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This webpage reproduces an item in the
Iowa Journal of History & Politics
Vol. 14 No. 1 (Jan. 1916), pp96‑118

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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please let me know!

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p96 Captivity of a Party of Frenchmen among Indians
in the Iowa Country, 1728‑1729

[For fifteen years the Fox Indians, dwelling upon the Fox River in eastern Wisconsin, had been spreading terror among French traders and missionaries and all the tribes of the Upper Mississippi Valley. To the few Frenchmen and their numerous Indian allies in this region life meant one continuous round of turmoil and fear of the Fox hatchet. The main French avenue of travel to the Mississippi River peoples, the Fox-Wisconsin waterway through the heart of the Fox country, became deserted and the business in furs and skins was practically ruined.

Then, in the year 1727, two crushing defeats were administered to the Foxes. The clouds of war seemed at last to be clearing away, but it was not long before the French heard rumors of Fox intrigues with the unsubjected Sioux Indians of the southern Minnesota region. It was to prevent an alliance between these tribes that the Governor-General of Canada (New France) permitted a trading company to set up Fort Beauharnois in the Sioux country and despatched René Boucher, Sieur de la Perriere, as commandant, and with him Fathers Michel Guignasa and Nicolas de Gonnor. The new post was accordingly constructed on the western shore of Lake Pepin in the autumn of the year 1727 by a party of Frenchmen. One year later the fort was almost completely evacuated.

What happened must be told in the words of commandant's nephew, a French ensign, Pierre Boucher, Sieur de Boucherville, the following translation of whose narrative, with footnotes by the present writer, is reprinted from the Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XVII, pp36‑56. — Jacob Van der Zee.]

After the failure of the expedition against the Renards,1 Monsieur De Ligneris sent seven Frenchmen and two Folles-avoines to inform me of all that had happened in order that I might take proper measures for our safety, and that I might induce the Scioux to refuse their protection to the Renards.

On September 9, 1728, two days after the arrival of the seven Frenchmen, I sent six of our people to conduct to the p97Scioux at Sault St. Antoine2 two Folles-avoines who had acted as guides to Monsieur De Ligneri's envoys, and who were commissioned on behalf of all the savages living below to exhort the Scioux to take sides against the Renards, or at least to refuse them an asylum in their country.

These envoys returned to the Fort some days afterward, rather dissatisfied with the result of their negotiations. After accepting their presents and amusing them with fine promises, the Scioux soon let them see that they had renard hearts. Nevertheless Ouacautapé accompanied them on their return, and assured me that the Renards would never secure a refuge amongst the Scioux.

But, seeing that it would be unwise to confide in these inconstant tribes, I gathered all our French together on September 18, in order to come to a final decision. All were of opinion that the post was no longer tenable; that the remaining provisions would not suffice for our subsistence until the arrival of the convoys; that the fugitive Renards would employ their usual stratagems to seduce our allies, and that — to comply with the order of Monsieur De Ligneris who forbade us to expose ourselves ill-advisedly by keeping so unsafe a post — it was better to depart at once and to take advantage of our enemies' difficulties. After coming to this decision, all withdrew and each one made his preparations for the departure.

On the following day several told me that they had changed their minds and would be unable to sell their goods elsewhere. In vain I represented to them that the king's service and the welfare of the colony should prevail over private interests; their minds were made up and I was compelled to leave without them.

We took three canoes and started on October 3, to the number of twelve amongst whom were the Reverend Father p98Guignos and the Messieurs Montbrun.3 Although the waters of the Mississippi were low, we deemed it advisable to attempt that route in order to reach the Illinois country and proceed thence to Montreal.4

Hardly had we arrived opposite the Ouisconsin than we discovered traces of a party of Renards; and after three days' journey, we found their canoes, which they had left at the river of the Ayous in order to penetrate more easily into the depths of the surrounding country.

On October 12, somewhere near the river of the Kikapous,5 we found other camping places, traces of men, women, and children; and on the fifteenth, we saw a number of animals running along the shore who seemed to be flying from hunters. Great fires that were lighted and the noise of some gun-shots led me to believe that the enemy was not far off. For greater safety I deemed it expedient to travel at night; but, as the waters were very low, our birch-bark canoes were in danger of being broken at any moment.

