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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Perrot, Nicolas 1644 - 1717

Definition:

explorer, fur trader, b. France. He migrated to New France (Canada) at an early age, and there entered the service of Jesuit missionaries, traveling with the priests, learning Indian languages, and becoming acquainted with wilderness life. He later spent two years in Montreal. In 1667 Perrot and a partner signed a contract for a trading voyage to the Ottawa country, and while on this trip became the first white traders to visit the Algonquin tribes of Wisconsin. Working to break the trade monopoly of the Ottawas over the western tribes, Perrot visited the Potawatomi in 1668, opened direct trade relations, and established himself as an Indian diplomat by settling a dispute between the Potawatomi and the Menominee. He also visited the Outagami, Mascouten, and Miami tribes, and in 1670 returned to Montreal with a valuable cargo of furs. In 1671 he visited Green Bay, and secured Indian delegates for the ceremony of annexation at Sault Ste. Marie by which France acquired the western country. One of the leading figures during the French regime in Wisconsin and the West, Perrot frequently organized Indian allies in campaigns against the Iroquois. In 1685 he was made commandant of the West, and probably in the same year built Fort St. Nicolas at the mouth of the Wisconsin River. He spent the winter of 1685-1686 in a trading post at Mount Trempealeau, and in 1686 built Fort St. Antoine on Lake Pepin where he opened a profitable trade with the Sioux. On May 8, 1689, Perrot took formal possession of the upper Mississippi region for France in a ceremony at Fort St. Antoine. Perrot continued to be a leading fur trader in the area until 1696, when he was financially ruined by a royal ordinance revoking all licenses in the trade. Returning to Canada deeply in debt, he devoted his later years to writing his experiences, but only one memoir has survived (published in Paris in 1867). One of the most capable French leaders in the western area, Perrot's influence over the western tribes helped greatly to check the power of the Iroquois against the French. Perrot State Park, at the site of his Mount Trempealeau post, is named in his honor. Dict. Amer. Biog.; L. P. Kellogg, French Regime in Wis. . . . (Madison, 1925); Proc. State Hist. Soc. Wis., 1915 (1916); WPA MS.

The Wisconsin Historical Society has manuscripts related to this topic. See the catalog description of the Nicolas Perrot Chronology for details.

View Perrot's account of 1690-1691 from La Potherie's book at Wisconsin Historical Collections.

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin biography]
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