave. He testified to us by this present the esteem he had for Monsieur, our governor, upon our account of him, and for the third he besought us, in behalf of all his nation, not to pass further, because of the great dangers to which we would be exposed.

I replied that I did not fear death, and that I should esteem it the greatest happiness to lose my life for the glory of God.

This those poor people could not understand.

The council was followed by a great feast, which consisted of four dishes, which we were obliged to take with all their ceremonies. The first was a great platter of wood full of Sagomite, that is to say, of the flour of Indian corn, which they boil with water, seasoning it with grease. The master of the ceremonies holding a spoon-full of sagamittee, presented it to my mouth three or four time, and did the same to Mons. Joliet.

Afterward he brought forth a second dish which had three fishes upon it; he took some pieces, and taking out the bones and blowing upon it to cool it, he placed them in our mouth as food is given to a bird. There was brought for the third course a big dog which they had killed, but having told them that we did not eat such, they took it away from before us, and the fourth was a piece of wild beef, of which was placed in our mouth the fattest morsels.

After this feast it was determined to go and visit all the village, which is composed of three hundred cabins.

Accordingly we marched through the streets, an orator  p251 haranguing continually to oblige all the people to see us, without being troublesome. They presented us with socks, garters, and other fabrics made of bear's and buffalo hair. They were all the varieties they had. We slept in the cabin of the chief, and the next day took leave of him, promising to return by his village in four moons. He conducted us to our canoes with near six hundred persons, who saw us embark, giving us every token they could of the joy our visit had caused them. Having quit the country of Illinois, it is proper that I here relate what I have ascertained of their customs and manners. To say Illinois, is the same as to say in their language Men, as if all other savages besides them should be accounted beasts, and it ought to be acknowledged that they have an air of humanity which we did not observe in the other nations we saw on our route.

The little stay that I made among them did not permit me to obtain all the knowledge of their customs that I wished.

I have observed this, however, they are divided into many villages, and have one of them far removed from those we talked to, who are called Perouarca; it is this which makes the difference in their language, which being the Algonquin, so that we could understand the one and not the others.

Their nature is easy and gentle; they have many wives, of whom they are very jealous; they watch them with great solicitude; they cut their noses or their ears when they are not honest. I have seen many who bore  p252 these marks of their infidelity; they are dexterous and skillful with the bow; they use also fusees, which they buy of those savages who are in alliance and have commerce with the French, which they use principally to frighten their enemies by the noise and smoke, who, living far to the west, have no knowledge of their use, and have never seen one.

They are warlike and made themselves so formidable to the people far off to the south and west, when they go to make slaves of them, which they make a traffic of, selling them at a high price to other nations for different kinds of merchandise. These savages who live so far off which they go to war against, have no knowledge of Europeans, nor of iron, nor of copper, and have only knives made of stone or flint.

When the Illinois determine to go to war, it is necessary that all the village should be apprised of it, which is done by a loud cry at the door of their cabins, the night and morning before they depart.

The chiefs are distinguished from the soldiers by the red sashes which they wear, they are made of hair of bears or the nap of the buffalo with great labor, consuming many days' work of the village.

They live by the chase, which is very abundant in this country, and upon Indian corn, of which they always have a good crop, and therefore never suffer from famine; they raise also beans and melons which are excellent, above all, those which have a red seed; their pumpkins are not of the best, they dry them in the sun to eat in  p253 the winter and spring; their cabins are very large and are roofed and covered with mats made of rushes; they find all their dishes and plates in the woods, and their spoons in the head of the buffalo, and they know so well how to prepare the scull as to make it properly serve to eat their sagamittee. They are generous in their sickness, believing that the prescriptions, which are given them, operate in proportion to the presents they bestow upon their medicine‑men. They use skins for clothing, the women are dressed very modestly and with great propriety, whereas on the other hand the men do not trouble themselves to cover any thing.

