Explorations

From the Winona County section of the 1884 book

The Minominnees, Pottawattamies and the Foxes occupied the water-courses tributary to Green Bay, while the Winnebagoes and the kindred tribes of Iowas, Missouris, Osages, Kansas, Quapaws, Ottoes, Ponkas, and Mandans, possessed the country south and west, bordering upon the territory of the Sauks, the Illanois [sic] and the Sioux. This territory seems to have been visited by the French as early as 1634, and in 1660 Father Rene Menard went on a mission to Lake Superior, where the furs of that region and of Green Bay had already begun to attract adventurous Frenchmen.

Poor zealous Menard, the first missionary, never returned to civilization; he was lost in the wilds of a Black river forest, separated in a swamp from his faithful follower and assistant Guerin, and all that was ever known of his fate was inferred from the agony of his companion and the priestly robe and prayer-book of the aged prelate found years afterward in a Da-ko-ta lodge.

In 1665, Father Claude Allouez, with but six French voyageurs, but with a large number of savages, embarked from Montreal for Lake Superior, where he established himself for a time at a place called by the French La Pointe, because of its jutting out into the beautiful bay of Bayfield. Here at once was erected the mission of the Holy Spirit, and the good offices of the priest tendered to the untutored and savage tribes of that vast wilderness. The peaceful mission of Allouez was soon known among the warring tribes, and Sauks and Foxes, Illani and other distant tribes, sent messengers of peace or curiosity to the "Black Gown," and he was admitted to their counsels. In turn, "their tales of the noble river on which they dwelt," and which flowed to the south, "interested Allouez, and he became desirous of exploring the territory of his proselytes." Then, too, at the very extremity of the lake, the missionary met the wild and impassioned Sioux, who dwelt to the west of Lake Superior, in a land of prairie, with wild rice for food, and skins of beasts instead of bark for roofs to their cabins, on the bank of the Great river, of which Allouez reported the name to be Mississippi. To Father Allouez belongs the honor of having first given this name to the world. In speaking of the Da-ko-tahs, he says "These people are, above all others, savage and warlike. * * * [sic] They speak a language entirely unknown to us, and the savages about here do not understand them".

In 1669, the zealous Marquette succeeded to the mission established by Allouez, and his writings give a somewhat florid account of Sioux character. He says: "The Nadawessi (the Chippewa name of the Sioux), are the Iroquois of this country beyond La Pointe, but less faithless, and never attack until attacked. Their language is entirely different from the Huron and Algonquin; they have many villages, but are widely scattered; they have very extraordinary customs. * * * All the lake tribes make war upon them, but with small success. They have false oats (wild rice), use little canoes, and keep their word strictly.

At that time the Dah-ko-tahs [sic] used knives, spears and arrowheads made of stone. About that time, one band of Dah-ko-tahs were allied to a band of Chippewas by intermarriage and commercial relations, and for a time were living in friendly relations with a band of Hurons, who had fled from the Iroquois of New York. Hostilities breaking out between these people and the Sioux, they joined the people of their tribe at La Pointe.

To Nicholas Perrot is due the honor of having first established a trading post on the Mississippi below Lake Pepin, and according to Neil's History of Minnesota, Perrot inspired the enterprise of La Salle, who sent Louis Hennepin to explore the Mississippi. Hennepin was first to explore the river above the mouth of the Wisconsin, the first to name and describe the falls of St. Anthony, the first to present an engraving of the Falls of Niagara, and it may be added, the first to translate the Winnebago name of Trempealeau Mountain into French. the Winnebagoes call that particular mountain Hay-me-ah-chaw, which is well rendered in French as the Soaking Mountain, as it stands isolated from its fellow peaks entirely surrounded by water.

After reaching the Illinois river, La Salle, in 1680, sent Hennepin on his voyage of discovery, with but two voyageur assistants. After reaching the mouth of the Illinois river he commenced the hazardous ascent of the "Great river," traversed before only by Joliette and Marquette, when they descended from the Wisconsin. Hennepin encountered war-parties of Dah-ko-tahs, and was taken a prisoner by them up the Mississippi to St. Paul, to St. Anthony's Falls, and to Mille Lac. While in the land of the Sioux he met Du Luth, who had come across from Lake Superior.

