Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans - Edward Eggleston

Marquette in Iowa

The first white men to go into the middle of our country were Frenchmen. The French had settled in Canada. They sent missionaries to preach to the Indians in the West. They also sent traders to buy furs from the Indians.

The Frenchmen heard the Indians talk about a great river in the West. But no Frenchman had ever gone far enough to see the Mississippi.

Marquette was a priest. Joliet was a trader. These two men were sent to find the great river that the Indians talked about.

They traveled in two birch canoes. They took five men to paddle the canoes. They took some smoked meat to eat on the way. They also took some Indian corn. They had trinkets to trade to the Indians. Hatchets, and beads, and bits of cloth were the money they used to pay the Indians for what they wanted.

The friendly Indians in Wisconsin tried to persuade them not to go. They told them that the Indians on the great river would kill them.

The friendly Indians also told them that there was a demon in one part of the river. They said that this demon roared so loud that he could be heard a long way off. They said that the demon would draw the travelers down into the water. Then they told about great monsters that ate up men and their canoes.

But Marquette and the men with him thought they would risk the journey. They would not turn back for fear of the demon or the monsters.

The two little canoes went down the Wisconsin River. After some days they came to the Mississippi. More than a hundred years before, the Spaniards had seen the lower part of this river. But no white man had ever seen this part of the great river. Marquette did not know that any white man had ever seen any part of the Mississippi.

The two little canoes now turned their bows down the river. Sometimes they saw great herds of buffaloes. Some of these came to the bank of the river to look at the men in the canoes. They had long, shaggy manes, which hung down over their eyes.

For two weeks the travelers paddled down the river. In all this time they did not see any Indians. After they had gone hundreds of miles in this way, they came to a place where they saw tracks in the mud. It was in what is now the State of Iowa.

Marquette and Joliet left the men in their canoes, and followed the tracks. After walking two hours, they came to an Indian village. The Frenchmen came near enough to hear the Indians talking. The Indians did not see them.

Joliet and Marquette did not know whether the Indians would kill them or not. They said a short prayer. Then they stood out in full view, and gave a loud shout.

The Indians came out of their tents like bees. They stared at the strangers. Then four Indians came toward them. These Indians carried a peace pipe. They held this up toward the sun. This meant that they were friendly.

The Indians now offered the peace pipe to the Frenchmen. The Frenchmen took it, and smoked with the Indians. This was the Indian way of saying, "We are friends."

Marquette and Joliet

Marquette and Joliet

Marquette asked the Indians what tribe they belonged to. They told him that they were of the tribe called the Illinois.

They took Joliet and Marquette into their village. They came to the door of a large wig-wam. A chief stood in the door. He shaded his eyes with both hands, as if the sun were shining in his face. Then he made a little speech.

He said, "Frenchmen, how bright the sun shines when you come to see us! We are all waiting for you. You shall now come into our houses in peace."

The Illinois Indians made a feast for their new friends. First they had mush of corn meal, with fat meat in it. One of the Indians fed the Frenchmen as though they were babies. He put mush into their mouths with a large spoon.

Then came some fish. The Indian that fed the visitors picked out the bones with his fingers. Then he put the pieces of fish into their mouths. After this they had some roasted dog. The Frenchmen did not like this. Last, they were fed with buffalo meat.

The next morning six hundred Indians went to the canoes to tell the Frenchmen good-by. They gave Marquette a young Indian slave. And they gave him a peace pipe to carry with him.