On the 16th, at eight o'clock in the morning some Kikapous discovered us and, leaving their pirogues, they ran to the village situated on a small river three leagues from the Mississippi. As we approached the mouth of this little river6 we saw a number of savages coming by land and in p99canoes with the apparent intention of barring our way. We at once loaded our twenty-five guns, resolved to defend ourselves stoutly. They called out to us from afar: "What fear ye, my brothers? The Renards are far from here. We are Kikapous and Mascoutins7 and have no evil design." I sent two Frenchmen and the interpreter to whom they said that their village was only three leagues from where we were; that they were in want of everything; that they would be glad to have us stay a day or two with them and to trade with us. But seeing that in spite of their fine promises we were making ready to proceed on our way, they surrounded us with their twenty-five pirogues, calling out as loud as they could: "Frenchmen, do not resist; we have no evil design in stopping you." At the same time numbers of them embarked in our canoes although the chiefs cried out: "Gently, young men." They dragged us to their village where we thought the greatest favor we could expect would be to be plundered. Far, however, from taking away our p100arms, they requested us on our arrival to salute the fort with a discharge of musketry which we did with fairly good grace. Afterwards they held a council and came to the conclusion to lodge us in the cabin of Ouiskouba whose relatives had just been killed by the French acting with the Illinois. All our baggage was carried into this cabin; Father Guignas was placed upon a mat and upon a very fine bear skin;8 an equally honorable place was prepared for me opposite the Reverend Father; we were regaled with deer flesh. We had no lack of company throughout the night as a great many of these barbarians had never seen a Frenchman and were attracted by curiosity. Ouiskouba and several chiefs who were hunting in the neighborhood were sent for.

On the following day the elders entered our cabins and spoke to Father Guignos as follows: "You Black gowns9 used formerly to maintain peace amongst the nations; but now you are greatly changed. Not long ago one of your comrades was seen leading a party and waging a bloody war against us." These elders referred to Father Dumas, the chaplain of Monsieur Deliette's army.

Father Guignos replied, "You know not the Black gowns; it is not their custom to fight and to steep their hands in blood. They follow the army solely for the purpose of helping the sick and ministering to the dying."

The dispute would have lasted longer had not the young men — wiser in this than the elders — imposed silence upon them. "Be silent, old babblers," they said to them: "Are not the French sufficiently in trouble and is it proper for you to add affliction to affliction?" These words put a stop to the invectives for a while, but as soon as Father Guignos began to read his breviary, the rubrics printed in red ink caused a fresh quarrel about nothing to break out. "Those p101drops of blood," they said to one another, "warn us to be on our guard against this dangerous man." To appease those suspicious minds, the Father closed his book for some days and we had an interval of peace.

Seven days after this first upbraiding, a chief delivered a harangue in favor of the Father and said: "Of what are you thinking, my brothers, and why should you forbid the Black gown from saying his accustomed prayers? Know you not that amongst all the nations these Fathers have full liberty to pray in their own manner?" This speech was applauded and the Father obtained permission to read his red-lettered book in public.

On the same day, Ouiskouba returned from hunting and spoke to us as follows: "My father the Black gown, and thou my father, the French chief, I have just learned that you have been put in my cabin and that I have been declared the arbiter of your fate to repay me for the loss of my wife and children whom the French, acting with the Illinois, have just taken from me. Fear not; my heart is good. Our father Ononthio,10 whom I saw two years ago, gave me wisdom. His arm governs my thoughts and my actions. Rely on my word and no harm will come to you."

We thanked him and presented him with a brasse11 of tobacco; and we promised that all the good he would do us would be repaid a hundred fold.

The White robe, a famous orator, paid me a visit the following day. "Thy face," I said to him, "is not unknown to me. Did I not see thee at Detroit in Monsieur De Lamotte's time? Thou wert then considered a wise man and I am delighted to see thee." The savage was charmed with my p102compliment and the tobacco I gave him and expressed his regret at out detention; he advised me to be wise, that is to say to get myself cleverly out of the difficulty by giving presents to the young men.

Chaouénon, a man of credit and respected above all by the young Kikapous, was also profuse in his offers to serve me, and I won him to my interest by great promises. Everything being thus prepared and the chiefs being all gathered together in the village, I caused the council to be assembled.

Word of Monsieur De Boucherville accompanied by 4 barrels of powder, 2 guns, a 30 pound kettle, 7 pounds of vermilion, 12 hatchets, 2 dozen large knives, 7 braided coats, 2 cloth blankets, 2 white blankets, 7 bags of shot, etc., etc.

"My brothers, children of Ononthio. I learned from six Frenchmen and two Folles-avoines that the French and their allies had driven the Renards from their country to punish them for having deluged the earth with blood, and having last spring reddened the waters of the Mississippi with the blood of many Frenchmen. Perfidious people that they are, when we passed through their land a year ago, they promised us to remain quiet and atone for the past. We declared to them that they had everything to hope from the clemency of their new father Ononthio; and that we, on our part, would strive to pacify the land and urge the Scioux to peace. I have kept my word and stopped several bands of Sauteaux and of Scioux who breathed naught but war. I left my fort to inform our father Ononthio of all this and to learn his intentions. That is the object of my journey. Today I ask you by these presents that my road may be clear. I would be very sorry to leave you without relieving your wants by sharing our goods with you. I have reason to fear the Renard; I know he is not far from here. He would cause trouble to you and to us likewise were he to take into his head to come to this village. I therefore beg p103you, Kikapous and Mascoutins, not to refuse me so reasonable a request."