Du Luth obtained the release of Hennepin, and gave him much information of value. Du Luth seems to have been the real discoverer of Minnesota.

Owing to the war inaugurated against the English by Denonville, in 1687, most of the French left the Mississippi, and concentrated for defense under Du Luth at Green Bay.

In 1688, Perrot returned to his trading-post below Lake Pepin, and the year following, by proclamation, claimed the country for France. In the year 1965, Le Seur built the second post established in Minnesota, on an island not far from Red Wing.

During this year Le Seur took with him to Canada the first Dah-ko-tah known to have visited that country. The Indian's name was Tee-os-kah-tay. He unfortunately sickened and died in Montreal.

Le Seur hoped to open the mines known to be on the Mississippi, and went to France for a license. The license to work them was obtained, but Le Seur was captured by the English and taken to England, but was finally released. After overcoming great and renewed opposition, and making one more trip to France, he, in 1700, commenced his search for copper, which was said to be abundant on the upper Mississippi.

Some time in August of this year he entered Fever or Galena river, whose banks were known to the Indians to contain lead, but Le Seur was the first to mention the existence of those lead mines. After many incidents of interest, Le Seur reached the Blue Earth river, and established himself in a fort about one mile below the mineral deposits, from which the Dah-ko-tahs obtained their paint for personal adornment. In 1701 Le Seur took to the French post, on the Gulf of Mexico a large quantity of this mineral, and soon thereafter sailed for France. At this time, according to Le Seur's journal, there were seven villages of the Sioux on the east side of the Mississippi, and nine on the west.

The Wah-pa-sha band was anciently known as the Ona-pe-ton or falling leaf band, and their village of Ke-ox-ah was upon the prairie now occupied by the city of Winona. Keoxa is difficult of translation, but it may be rendered as "The Homestead," because in the springtime there was here a family reunion to honor the dead and invoke their blessings upon the band.

The site of Winona was known to the French as La Prairie Aux-Ailes (pronounced O'Zell) or the Wing's prairie, presumably because of its having been occupied by members of Red Wing's band. The Americans called it Wah-pa-sha's prairie.

Under the impression that it drew from Canada its most enterprising colonists, the French government for some years discouraged French settlements among the Indians west of Mackinaw; but very soon the policy of the English in estranging the Foxes and other tribes from the French, compelled a renewal of the licenses that had been canceled by the French authorities.

The Foxes had made an unsuccessful attempt upon the French fort at Detroit (known as Wah-way-oo-tay-nong, or the Wy-an-dotte fort), and smarting under defeat they made an alliance with their old enemies he Dah-ko-tahs. This alliance and the enmity of the Foxes made it unsafe for the French to visit the Mississippi by way of Fox and Wisconsin rivers, and for some years the Sauks and Foxes scalped the French traders, and waged war against their Indian allies. The Foxes were finally overcome by the French in 1714, and, capitulating, they gave six hostages as security for a peaceful treaty to be agreed upon in Montreal. Pemoussa, their greatest warrior, and others sent as hostages, died there of smallpox. One who had recovered with the loss of an eye was sent to Mackanaw [sic] to treat, but he escaped and again stirred up the Indians to revolt.

