Thursday, June 13, 2013

French Exploration Accounts of the Interior United States: Great Plains and Great Lakes Regions

The Native American Nations Map post has caused a bit of a comment flame war as the cartographer, Aaron Carpella, believes that one of the reasons I am criticizing the map's historical inaccuracy is my racial profile.  He also denies historical records because they are White histories and instead picks certain tribe legends over others to mark his map.

The debate between myself and Carpella has given me the opportunity to re-read some excellent first person accounts of American Indians along the Great Lakes and in the Great Plains.  These accounts show the richness of American Indian culture, politics, and international relations between themselves and Europeans.

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents is a collection of detailed reports from 1610 to 1791 by French Jesuits.  These were missionary priests who spent years of their lives living with the Indians.  Some had great successes converting Indians to Christianity while others failed (especially with the Sioux).  The area covered by the reports covers the Great Lakes region from New York to Minnesota and into the Canadian Great Lakes region as well.

Journal of the Expedition of the Chevalier de La Vérendrye and One of His Brothers to Reach the Western Sea, Addressed to M. the Marquis de Beauharnois, 1742-43 documents a journey from present-day Canda through the present-day Dakotas in search of a quick route to the Pacific Ocean.  Eventually the La Verendrye brothers saw mountains (whether they were the Black Hills or Rocky Mountains is still up to debate) and turned back knowing that America continued well beyond a length they were ready to travel.  Reading the journal one feels the brothers feeling they are truly in an unknown land.  They frequently mention the presence of Indians on the Plains.

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