Their reply was that our presents would be set apart, and that they would give me their answer by the following day.

In fact, a great meeting was held on the morrow. Reverend Father Guignas, myself and some Frenchmen were invited. On a white beaver robe was placed a slave,12 seven or eight years old, who was offered to us with a little dried beaver flesh.

Word of the Kikapous

"To our father Ononthio we offer this word, this little slave, and this small quantity of beaver flesh, to beg him not to be displeased with us if we keep the French chief, the black gown and their companions. After the flight of the Renards, the burning of their cabins, and the ravaging of their fields, we were warned to withdraw to the banks of the Mississippi because our father Ononthio is angry with us, and because all the nations that winter in our neighborhood will soon fall upon us. It is therefore for the purpose of saving our children's lives that we stop you; you will be our safeguard.13

"You say that you fear the Renards? Well, my brothers, what have you to fear? The Renards are far from here; you will not see them. Even should they come to seek you, do you think they could succeed? Look at these warriors and these brave young men who surround you; all promise to die with you and their bodies will serve you as ramparts. Prepare yourselves therefore to spend the winter and begin to build cabins for your use."

"Have you pondered well," I replied, "on what I represented p104to you yesterday. Do you realize that you will have to answer for us, body for body, and that if any accident should befall us you will be held accountable?"

"We know it, we think of it," they answered; "We have come to our decision after mature deliberation."

It was therefore necessary to attack the forest with our axes, and with the assistance of the young Kikapous we finished our houses in a week. We were already beginning to settle down; we had no further quarrels to endure; we were living on good terms. But, on November 2, a Kikapou informed me that ten Renards had arrived in the village. A moment afterwards Kansekoé, the chief of these new comers, entered my house, held out his hand to me and said: "I greet thee, my father," and the better to deceive me he assured me that he had an order to lodge in my dwelling. I put a good face on the matter in spite of my surprise; and offered food to my treacherous visitor. Our faithful Chaouénon told me that Kansakoé was endeavoring to seduce the Kikapous by means of presents. But fortunately I had already won the young men by a barrel of powder, with blankets, 2 pounds of vermilion, and other presents.

The Kikapous, after refusing the calumet and porcelain14 of the Renards, were nevertheless intimidated by their threats and urged me to help them by presents to cover the last Renards who had died.15 I gave them two braided p105coats, two cloth blankets, 50 pounds of powder, 50 pounds of lead, two pounds of vermilion, etc.

On the following day, a great council was held at which I was present with Father Guignas; this gave me an opportunity of preparing a present to be sent to the Renards in my own name.

Word of the Kikapous and Mascoutins by a barrel of 5 pounds of powder, 5 pounds of lead, 2 pounds of vermilion, 2 braided coats and a blanket.

"My brothers, for a long while we have not seen the sun —16

. . . . . . . . .

"Fear nothing," I said to them, "my cousins17 will do you justice and will appreciate the services you have rendered us." This promise reassured them and they resolved to save us at all costs. "For if they perish we are dead men," they said to one another; "and since we are too much exposed here to the attacks of the Renards, let us go and establish ourselves on the neighboring island18 on which they will not be able to land unless we choose." This was a very wise decision. By means of presents I urged the young Kikapous to shift the camp as quickly as possible; and as soon as we were settled on the island couriers were sent out to notify the Kikapous scattered in the woods.

About this time we were informed of the barbarous design p106of Pechicamengoa, a Kikapou chief, a great warrior, redoubtable through the credit he had gained, and the great number of his brothers and relatives, and of young Kikapous subject to his orders. As he had married a Renard wife, Kansekoé and his companions had no difficulty in inducing him to assassinate Reverend Father Guignas, and they made him promise that he would not go to the village of the Renards without bringing the father's scalp with him.

In order that he might not fail in striking his blow, he concealed his wicked design for some days. One fine night he invited two of his young men to keep him company in a sweating lodge, not so much for the purpose of sweating as of cleverly allowing his secret to ooze out according to the custom of the savages in those sweating lodges, and of inducing those young men to help him. God did not permit the treacherous plotter to succeed. The sweating over, the young Kikapous, who were indignant at such treachery told the well-disposed chiefs of it.

