Jacques Marquette and Joliet Expedition

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Jacques Marquette and Joliet Expedition

By | April 2012
Page 1 of 2
In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit missionary, and Louis Joliet, a fur trader, undertook an expedition to explore the unsettled territory in North America from the Great Lakes region to the Gulf of Mexico for the colonial power of France. Leaving with several men in two bark canoes, Marquette and Joliet entered the Mississippi River and arrived in present-day Arkansas in June 1673. They were considered the first Europeans to come into contact with the Indians of east Arkansas since Hernando de Soto’s expedition in the 1540s. The goal given Marquette, Joliet, and their men was to document, for French and Canadian officials, an area that had been largely unknown until the late seventeenth century. Both explorers were from very different backgrounds. Father Jacques Marquette was born in Laon, France, in 1637 to a family steeped in military and civic service. He entered the Society of Jesus and studied at various Jesuit colleges in France before arriving in Canada in 1666. In Canada, Marquette became fluent in many American Indian languages and was given the task of introducing Christianity to the tribes of the Great Lakes region. By the 1670s, he was drawn into a proposition by the French governor, Louis de Baude Frontenac, to go on a voyage of discovery along the Mississippi River. Marquette’s traveling companion, Louis Joliet, was born in Canada in 1645. By trade, he was a wagon maker and explorer who excelled in mathematics and attended Jesuit schools. However, Joliet abandoned his clerical studies to go on an exploration of the Great Lakes region and the Mississippi River with Father Marquette and other Frenchmen as early as 1672. He hoped to make a fortune in the fur trading industry on this expedition. Along the voyage south, Marquette and Joliet talked with local American Indian tribes and made maps of the region. Arriving in Arkansas, they stopped at Kappa, a Quapaw village about twenty miles from the mouth of the Arkansas River. The Quapaw greeted...