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Historic Diaries: Marquette and Joliet

June 7-10, 1673: At the Mascouten Village

Editor's Note:

The cross that Marquette mentions was left from 1670-71, when Fr. Claude Allouez had conducted a mission here. Like many other eastern peoples, the Mascouten had probably fled to Wisconsin partly to escape attacks by the Iroquois. For accounts of the Iroquois wars of the 17th century that had such a profound effect on Wisconsin history, see Turning Points in Wisconsin History. There is also evidence the Mascouten were attracted to the Green Bay area by the presence of French trade goods.

The Mascouten were related to other Central Algonquian nations such as the Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo, and lived in agricultural towns from which they emerged to hunt large game. In 1670 Allouez estimated that this village numbered about 3,000 people; a few years later they were joined by so many other tribes that other missionaries thought it swelled to 20,000. They grew corn and squash and hunted buffalo in the summer, dividing into smaller groups in winter to hunt deer and bear as far afield as Milwaukee.

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Marquette's Journal: "Here we are at the Maskoutens. This word may, in Algonquin, mean "the Fire Nation," which, indeed, is the name given to this tribe. Here is the limit of the discoveries which the French have made, for they have not yet gone any farther.

"This village consists of three nations who have gathered there -- Miamis, Maskoutens, and Kikabous [Kickapoos]. The former are the most civil, the most liberal, and the most shapely. They wear two long locks over their ears, which give them a pleasing appearance. They are regarded as warriors, and rarely undertake expeditions without being successful. They are very docile, and listen quietly to what is said to them; and they appeared so eager to hear Father Allouez when he instructed them [in 1671] that they gave him but little rest, even during the night. The Maskoutens and Kikabous are ruder, and seem peasants in comparison with the others.

"As bark for making cabins is scarce in this country, they use rushes; these serve them for making walls and roofs, but do not afford them much protection against the winds, and still less against the rains when they fall abundantly. The advantage of cabins of this kind is, that they make packages of them, and easily transport them wherever they wish, while. they are hunting.

"When I visited them, I was greatly consoled at seeing a handsome Cross erected in the middle of the village, and adorned with many white skins, red belts, and bows and arrows, which these good people had offered to the great Manitou (this is the name which they give to God). They did this to thank him for having had pity on them during the winter, by giving them an abundance of game when they most dreaded famine.

"I took pleasure in observing the situation of this village. It is beautiful and very pleasing; for, from an eminence upon which it is placed, one beholds on every side prairies, extending farther than the eye can see, interspersed with groves or with lofty trees. The soil is very fertile, and yields much Indian corn. The savages gather quantities of plums and grapes, wherewith much wine could be made if desired."

"No sooner had we arrived than we, Monsieur Jollyet and I, assembled the elders together; and he told them that he was sent by Monsieur our governor to discover new countries, while I was sent by God to illumine them with the light of the holy Gospel. He told them that, moreover, the sovereign Master of our lives wished to be known by all the nations; and that in obeying His will I feared not the death to which I exposed myself in voyages so perilous."

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