I do not know by the influence of what superstition some of the Illinois as well as some of the Nudouessis (Sioux) when young take the dress of a woman, which they keep all their lives, it is a mystery, for they never marry and glory in so abasing themselves as to make it appear that they are women; they go, however, to war, but they are permitted only to use the club, not the bow and arrows, which are accustomed arms of these people; they assist at all the jugglery and at all the solemn dances which they make in honor of the calumet; they sing but are not suffered to dance; they are invited to the council where nothing is decided without their advice; in short the profession which they make of life so extraordinary serves them to pass for Manitous, that is to say, great geniuses or persons of distinction.

It remains to say something more of the calumet. Nothing is to it, among these people, more mysterious or  p254 more estimable. They would not render as much honor to the scepter of Kings, as they render to it; it appears to be the God of peace and of war, the arbiter of life and death; it is enough for one bearing it to go with confidence in the midst of enemies, who in the heat of combat, throw down their arms when it is shown to them; it was for this virtue in it that the Illinois gave me one to serve me as a safeguard among the nations through which I should be compelled to pass in my voyage.

They have a calumet for peace and one for war; they use them also to end their differences and to strengthen their alliances and to talk to strangers. It is made of a red stone, polished like marble, and bored in such a form, that one end serves to receive the tobacco and the other holds the handle, which is a stick two feet long, as large as a common sized reed, and bored through the middle; it is embellished with the head and neck of various birds of the most beautiful plumage; they also add to it large feathers, red, green and other colors, by which it is all adorned; they have great respect for this because they regard it as the calumet of the sun, and in truth, they present it to him to smoke, when they wish for a calm, or for rain, or for good weather; they are scrupulous about bathing themselves at the commencement of the summer, or eating the new fruits of the year, until they have had the dance, and here is the manner of it.

The dance of the calumet is very celebrated among these people, and is used for many purposes and on many occasions.

 p255  Sometimes it is to confirm a peace, or for a reunion after a long war, at other times for a public rejoicing, sometimes in honor of another nation they have invited to aid them, sometimes they practice it on the reception of a personage of distinction, as if they wished to give him the diversion of a ball or a comedy. In winter the ceremony is performed in a cabin, in summer upon the smooth plain.

The place selected for the purpose is one environed all around by trees, so that all the people may be under the shade of their foliage to defend themselves against the heat of the sun; a large mat of rushes is spread out in the middle of the place, painted with various colors; this serves as a carpet upon which to lay with honor the god of him who made the dance, for each one has his own god, which they call Manitou; it is a serpent, or a bird, or a stone, or some such thing which they dream of in their sleep, and in which they place all confidence for their success in war, in fishing and in hunting; near this Manitou and upon his right, they place the calumet in honor of him who makes the entertainment, and all about they make a kind of trophy and spread out the arms which the warriors of those nations use, namely, the club, the tomahawk, the bow, the quiver and arrows.

These things being properly arranged, and the time for the dance approaching, those who are selected to sing, take the most honorable places under the shade of the trees; they are the men and the women who have the most delightful voices, and who agree perfectly well together;  p256 all the people then come and place themselves around under the branches, but each one on his arrival makes his salutation to the Manitou; this is done by smoking, and puffing the smoke from his mouth upon him as if he was presenting to him incense; presently each one goes with respect to take the calumet, and holding it up in his hands he makes it dance to the cadence of the song; keeping time with the air he causes it to perform many different figures; sometimes he makes it to look at the whole company, turning it to the one side and the other; after this he who is to commence the dance appears in the midst of the assembly and goes forthwith, and presents it to the sun, as if he wished him to smoke; then again he inclines to the earth, at other times he spreads out the wings as if to fly, at other times he puts it to the mouths of his assistants in order that they may smoke, the dance going on all the time, and this is the first scene of the ball.

The second consists of a combat, which is made by beating a kind of drum, which comes after the songs, or is so joined with them as to agree very well. The dancer makes a signal to some warrior to come and take the arms which are upon the mat, the invited strikes at him to the sound of the drum, upon this he advances, takes a bow and arrows, with a tomahawk, and commences a duel with the other, who has no other defense than the calumet. This sight is very agreeable, the more especially as all is done while they are dancing. As one attacks, the other defends; one makes the cuts, the  p257 parries; one flies, the other pursues; and then who has fled turns around and makes his adversary fly; this goes along so well by measured step and regulated voices and drums, that it would pass in France as the most delightful dancing.

