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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Ioway to Iowa

by
Irving Berdine Richman

published by
The State Historical Society of Iowa
1931

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Chapter 2

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p21 Discovery

Boat Song
June Seventeen
June Twenty-five to Thirty

p23 Boat Song
1673

V'la l'bon vent

V'la l'joli vent

V'la l'bon vent

Ma mie m'appelle

Ma mie m'appelle

V'la l'bon vent

V'la l'joli vent

V'la l'bon vent

Hi good wind

Hi bonny wind

Hi good wind

Me my sweetheart calls

Me my sweetheart calls

Hi good wind

Hi bonny wind

Hi good wind

June Seventeen
1673

'Here we are', exclaims Father Marquette, 'on this so renowned River'. . . . Seven days drop by, and seven nights: seven days at the paddle (in the sun); seven nights with the owl1 (beneath a moon);2 seven days and nights of the unknown; when, lo! the eighth day and with it a consummation. If Iowa will not contrive for itself an entrance upon the stage, Jolliet and Marquette will contrive one for it. They will prompt the action.

Before them lies a path with the print of a human foot. They were startled, writes Parkman, by a sight often so fearful in the waste and the wilderness — the print of a human foot. They take the path and come upon a river. It is the Iowa (Lower or Cedar-Iowa)3 with a village (that of the Peouarea)4 on the bank. They shout aloud. Out from the cabins pour 'wild men'. Four aged ones advance bearing tobacco pipes. Measuredly and in silence advance the men. 'Who are you?' hails Father Marquette. 'We are Illinois', they answer and invite the strangers to follow them. At the door of a cabin stands an aged one. Standing erect, and stark naked, with his hands extended and p26lifted toward the sun as if to protect himself from its rays, he exclaims, 'How beautiful the sun is, O frenchman,º when thou comest to visit us!' Braves and warriors fill the cabin. They 'devour' the strangers 'with their eyes'. The pipe is passed.

Jolliet and Marquette proceed to a second village of the Peouarea. Again the pipe is passed. 'We are journeying', says the Father, 'peacefully to visit the nations dwelling on the River as far as the Sea'. The Indians dance the Calumet — the Peace Dance


[image ALT: A musical quotation; the lyrics are 'Ni-na ha-ni, ni-na ha-ni, ni-na ha-ni, na-ni, on-go'.]

It is the end of June, about three o'clock in the afternoon, notes the Father, when 'we take leave of our Ilinois. . . . We embark in the sight of all the people'.

V'la l'bon vent

V'la l'joli vent

V'la l'bon vent

Iowa — so evasive, so wary of the footlights — has come forward, has it not, nevermore quite to efface itself?

June Twenty-five to Thirty
1673

That the Lower Iowa River marks the Jolliet-Marquette landing place is probable. Yet a question remains. Why was the Iowa the place of the landing in question? Was it so by chance? Was it so by design?

By design, the facts would indicate. About 1656‑1657 the Iroquois — rivals of the Illinois in the fur trade — drove the latter from their ancient seat into Ioway. The Jesuit Father Claude Dablon writes that the Illinois dwelt on Lake Michigan where in 1656 they were attacked by the Iroquois. They then emigrated in a seven days' journey beyond the great river Mississippi. By 1670‑1671 there were in Ioway (so the Father thinks) some eight or nine thousand Illinois congregated in two towns.

Now at this time Father Marquette was conducting a mission (St. Esprit) on Chequamegon Bay in the present Wisconsin; and hither, on the way to Ioway, came many Illinois. They were a people gracious and amenable to religious teaching. They liked Father Marquette and the Father liked them. The Illinois urged upon the Father the founding among them of p28a mission; and he was nothing loath. In the way, however, loomed an obstacle. Between Chequamegon Bay and Ioway dwelt the Sioux — especially about the Mille Lacs and the upper Mississippi. How to reach the Illinois in Ioway with the Sioux interposed — this was Father Marquette's problem.

