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Document Number: AJ-046
Author: La Potherie, Claude Charles Le Roy de, 1668-1738
Title: Adventures of Nicolas Perrot, 1665-1670
Source: Kellogg, Louise P. (editor). Early Narratives of the Northwest, 1634-1699. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1917). Pages 69-92.
Pages/Illustrations: 26 / 0
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-046/

Author Note

Though his exact arrival is unknown, Nicolas Perrot (1644-1718) is believed to have come to Canada after the reestablishment of the French fur trade in 1665. Perrot lived among various Indian tribes for thirty-five years, primarily in the area of present-day Green Bay, Wisconsin. As a French government agent beginning in 1683 and commandant for Green Bay in 1685, Perrot built numerous posts on the upper Mississippi River, claiming possession of the region and the Sioux country for France, and serving as an effective mediator in trade negotiations between the French and Indians.

Charles Claude La Potherie (1668-1738) was a West Indian Creole with connections to the French Court. Potherie arrived in Canada in1696 and participated in the great treaty of 1701 at Montreal that made peace among the warring Iroquois and the Algonquian tribes. Potherie met Perrot during those treaty negotiations and the two collaborated on the text presented here. Potherie used Perrot’s original journals for this text. Historians believe that the second and third volumes of LaPothene’s history are almost wholly reproductions of the original journals. In them, Perrot recounts his first years in Wisconsin with detailed descriptions of the various Indian tribes and the changes suffered by these peoples upon white incursion. Perrot spent his last years writing his memoirs in Becancour, where he died in 1718.

Perrot’s Expeditions, 1665-1670

After resecuring their claims in Canada, French officials sought to establish safe and profitable trade routes for travelers in the upper Mississippi through the establishment of trade outposts. This extract discusses the status of relations among the Wisconsin tribes and the state of war that Perrot moderated as the commandant at Green Bay. His encounters with the Menominee, Potawotamie, Ho-Chunk (Winnebago), and Mascoutin are discussed. Perrot used trade goods and firearms to demonstrate the superiority of the French over the Indians. Traveling through Wisconsin and the west during 1665-1671, his efforts culminated in the Pageant of 1671 at Sault Ste. Marie that established trade agreements among the tribes and the French. Once installed in Green Bay, Perrot traveled among the different tribes living in Wisconsin, visiting the Mascoutin at Berlin on the Fox River and sharing a pipe and a feast with them. Perrot also visited the island of Michilimackinak and met with the Potawotamies on the eve of an attack by the Iroquois.

Document Note

Perrot’s original journals were lost, though they were used extensively by early Canadian historians. Charles La Potherie received the journals from Perrot at the peace treaty of 1701 between France, England, and the Iroquois. La Potherie used the journals to write his history of New France, which was first published in four volumes in Paris in 1716, under the title Histoire de l’Amerique Septentrionale. The popularity of the volumes led to subsequent editions in 1722 and 1753.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

The Mississippi Valley Archeology Center at the University of Wisconsin La Crosse provides information about archeological excavations on the site of the fort Perrot established on the Mississippi River at Lake Pepin, Wisconsin:
http://www.uwlax.edu/mvac/SpecificSites/trempealeau/ PerrotsPost.htm

The University of Iowa website offers a brief description of French exploration in Iowa at
http://www.uiowa.edu/~osa/learn/historic/hisper.htm
and on Perrot’s role in lead mining at:
http://www.uiowa.edu/~osa/learn/historic/hisper.htm

The Catholic Encyclopedia offers a description of the role played by Perrot and other French explorers in the history of Minnesota at:
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10326c.htm

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