The third scene consists in a great speech which he who holds the calumet makes, for the combat being finished without blood-shed, he narrates the battles which he has been in, the victories he has gained, the name of the nations, the places and the captives he had taken, and as a recompense to him who presides at the dance, he makes him a present of a beautiful beaver robe, or of some other thing, and having received it, he goes and presents the calumet to another, and this one to a third, and so on through all the others, and all having done their part, the chief presents the same calumet to the nation invited to the ceremony, as a token of the everlasting peace which shall be between their people.

Here is one of their songs which they were accustomed to sing, to which they gave a certain turn which it is not possible to express by note, which, nevertheless, has much agreeableness: Ninakani, ninakani, ninakani, nani on‑go. We took our leave of the Illinois toward the end of June, toward three o'clock in the afternoon, embarking in sight of all their people, who admired our little canoes, never having seen the like before.

We descended by the current to the river called Pekitanoni, which coming from the north-west discharges itself into the Mississippi, about which I have something  p258 considerable to say, after I shall have related all that I have observed upon this river.

Passing near some very high rocks I saw a Simple, which appeared to me very extraordinary; its root resembles little turnips, attached the one to the other by little fibres, which have the taste of carrots; from this root springs a leaf as large as the hand, an inch thick, with some specks; in the middle of this leaf other leaves spring out, resembling those hand candle-sticks which hold candles in our halls, and each leaf bearing five or six yellow flowers like small bells.

We found a quantity of mulberries, as large as those of France, and a small fruit which we took at first for olives, but it had the taste of the orange;2 and another fruit as large as a hen's egg, we broke it in two, and there appeared two partitions, in each one of which there were eight or ten fruits inclosed, having the shape of an almond, and were really good when they were eaten; the tree, nevertheless, bears a very bad smell, and the leaf resembles that of the walnut.3

We found also in the prairies a fruit resembling the filberts, but more tender, the leaves are longer and come from a stem at the end of which is a head like that of the sun‑flower, in which all the filberts are properly arranged; they are very good, boiled or raw.4

As we coasted along the rocks, frightful from their height and vastness, we saw upon one of them two monsters painted upon it, that we were alarmed at first sight,  p259 and upon which some of the most courageous savages dare not, for a long time, fasten their eyes.

They are as large as a calf, have horns upon the head like a deer, a frightful look, red eyes, a beard like a tiger, the face something like a man's, the body covered with scales, the tail so long that it made the circuit of the body, passing over the head and returning between the legs, terminating in a tail like that of a fish; the colors that composed it were green, red and black. In truth these two monsters are so well painted, that we cannot believe a savage was the workman, since good painters in France would find it difficult to do as well; and, moreover, they are so high up the rock, that it is difficult to reach them conveniently by painters.

As we were conversing about these monsters, rowing quietly in a beautiful water, clear and tranquil, we heard the noise of a rapid into which we were going to fall.

I have never seen any thing more frightful; an impediment caused by whole trees and branches, and floating islands proceeded from the mouth of the river Pekatononi with so much impetuosity, that we could not attempt to pass across without danger; the agitation was such, that the water was all muddy and could not be purified.

Pekatononi is a large river, which, coming far off from the hills of the north-west, discharges itself into the Mississippi; many villages of the savages are situated along on this river. I hope by some means to make the discovery to the Vermilion — Sea or Gulf of California. We conjectured by the plumb line by keeping in the Mississippi,  p260 that if she continued in the same direction, she must discharge herself in the Gulf of Mexico.

It would be very advantageous if that goes to the South sea toward California; and this, as I have said, I hope to meet with by means of the Pekatononi, according to the account that the Indians have made to me, from whom I have learned that in ascending that river for five or six days' journey, there is found a beautiful prairie, twenty or thirty leagues in length, which it is necessary to cross going to the north-west; at the end of this is a small river, upon which we must embark, it not being difficult to transport the canoes by so beautiful a country as is this prairie.

This second river has its course toward the south-west for ten or fifteen leagues, after which it enters into a small lake, which is the source of another deep river, which runs to the west and falls into the sea. I do not doubt that this is the Vermilion sea, and I do not despair but I shall one day make the discovery, if God is willing and gives me health, in order that I may publish the gospel to all the people of this new world, who have been enveloped for so long a time in the darkness of infidelity.