The alarm caused in the village by this conspiracy may be imagined. "What!" they exclaimed, "We thought we had only the Renards to fear; now our own brothers betray us and wish to stain our mats with blood by a massacre of the French! What is to be done under the circumstances? Had a Renard made an attempt on the father's life we would have settled the matter by breaking his head; but the guilty man is a chief of our nation! . . . Let us endeavor to appease him with presents." These were offered him; he accepted them, and promised to abandon his cowardly design.

But, in order to avoid similar acts of treachery, we were lodged in less suspected cabins where ten men watched night and day over our safety. We remained eighteen days in that state.

Kansekoé and his nine colleagues, three days after their p107departure, encountered a hundred Renards who were coming for us. They had orders, in the event of a refusal, to threaten the Kikapous with the coming of six hundred warriors, both Renards and Puants,19 fully resolved to be revenged for the insults offered them. Kansekoé perceived in the band the father of the young Renard whom the French had killed at la Baye not long before. He said to him: "I see well, my father, that thou wilt ask for a Frenchman in the place of thy son; but return with us to the village; come and listen to the words addressed to thy dead child, and refuse not the presents offered thee." The old man, touched by this mark of distinction, allowed himself to be won over. "I am quite willing," he said, "that you should restore my disturbed mind. I will follow you." Many thought as he did; others said they must continue their march and compel the Kikapous to deliver up the French. Finally, after many disputes, seventy Renards returned home and thirty came to the banks of the Mississippi. When the Kikapous saw them in such small numbers they considered that they could without danger allow them on the island; but they reinforced the guard watching over our safety. On entering the village, a Renard was inspired with the idea of delivering a harangue, contrary to the custom of the savages who harangue only in cabins. This insolent man spoke to us as follows:

"We are unfortunate, my brothers; we have been driven from our lands by the French. The sorrow caused us by our misfortunes has brought us here to beg you to wipe away our tears. You are our relatives; refuse us not the favor we ask. You will give us as many Frenchmen as you choose; we do not demand all of them."

They entered the cabin of our friend Chaouénon, being convinced that if they could win him over they would easily p108persuade the other chiefs. All being assembled, the Renards began to weep for their dead, making the air resound with their cries, and spreading out a bloody robe, a shell all reddened with blood, and a red calumet with feathers all dripping blood. Such a dreadful spectacle was calculated to produce an impression, and all this blood called most eloquently for ours. A tall young renard, much painted, arose, lit his calumet, and presented it once more to the young chiefs with as little success as at first. Finally after again weeping for their dead, they left their presents and were told that the answer would be given on the following day. The young Kikapous passed the whole night without sleep. The Renards roamed about unceasingly and tried to intimidate them by great threats, but all in vain.

On the following day, the savages assembled and the Kikapous replied as follows: "My brothers, you are not unaware that we had no evil design in stopping the French. We wish them to live. And what would become of us if they perished while in our hands? Return in peace, accept our present; we will die together rather than give up a single one of these Frenchmen."

The Renards, angered at this reply, arose with fire in their eyes; they threatened vengeance, made up their bundles and crossed the river,20 and having met at a distance of three days' journey from the Renard village a Kikapou and p109a Mascoutin who were hunting, they massacred them without pity, and carried their scalps home with them.21

This murder caused much disturbance amongst the Renards. "We are lost beyond hope," the old men exclaimed. "What, you foolish young men, it is but a slight thing in your eyes to have raised up against us all the nations that have sworn to destroy us; you must likewise massacre our kinsmen! What shall we do to atone for this murder?"

They at once dispatched five men to go and weep for the two dead ones, and to offer themselves as expiatory victims to the bereaved old man who was not far from the renard village. As soon as they appeared before him they spread out a white robe on which two Renards stretched themselves quite naked. "Revenge thyself, my brother," they said to him in this humble posture. "Thy children have been killed but we offer thee our bodies; vent thy rage and thy just indignation upon us." The old man replied: "Our village is informed of your crime; the matter is no longer in my hands; the decision rests with the young Kikapou chiefs." At these words the prostrate Renards arose and returned home.

Two young Kikapous arrived shortly afterwards on the bank of the river, and uttered death-yells22 at night. A pirogue was sent for them and they related the sad event to their comrades. The news spread consternation throughout the village. Nothing was heard everywhere but weeping, lamentations, and horrible yells. Couriers were at once sent to warn the Kikapous scattered in the woods to quickly take refuge on the island. The elders did not fail to come and reproach me with the death of their young men. "You p110are the cause of our being massacred," they said, "and we are paying very dearly for the pleasure of having you." I replied to them: "Had you wished to believe me, to accept my present and consent to our separation, this misfortune would not have happened to you. Did I not warn you of this." "Thou art right," they replied, "but what are we to do in the present predicament? We are between two fires; the Renard has killed us, the Illinois has killed us,23 the Frenchman is angry with us. What are we to do?"