The Chick-a-saws in the south and Dah-ko-tahs in the north made the country exceedingly dangerous to the French. They now became assured that the English were undermining their influence with the Indians, for in a dispatch, written about 1726 it is stated that the English "entertain constantly the idea of becoming masters of North America." Licenses to traders were once more abundantly issued, and the prohibition against the sale of liquors that had been established by the influence of the pious missionaries was removed. In 1718 Capt. St. Pierre was sent with a small force to reoccupy La Pointe, now Bayfield. The Indians there and at Kee-wee-naw had threatened war against the Foxes. During this year peace was established at Green Bay with the Sauks and Foxes and Winnebagoes, who had taken part against the French. An endeavor was now made to detach the Dah-ko-tahs from friendly alliances with the Foxes, and to secure a treaty of peace between the Chippewas and Dah-ko-tahs, with a promise of renewed trade with them if they remained at peace. To accomplish this purpose, two Frenchmen were sent to the Dah-ko-tahs, but it would appear were not entirely successful, and wintered among the Menominee and Winnebago Indians on Black river. In order to build a strategic point it was resolved by the French to build a fort in the Sioux country. On June 16, 1727, the expedition left Montreal, accompanied by missionaries and traders, and on September 17 of the same year reached their destination on Lake Pepin. A stockade was soon built on the north side near Maiden Rock that inclosed buildings for troops, missionaries and traders. The fort was named "Beauharnois," in honor of the governor of Canada, and the mission named "St. Michael the Archangel." The commander of this fort was De la Perriere Boucher, noted for his savage brutality and bigotry. This fort was overflowed in 1728 and its site abandoned. According to Sioux tradition, the prairie on which Winona is now situated was also overflowed at that time. During this year a large force of French and Indians left Canada with the intention of destroying the Sauks and Foxes. On August 17 they arrived at the mouth of Fox river. Before the dawn of day an attempt was made to surprise the Sauk village, but they escaped, leaving only four of their people to reward the French for their midnight vigils. A few days later the French ascended the rapid stream to a Winnebago village, but it also was deserted; still pursuing their search, on the twenty-fifth they came to a large Fox village, but that too was abandoned. Orders were now given to advance the command to the grand portage of the Wisconsin river; but this move was as fruitless as those which had preceded it, and the expedition returned to Green Bay without results. The Foxes retired to Iowa, and, establishing still closer relations with the Iowas and Sioux, were allotted hunting-grounds to which have been attached some of their names. The Kick-ah-poos and Masco-tens were allies of the Foxes and their congeners, the Sauks, and took part with them against the French.

In 1736 St. Pierre was in command at Lake Pepin and regarded the Sioux as friendly, but they still remained objects of suspicion to the French Canadian government, as some of them had attacked an expedition under Veranderie, undertaken at that early period to open a route to the Pacific.

In 1741 the Foxes killed some Frenchmen in the territory of the Illinois, and this so aroused the authorities in Canada that they determined, if possible, to overthrow and completely subdue the Foxes. The officer selected for this purpose was the Sieur Moran or Marin, who had once been in command at Fort St. Nicholas near Prairie du Chien. With the cunning of a savage, Marin placed his men in canoes under cover, as if they were merchandise, and when ordered by the Foxes opposite or near the Butte des Morts to land and pay the usual tribute exacted from all traders passing their village, he opened fire upon the assembled multitude and killed indiscriminately men, women and children. Marin had anticipated the Foxes' consternation and flight, and before reaching the village had sent a detachment of his force to cut them off. There was great slaughter and but a remnant of the village escaped. These people were again surprised by Marin and his forces on snowshoes in their winter encampment on the Wisconsin, and were utterly destroyed.

The Dah-ko-tahs had during this period been at war with the Chippewas, but in 1746 were induced by the French to make peace. Many of the French voyageurs, and in some few instances French officers even, had taken wives, after the Indian method of marriage, from among the Dah-ko-tahs and other tribes, and by this means their influence was still great among their Indian followers. Yet, English influence had commenced its work, and soon after this period French power seems to have begun to wane. The French, however, still continued to make a struggle for existence, if not supremacy.

The Chippewas of Lake Superior showed a disposition to aid the English, and committed a robbery at the Sault St. Marie; "even the commandant at Mackanaw was exposed to insolence." St. Pierre was sent to the scene of disorder. His judgement and courage was undoubted. St. Pierre seized three murderers and advised that no French traders should come among the Chippewas. While the Indians, secured by the boldness of St. Pierre, were on their way to Quebec under a guard of eight French soldiers, by great cunning and daring they managed to kill or drown their guard, and though manacled at the time, they escaped, severing their irons with an axe. "Thus was lost in a great measure the fruit of Sieur St. Pierre's good management," as wrote Galassoniere in 1749.

Affairs continued in a disturbed state, and Canada finally became involved in the war with New York and the New England colonies. In the West, affairs were for some time in doubt, but the influence of the Sieur Marin became most powerful, and in 1753 he was able to restore tranquility between the French, and Indian chiefs assembled at Green Bay.


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