After we have escaped as we best could the danger of being carried away by the rapidity of the stream, we resumed our route. After having made about twenty leagues to the south and a little to the south-east, we found a river called Ouabouskigon (Wabash), its mouth being at thirty‑six degrees of latitude. Before we arrived there we passed by a place remarkable among the  p261 savages, because they think there is a Manitou, that is to say a demon, who devours travelers, and this the savages threatened us with, unwilling as we were to abandon our enterprise.

Here is the demon: It is a little pile of rockstwenty feet high, against which the whole current of the river sets, and which, being thrown back against that which follows, and checked by an island which is near, the water is compelled to pass by a narrow channel, and this it does not without causing a furious strife of the waves which are thrown back, one upon the other, with a thundering noise, which terrifies greatly the savages, but it did not hinder our passage and arrival at the Ouabouskigon (Ohio).

This river comes from the lands of the rising sun, where there is a great number of people called Chououanons (Shawnees), having in one district as many as twenty-three villages, and fifteen at another, and others besides. They are by no means warlike; they are people upon whom the Iroquois make war without any cause, and because they are poor and unable to defend themselves, they are taken and led away in droves, and all innocent as they are, they are not able to resent the barbarities of the Iroquois, who cruelly burn them.

A little above this river of which I have been speaking, are steep shores where one Frenchman discovered an iron mine, which they judged to be very rich. There were many veins and a layer of a foot thick; we saw large lumps of it adhering to the flints. Here we found a fat  p262 earth of three colors — purple, violet and red; the water in which we washed it took the color of blood. Here is also a red sand, very heavy; I put some on my oar which took the color so strong, that the water did not efface it for a fortnight that I used it in rowing. It is here we began to see the canes or large reeds which are found upon the bank of the river; they are of a pleasing green; all the joints are crowned by large leaves, narrow and pointed; they grow very high and in such large quantities that the buffaloes are troubled to force through them.

Up to this time we had not been annoyed by mosquitoes, but we had now entered into their country. This is the way the savages of these parts defend themselves against them: They raise a scaffold of poles, which is consequently not tight, in order that the smoke passing through from the fire below may drive away the little animals which cause so much suffering; they lie upon these poles, about which bark is spread as a protection against the rain, and the scaffold serves to protect them also against the excessive and insupportable heats of the country, for they place themselves in the shade of this staging or scaffold below, they protect themselves from the sun's rays, and also get the fresh air which passes freely through the scaffold.

With the same object we were compelled to make upon the water a kind of cabin, with our sails, as a cover from the mosquitoes and the rays of the sun.

As we were going along in this way at the mercy of  p263 the current, we saw upon the shore Indians armed with fusees, who stopped for us; I straightway presented my decorated calumet, during which our Frenchmen placed themselves on the defensive, and endeavored to induce the Indians to make the first discharge. I spoke to them in the Huron language, but they did not answer a word, which to me seemed like a declaration of war against us. They had, nevertheless, as much fear as we had, and that which we took for a signal of war was an invitation to us to come to them, that they might give us something to eat. We landed and went into their cabins, where they presented us with buffalo beef and bear's oil, with some white plums, which were excellent. They have fusees, tomahawks and hoes, knives, glass-beads and glass bottles, in which they put their powder.

They have long hair, and mark themselves after the fashion of the Iroquois, and their women are clothed and their heads dressed like the Hurons. They assured us it was not more than ten days going to the sea; that they bought their stuff of the Europeans who lived upon the coast to the east; that the Europeans had images and beads; that they played upon instruments; that they were dressed as I was, and that they had been well received by them.

However I saw no person that appeared to me to have received any instruction in the faith; I gave them some idea of it, together with some medals. This intelligence revived us, and we seized our oars with renewed ardor. We advanced on and saw no more of the prairies, but  p264 instead thereof, the two sides of the river bordered by high trees. The elms, cotton trees and white wood were worthy of admiration for their size and height. The quantity of buffaloes that we heard below made us believe that the prairies were near.