"Your affairs," I answered, "are not so difficult to arrange as you imagine. Give me two chiefs to accompany me; I will start for the Illinois country, and I pledge myself to make your peace with those tribes." "That is a very good idea," they said. But the trouble was to find people brave enough to accompany me. After much discussion a Kikapou and a Mascoutin, born of Illinois mothers, offered themselves. One of them had lost his son in the war.

We started on December 27, notwithstanding the unendurable severity of the season; and, after many hardships, and much fatigue which can be appreciated only by those who endure them, we arrived on the ninth day amongst the Péoaria on the river of the Illinois, twenty leagues from the Mississippi. Several tribes were gathered together in this village, keeping always on the watch and anxious for news of the Kikapous.

Two hunters perceived us and, re-assured at the sight of the flags held up by my people, they approached us. One of my companions spoke the illinoisº language, told them that we came to treat for peace; that the French detained amongst his people were well; that the Renards, in revenge for the refusal to deliver up the French to them, had killed two Kikapous.

p111 As soon as the Péoaria heard of our arrival, they sent thirty young Illinois to meet us. My two savages waited for them, and after weeping for their dead, and having had their tears wiped away, and having been ceremoniously offered a great red calumet which all smoked, we were relieved of our baggage. We were conveyed to a large cabin through so great a crowd of spectators that we could hardly make our way. We were seated upon a fine new mat, and on a bear skin. Two young Illinois, adorned with many ornaments, came to remove our shoes and grease our feet. We were given the most palatable food to be had in the village. The Kikapou accompanying me, who had lost his son, wept for him a second time; all the chiefs arose in turn to wipe away his tears, and after hearing all that had occurred, they said: "Take courage, my brothers, we will help you to avenge your dead."

On the morrow at break of day they came to conduct us to a feast; and throughout the day we went without stopping from cabin to cabin, from feast to feast. These poor people could not find any food good enough for me so pleased were they at the good news I brought.

It was my intention to proceed as soon as possible to the French village24 four days' journey from the Péoarias; but I had to abandon the trip owing to a swollen foot caused by a long march through exceedingly cold water. I therefore sent Reverend Father Guignas's letters by a special messenger. I wrote to Monsieur Desliettes, the commandant, and sent him the presents from the Kikapous. These consisted of that famous bloody calumet, and of the two brasses of bloodstained porcelain which the Renards had offered in order to have us delivered up to them.

Word of the Kikapous and Mascoutins accompanied by the presents above mentioned:

p112 "1st, Our words and our actions are guided solely by the arm of Ononthio to whom we are attached.

"2nd, We have been killed, my father, by the Renards because we supported the French. If thous wouldst send us some Frenchmen to help us, thou wouldst please us.

"3d, We ask for peace with the Illinois and with thee; and that in future we may smoke from the same calumet.

"4th, We have stripped ourselves by giving what we had to the Renards to appease them. We should be obliged to thee, if thou wouldst send us goods and especially powder.

"5th, We flatter ourselves that our flesh has been preserved; and we beg thee to induce the Illinois to give back to us those of our kin who are slaves in their midst."

Word of Monsieur Desliettes by a red calumet and some ells of cloth.

"1st, I am sorry that the French chief and the member of your nation have not come thus far. They have sent me your Word; I have received it with joy, because you assure me that you are attached to the arm of Ononthio.

"2nd, I smoke your calumet with pleasure. While smoking it I will think of all you say to me; and I shall see by the proofs that you will give me of your sincerity whether I shall send you some Frenchmen.

"3d, You already have some Frenchmen amongst you, and none of your people sit here on my mat. If you wish sincerely, as you say, to live in peace with us, I invite you to bring back here the Black gown and the other Frenchmen. By this I shall know that you are children of Ononthio.

"4th, If you do this, I answer that I will give you Frenchmen who will escort you back; and you will be well received by the Illinois and French.

"5th, I would willingly send you some goods at once but I have only very little; I expect a great quantity in two moons.

"6th, If the Renards have killed you as you assert, you p113see that they no longer look upon you as their kin. I exhort you to avenge yourselves. You may rest assured that that wicked nation can live no longer. The King wishes their death.

"7th, When you arrive with the Black gown and the other Frenchmen, we will take measures together; meanwhile we, the Illinois and ourselves, are preparing to avenge ourselves for all their insults to us. They shall not always escape the vengeance of the French by cowardly flight.

"8th, Behold the Frenchmen who start tomorrow to carry your words to Ononthio from the lower Mississippi. I write him that they are sincere. I beg you, Mascoutins and Kikapous, not to make me tell a falsehood.

"9th, You sent me your calumet; I send you mine. While smoking it think of what I say to you.