He solved it resourcefully. Not only was the Father friendly with the Illinois; he was friendly also with the Sioux. He therefore made with the latter a compact. They were to leave the way to the Illinois — the way to Ioway — open to him. I was going this autumn (1670), he writes to Father Dablon, 'to the Ilinois, the passage to whom they [the Sioux] were to leave free'. Had the Father gone as he intended, he would have found the path both long and rough. 'The Illinois [in Ioway]', he writes, 'are distant from la pointe [St. Esprit] thirty days' journey by land, by a very difficult route'. It runs south-southwest and traverses the great wastes (les grands déserts).5

But what kept Father Marquette from Ioway in 1670 was not the asperity of the way: it was a sudden Sioux uprising — this and the development by Jean Baptiste Talon, Intendant of New France, of a plan to be carried out by Louis Jolliet,6 in connection with Father Marquette, for exploring the Mississippi to its mouth. In 1673, then, the Father and Louis Jolliet p29were on the Iowa by design. They, or at any rate Father Marquette, knew where in Ioway the Illinois were likely to be found.7

That in 1673 the Father did not take to himself a missionary charge in Ioway may be understood. He, with his singing boatmen, was southward bound on business of the King. Besides, Iroquois pressure upon the Illinois was relaxing, and the latter nation was leaving Ioway for return home. By 1676 seven tribes, we are told, had resumed occupation of the country along the Illinois River.


The Author's Notes:

1 'The devil laughter of the prairie owls'. — John G. Neihardt.

[decorative delimiter]

2 Moon, first quarter, June 21, 1673; full moon, June 28, 1673. — From the Department of Physics, State University of Iowa.

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3 Laenas G. Weld's Joliet and Marquette in Iowa in The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. I, pp3‑16.

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4 Father Marquette's reputed narrative in Thwaites's Jesuit Relations, Vol. LIX, pp109 et seq.

It is the opinion of Father Steck that the narrative (Récit) of Father Marquette in Thwaites's Jesuit Relations is in reality not such but the 'lost' narrative of Louis Jolliet sent by Father Marquette to his Superior and by the latter knowingly inscribed 'Marquette's narrative' in order to bring credit to the Jesuit Order (pp284, 306, 307). Father Steck calls attention to the circumstance that Thwaites, two years after the publication of his volume fifty-nine of the Jesuit Relations, wrote in his Father Marquette (pp185, 215): 'the explorer's [Marquette's] original manuscript is probably not in existence'; and again, that 'the whereabouts of his [Marquette's] manuscript narrative of this famous [1673] voyage is unknown'.

Father Steck further interestingly observes (p295): 'As priest and religious, whose ideas ran in other channels than those of a layman, Marquette would scarcely have likened the proboscis of the fish seen in the Mississippi to "a woman's busk", and detected a similarity between the start of the calumet dance and "the first scene of the ballet". . . . Nowhere in the narrative', says Father Steck, is there any mention of provisions having been made for the celebration of Holy Mass or of Marquette having performed the sacred function during the voyage.' — Francis Borgia Steck, O. F. M., The Jolliet-Marquette Expedition, 1673 in The Catholic University of America, Studies in American Church History, Vol. VI.

From Father Steck's conclusions Dr. Louise P. Kellogg and Miss (p410)Agnes Repplier both sharply dissent. — The American Historical Review, Vol. XXXIII, p698; Repplier's Père Marquette, Ch. XVII.

[decorative delimiter]

5 Thwaites's Jesuit Relations, Vol. LIV, pp185, 189, 191, 193.

The course pursued by the Illinois themselves in reaching Ioway was by land up the east bank of the Mississippi to the spot where the river was narrowest; then across, perhaps by raft, into the Sioux country (Minnesota); thence in a direct line south. — Benjamin Sulte's Les Français dans l'Ouest en 1671 in Mémoires de la Société Royale du Canada, 1918, Series 3, Vol. XII.

[decorative delimiter]

6 Ernest Gagnon's Louis Jolliet, Quebec, 1902.

[decorative delimiter]

7 Father Marquette writes: 'We even traced out from their reports a Map of the whole of the New country; on it we indicated the rivers which we were to navigate, the names of the peoples and of the places through which we were to pass'. — Thwaites's Jesuit Relations, Vol. LIX, pp91, 93.


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Page updated: 1 Feb 11