We saw also quails upon the shore. We killed a little paraquet that had the half of its head red, the other half and the neck yellow, and all the body green.

We descended almost to the thirty-third degree of latitude, going always nearly south, when we perceived a village upon the banks of the river called Mitchigamea. We had recourse to our patron saint, and to our guide, the holy immaculate Virgin, and had need of their assistance, for when we were discovered by the savages, they aroused themselves for battle by continual cries. They were armed with bows and arrows, and clubs and tomahawks and shields. They placed themselves in a position to attack us by land and water — one party embarked in their big wooden canoes, one of them to the river, and the others to go below in order to cut off our way, and to surround us on all sides. Those who were upon the land went to and fro as if to commence an attack; indeed two young men threw themselves into the water to seize my canoe, but the current of the river compelled them to return to the land; one of them threw his club at us, which passed over us without touching us. I then showed them the grand calumet and made a sign to them, or gesture, that we had not come for war; the alarm continued all the time, and they had already prepared  p265 themselves to shoot us with their arrows from all directions, when God touched suddenly the hearts of the old men who were on the shore, doubtless occasioned by the sight of our calumet, which they had recognized from a great distance, and as I did not cease to show it to them, they were touched by it and arrested the ardor of their young men, and at the same time two of the old men having thrown into our canoe, as at our feet, their bows and quivers, to give us confidence, and they getting in also, we approached the shore, where we landed, not without fear on our part. It was necessary for us at first to talk by gesture, because no one of them understood any thing of six languages that I knew; at last there was found an old man who could speak a little Illinois.

We satisfied them by our presents that we were going to the sea. They paid great attention to all we wished to say to them, but I do not know that they agreed in what I said to them of God, and of things concerning their salvation. It is a seed cast upon the earth, which will bear fruit in time. We were not able to get any other answer from them, save that we should learn all we desired of them, at a large village called Akamsca, about eight or ten leagues below. They offered us sagamittee and fish, and we passed the night with them in much uneasiness. We embarked the next morning early, with our interpreter, a canoe, with ten savages in it, going in advance of us.

Having arrived within half a league of Akamsca, we discovered two canoes coming to meet us. He who commanded  p266 was standing up, holding in his hand the calumet with which he made many motions according to the custom of the country. He came to meet us, singing very agreeably, and presented it to us to smoke, after which he gave us sagamittee and bread made of Indian corn, of which we ate a little, after which he took the advance and made a sign to us to come quietly after him.

He had prepared for us a place upon the scaffold of the war chief, it was very strong and adorned with fine mats of rushes, upon which we were made to sit, having about us the old men, who were next in rank to the warriors, and after them all the people in a crowd.

We found there by good luck a young man who understood Illinois much better than the interpreter we had brought with us from Mitchigamea. It was by his means that I talked straightway to the whole assembly, and at the same time making them some small presents. They were delighted with what I told them of God, and of the mysteries of our holy faith, and manifested a great desire to keep us with them, so that they might be instructed.

We at length asked them what they knew of the sea; they answered that we could be there in ten days, that it was possible for us to make the journey in five days, but that they were not acquainted with the nations who dwelt upon it, because their enemies prevented them from having any intercourse with these Europeans; that their tomahawks, knives and glass beads which we saw had been sold to them in part by the nations of the east, and  p267 a part by a tribe of the Illinois living at the west, four days' journey from there; that the savages whom we had met with fusees were their enemies, who shut up their passage to the sea, and prevented them from having a knowledge of the Europeans, and to have any trade with them. As for the rest, we should expose ourselves very much by passing further on, for the reason that their enemies were making continual irruptions upon the river, which they cruised upon continually. During this talk they brought us frequently to eat, in large platters of wood, sometimes sagamittee, then whole corn, and then a piece of a dog; the whole day was passed by them in such entertainments.

These people are very obliging and liberal of that which they have, but they live miserably, not daring to go hunt the buffaloes for fear of their enemies.