"10th, When you arrive here with the Frenchmen, I will speak to the Illinois who will give you back your kinsmen whom they have had since last summer; for they have no others from an earlier time.

"11th, Ononthio will not forget what you have done for the Frenchmen, whom you have refused to deliver up to the Renards. Continue to take good care of them; respect the Black gown. When he is here we will not forget the care you have taken of him, of the chief, and of the Frenchmen."

Our couriers returned on the seventh day from their departure and brought me letters from Monsieur Desliettes, from some officers, and from the Reverend Jesuit Fathers, who advised me not to go back to the Kikapous, where things had perhaps taken a different aspect on our behalf since my departure.

The illinoisº had already begun to chant their war-song with all their hearts; two hundred young warriors had already prepared their arrows. But Monsieur Desliettes told them to wait until the spring, because it would be unwise to p114rely upon the Kikapous, who had so often failed to keep their word.

I was therefore given only two illinoisº chiefs and eight young men. I was loaded with tobacco and other presents for the Kikapous. We started rather late, and slept at a spot five or six leagues from the village.

At night two couriers brought me a letter from Reverend Father D'Outrelo, a jesuit, who begged me to wait for him as he wished to consult with me on the means to be adopted for saving Father Guignas. I therefore returned to the village to the great satisfaction of the Illinois. I remained there eleven days; but, as our two Kikapous were becoming impatient, I left without waiting for the Reverend Jesuit Father, who had lost his way and arrived in a pitiful condition at the village a few hours after my departure. He sent three couriers after me, who unfortunately took a different road from ours, and caught up with us only when we were 20 leagues from the village. I gave them a letter for the Reverend Father in which I begged him to excuse me if I did not return to the Péoaria, as I was suffering from a pain in one of my thighs; and I told him that the proper way to save Father Guignas and us was to induce the Illinois to come to the Kikapous and conclude a lasting peace. I continued my journey, and we encountered thirty Kikapous who were coming to meet us, and who told me that all was well. As soon as the news of our approach reached the village, joy spread everywhere, and the French who no longer hoped for my return, took courage once more. The chiefs came to meet us and were very attentive to our Illinois, although he was alone, as the nine others had postponed their journey to another time.

On the morrow I gathered the chiefs together and announced to them the words of Monsieur Desliettes and of the Illinois. They seemed to me well pleased. I afterwards p115by means of presents induced two war-chiefs to make up two bands of 25 men. The first party, commanded by a chief whose son had been killed not long before, was to go to the winter camping place of the Renards; but he returned at the end of eight days without having done anything.

The other band was commanded by the brother of Boeuf noir (Black Bull),b who said to him: "Do not return without bringing us some Renards, dead or alive." After marching some days, this band encountered 30 Renards, who asked them who they were and whither they were going.

"We are Kikapous," they answered, "and our elders have sent us to get news of you." The Renards, suspecting nothing, replied: "You are welcome; we will take you to our cabins which are not far from here." The Kikapous stopped first at the dwelling of Pémoussa25 who had married a Kikapou woman. His cabin was about a quarter of a league from the 30 others and there were about 25 persons in it, namely: eight men and several women and children. In order to kill them all, our warriors placed themselves at night on each side of every Renard capable of defending himself; and their design would infallibly have succeeded if, unfortunately, some other Renards had not come in during the night, which upset all their plans.

The chiefs of the 30 cabins assembled on the following day and said to the Kikapous: "What do your countrymen think of the murder of your people?" "They think," replied our warriors, "that it was a misunderstanding or, at the most, the crime of some individuals; they are careful not to hold the entire Renard nation responsible for that accident." "You are right," answered the Renards, "for the murderer, the son of Renard noir (Black Fox) has fled to escape death with which he was threatened. We are going p116to die in our village; we have not found an asylum anywhere; the Ayous26 and the Scioux have refused to give us a refuge. We have three bands of warriors in the field; one amongst the Saulteux, the two others amongst the Folle-avoines, while a fourth will soon go amongst the Illinois. What has become of your Frenchmen?" "They went away on the ice," replied our people, "to go amongst the Illinois." "So much the better," said the chiefs; "nothing remains to be done except to cover your dead. We will send two chiefs to you." Pémoussa and Chichippa, the great war-chief, offered to go and they were entrusted with a calumet and some other presents.

During the second day's march, our two chiefs said to one another: "What! we came to avenge our dead and these Renards who follow us are coming to speak of peace! We must give them food at our first stopping place and fire two gunshots at them." This plan was carried out in all its details and their scalps were taken to the village.