It is true they have an abundance of Indian corn which they sow at all seasons; we saw, at the same time, some that had come to maturity, some that had not yet silked, and some that was in the milk, of a kind which they sow three times in a year; they cook it in large earthen vessels, which are well made. They have also plates of baked earth which serve them for many purposes. The men are naked, wearing their hair short, and boring the nose and ears to put in them rings of glass beads. The women are clothed with miserable skins, their hair platted in two twists which they throw behind their ears, and have some skill in bedecking themselves. Their entertainments are without any ceremony.

 p268  They present to the guests large platters, of which each one eats as much as he pleases, and the remains given to one and the other.

Their language is extremely difficult, and I never could pronounce a single word with all the effort I was able to make. Their cabins, which are made of bark, are very long and large; they sleep at the two ends, being elevated two feet from the ground; they keep their corn in large baskets made of cane, or in large gourds like the half bushels; they do not know what the beaver is, their wealth consisting of buffalo skins. There is never any snow with them, and they do not know winter onlya by the rains which fall more frequently than in summer. We did not eat of any other fruits than water melons; if they knew how to cultivate the earth they might have all kinds.

At night the old men held a secret council with the design, which some of them had, to kill us and rob us, but the chief broke up all these plots, he brought us a token of perfect security, he danced the calumet before us after the manner I have described above, and banished all fear by presenting it to me.

Mons. Joliet and myself held a council for the purpose of deliberating upon what we should do, whether we should go on or should content ourselves with the discovery we had made.

After attentively considering that we were not far from the Gulf of Mexico, whose basin was in the latitude of thirty‑one degrees, forty minutes, and could not be  p269 further off than two or three days' journey, and that undoubtedly the river Mississippi had its discharge in Florida at the Gulf of Mexico, and not upon the coast to the east of Virginia, whose shore upon the sea is at thirty-four degrees, and which we had passed without having reached the sea, nor to the west at California, therefore, for this we ought to have gone to the west, or west south-west, and we had been going all the time to the south. we thought, moreover, that we should expose ourselves to the loss of the fruits of our voyage, of which we could not give any information, if we should be thrown into the hands of the Spaniards, who, without doubt, would keep us as prisoners; besides this, we saw that we should not be in a condition to resist the savages allied to the Europeans, numerous and expert as they are with the fusees, and who continually infested the low country upon the river, and finally we had gained all the intelligence that we desired in this discovery.

All these reasons brought to us the conclusion to return, which we made known to the savages, and for which we made preparations after a day's rest.

After one month's navigation in descending the Mississippi from the forty-second degree to the thirty-fourth, and more, and after publishing the gospel to all the nations that I encountered, we left on the 17th of July the village of the Akamsca to return on our track. We turned back upon the Mississippi, and had much difficulty in stemming its current.

We quit it at the thirty-eighth degree to enter into  p270 another river, which shortened our way very much, and conducted us with but little trouble to the Lake of Illinois.

We have never seen any thing like this river, which we entered, for the richness of the soil, the prairies, the woods, the buffaloes, the elks, the deer, the wildcats, the bustards, the swans, the ducks, the paraquets and beavers; it is made up of little lakes and little rivers. This, upon which we voyaged, is wide and deep and gentle for sixty-five leagues. In the spring and part of the summer it is necessary to make a portage of half a league.

We found a village of Illinois called Kuilka, consisting of seventy-four cabins; we were very kindly received by them, and they obliged me to promise them that I would return to instruct them. One of the chiefs of this nation with a young man conducted us to the Lake of Illinois, by which at last we returned to the Bay of Puants (Green Bay), at the close of the month of September, and which we had left at the commencement of the month of June.

Although my voyage should possess no other value than the salvation of one soul, I should esteem all my troubles well recompensed, and that I have done this, I have a right to presume, for on my return as we passed through the Illinois of Perouacca, I preached for three days to them the mysteries of our faith in all their cabins after which, as we were about to embark, they brought to me, at the edge of the water, a dying infant, which I, by wonderful providence, baptized, a little while before it died, for the salvation of its innocent soul.


The Editor's Notes:

1 Wild rice now called Menomenees.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Persimmon.

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3 Pawpaw.

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4 Hazlenut.


Thayer's Note:

a Sic. There has been a translation problem here: Marquette's account (which I have not seen) must have read ils ne connoissent l'hiver que . . ., and should have been translated they know winter only . . . .


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