The news of this deed gave rise to many mutterings, cries, and lamentations; because Pémoussa, who had married a Kikapou woman, had a great many relatives or kindred amongst that nation. This led the thirty Illinois who had just arrived to fear that they would be killed to avenge the death of Pémoussa. And yet they had come with presents; they had brought back a Kikapou woman and two children whom they had captured. They left at night and were escorted back; both sides parted good friends and the Kikapous were invited to go, in the Spring, to the Illinois who were well disposed to receive them.

The warriors who had killed Pémoussa re-entered the village on the following day, but very quietly and without ceremony to avoid reviving the sorrow of Pémoussa's relatives.

p117 On March 1 (1729), the ice disappeared and the Mississippi became navigable to the great satisfaction of all the French who awaited only that moment to withdraw. The Kikapous invited the Father and myself to a great assembly: "Here," said they, "are two roads: one leading to Montreal and the other to the Illinois. Tell us which one we should choose." "You must," said I, "go to the Illinois and conclude a lasting peace with them, so that the Illinois may no longer doubt your sincerity; you must offer them the scalps of the Renards." Our chiefs approved my idea and I was delighted to have contributed towards obtaining so desirable a peace, for the French and Illinois had no more dangerous foes than the Kikapous and the Mascoutins, who killed their people up to the very doors of their village.

Reverend Father Guignas left some days before I did, accompanied by two mascoutinº chiefs; and he promised to await me on the road. I started on March 7, with two French canoes and seven Kikapou pirogues. On the twelfth we reached the river of the Illinois; and three days afterwards, 80 Illinois pirogues with their families and provisions advanced to meet us. Two young Illinois, adorned with many ornaments, came with their calumets lighted to make the Kikapou chiefs smoke. We were regaled with turkeys and buffalo tongues. A thousand attentions were lavished upon the Kikapous as soon as they had presented the scalps of the Renards. By this unequivocal sign it was understood that the Kikapous really wished for the peace so greatly desired by the Illinois.

I left on the fifteenth, and journeyed 40 leagues to reach the French fort27 where Monsieur Desliettes and the officers received me courteously. Reverend Father Guignas had arrived seven days before with the two mascoutin chiefs, to p118whom Monsieur Desliettes gave presents to induce them to maintain peace and union.

A detachment of 20 Frenchmen was told off under an officer to escort the Kikapous and Mascoutins to their village.

It is estimated that there are about 200 men amongst the Kikapous and 600 men in the three Illinoisº villages. There are two French settlements of very considerable size, containing nearly 200 French some of whom are married to Illinois women and others to French women from New Orleans. They sell flour and pork on the sea coast, and bring back goods from there.

Eight days after my arrival, I started for Canada by way of the Ouabache;28 but, after proceeding 20 leagues always against the current which is very rapid, the hands of our men became so badly blistered that we were compelled to return to Kaskaskias. In going down we went over in one day the distance that it had taken us eight days to pass over while ascending. Reverend Father Boulanger, the missionary among the Mixik-Illinois, told me that ten of his people were going by land to the Oüyas [Ouiatonons]. I decided to follow them and promised to pay them well if they took good care of me.

I started from the Illinois country on May 2, with a young Kikapou, a nephew of the great chief, and a little slave for Monsieur the governor-general of Canada.

The distance from the Illinois to the Pêanguichias is about 120 leagues and 15 leagues from the Pêanguichias to the Oüyas; 60 leagues from the Oüyas to the Miamis; 120 leagues from the Miamis to Detroit; and 300 leagues from Detroit to Montreal; making 615 leagues in all.


The Author's Notes:

1 The French name for the Fox or Musquakie Indians, a remnant of whom now live in Tama County, Iowa, and in Oklahoma.

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2 Falls of St. Anthony at the present city of Minneapolis.

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3 Jean Baptiste Boucher de Montbrun and François Boucher de Montbrun were brothers. They seem to have been the leaders in the trading enterprise which they were now leaving.

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4 The party proposed to descend the Mississippi to the Illinois River, and from thence overland to the Ohio River, and on to Detroit and Montreal.

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5 The river of the Ayous Indians (so called perhaps because the Ioways then dwelt upon its banks) is believed to be the Wapsipinicon river in Iowa. The Rock River in Illinois was also called the Kickapoo because the Kickapoos had a large village upon its banks.

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6 The editor of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin makes the following statement:

"There seems to be no basis for the identification of this 'little river,' other than that it was known as 'Rivière aux Boeufs' and was three days below Rock River. Possibly it was the present Skunk River in Iowa, just above the Des Moines. In the official report of the expedition of 1734, the Fox fort on the Wapsipinicon River is said to be not far from where De Boucherville and Guignas were captured. Ferland, Cours d'Histoire du Canada (Quebec, 1865), II p141, identifies this 'Rivière aux Boeufs' with Buffalo Creek, Jones County, Iowa. This could not have been the spot where the French were arrested, since Buffalo Creek does not reach the Mississippi River."

Readers of Iowa history may feel sure that all opinions as well as the internal evidence of the document itself favor the Iowa shore of the Mississippi as the place where the incidents of the story were enacted. The present writer is inclined to believe that if the "little river" was also called Rivière aux Boeufs, it was probably the Iowa River which went by the name of Bison or Buffalo River. See Lea's Notes on Wisconsin Territory for the first map made of the Iowa country after it was opened to settlement; also p28.

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7 The Kickapoos and the Mascoutins had been allies of the Fox Indians for some time and were now being hunted by the French. Indeed, they had forsaken their village upon the Rock River and had placed the Mississippi between themselves and the French because they saw the Foxes almost exterminated and feared a like fate for themselves. The former tribe numbered about two hundred persons and the latter about one hundred and fifty. In 1736 the numbers of their warriors were estimated at 80 and 60, respectively. See New York Colonial Documents, Vol. IX, p1055.

The Mascoutins have left their name upon the map of Iowa as "Muscatine".

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8 The Indian's way of showing honor.

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9 "This was the Indian appellation for the Jesuit missionaries, who wore their black cassocks into the wilderness."

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10 "The Indian title for the governor of Canada, later extended to all governors, and also to the King. This savage had evidently been down to Montreal on one of the yearly expeditions."

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11 A brasse of tobacco was equal to a little over five feet of tobacco "twisted into a sort of rope".

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12 When Joliet and Marquette visited the Illinois Indians upon the Iowa River in 1673, they were presented with a young slave, that is, a captive taken in war with some other tribe.

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13 The Frenchmen were therefore detained as hostages to ensure the safety of the Kickapoos.

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14 The calumet or pipe of peace was used by all Indian tribes and was made from the red pipestone found only in southwestern Minnesota, a region regarded by all Indians as sacred ground. A refusal to smoke the pipe was always interpreted as a declaration of war.

Porcelain is "the Canadian term for the wampum belts, which were used as a pledge of an alliance."

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15 The Indian custom of "appeasing the wrath of the relatives of a murdered man by presents. Compare the 'wergeld' of the early Germans."

For a "memorandum of the Goods which Monsieur de Boucherville Was obliged to give for the King's Service from the time of his detention Amongst the Quikapoux on October 12, 1728, Until his return to Detroit in the month of June of The year 1729", estimated to be worth 1431 livres wholesale, see Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XVII, pp83‑86.

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16 Two pages are missing here from the original manuscript.

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17 "The hiatus apparently contained an account of the escape of the brothers Montbrun, who were cousins of de Boucherville; and of the subsequent fear of the Kickapoo." Father Guignas afterward wrote that the escape of the brothers and another Frenchman "prevented the Maskoutins and Quicapous from delivering the French of whom they were masters into the hands of the Renards, and led them to give them kind treatment, in a manner which Reverend father Guignossº and the French who remained with him did not in the least expect." — Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XVII, p60.

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18 This island in the river must have been small or the Kickapoos could not have prevented the Foxes from landing. There are many small islands at the mouths of the rivers of eastern Iowa, as also in the Mississippi.

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19 The Puants were Winnebagoes.

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20 This seems to prove beyond a doubt that the captives were being held on the Iowa side of the Mississippi.

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21 After this murder the Kickapoos sent a request to the Sioux and the "Ayowetz" (Ioways) not to give the Foxes shelter in their territory in what is now southern Minnesota and northern Iowa. — See Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XVII, pp60, 62.

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22 To indicate the death of someone.

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23 The Kickapoos and the Illinois had been at war since 1718. The latter once roamed over eastern Iowa, but were gradually reduced in numbers owing to Fox ravages. Their permanent villages stood upon the banks of the Illinois River. To them de Boucherville made a journey overland on foot.

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24 This was the village of Kaskaskia, Illinois, founded in 1700.

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25 Pémoussa was the Fox chief who led his tribe in the first great battle with the French and their allies at Detroit in 1712.

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26 The Ioways numbered only eighty warriors in 1736 and dwelt south of the Minnesota River on friendly terms with the much more numerous Sioux tribes.

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27 Kaskaskia, in southern Illinois, where the French now had two small settlements.

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28 The Ohio River.


Thayer's Notes:

a The text as printed in the Iowa journal spells the Father's name both Guignas and Guignos; the likelier spelling is Guignas.

The text presents several other less important inconsistencies of spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Since I haven't seen the original French account nor the translation as printed in the Wisconsin Historical Collections, I've let them stand, marking only the more surprising ones.

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b Properly, boeuf is a steer, not a bull.


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