Histories: Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:
"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":
Sub-chapter - The Red Men and the Fur Trade
The Coming of the White Man
-As transcribed from pages 8 - 9
For one hundred and forty years after the discovery of America by Columbus, Wisconsin's forests slept in quiet, unvexed by the presence of any but their red children. Then suddenly out of the east, and skirting the coasts of Green Bay in a bark canoe driven by strange red men, the first white man came, and "women and children fled at the sight of a man who carried thunder in both hands" -- for thus they called the two pistols that he held. "He wore a grand robe of China damask, all strewn with flowers and birds of many colors." "They meet him; they escort him, and carry all his baggage." They call him the Manitouriniou, the wonderful or godlike man. From all quarters they haste to see him until four or five thousand are assembled. "Each of the chief men made a feast for him, and at one of these banquets they served at least six score Beavers." 4 Then the mysterious stranger made a peace with them, under such forms and ceremonies as were customary in intertribal negotiations, and vanished into the east whence he had come.
To the whites who had crossed the ocean to begin a small colony on the banks of the St. Lawrence, this first white stranger to visit Wisconsin was known as Jean Nicolet. He had come to the New World with the express purpose of dealing with the red men, learning their languages and customs, and opening a way into their country for trade and missions. Sent by Champlain, the founder of New France, to dwell among the forest inhabitants, Nicolet spent several years among the Algonquin Indians of the upper Ottawa River; then he dwelt among the Huron in the peninsula between Lake Erie and Georgian Bay. There he heard of a far western tribe known as the "people of salt water," whom Nicolet supposed must dwell on the borders of the Western Sea and be akin to the tribes of Tartary. Hence the damask robe, and the hope of a new route to Cathay. Instead of Oriental potentates Nicolet found merely a new tribe of Indians whose name -- the Winnebago -- meant equally "people of the salt water" or "people of bad-smelling springs," and who were known henceforth to the French as the Puants or Stinkards.
After Nicolet's advent to Wisconsin in 1634, no more of these mysterious white strangers disturbed the dwellers on Lake Michigan and Green Bay for over twenty years. Nevertheless in these far regions great changes were taking place, due to the widespread disturbances in Indian geography caused by the coming of the white man. Upon the peninsula of Ontario then occupied by the Huron tribesmen, the Jesuit missionaries some years before the voyage of Nicolet founded the largest and most successful of their missions. Throughout all the Huron villages they spread, and impelled by a desire to evangelize distant Indians, two of the fathers had in 1641 accompanied some of their neophytes to the shores of Lake Superior, and named the strait where the waters leap down from this mighty basin, the Sault de Ste. Marie.
But the Huron were not long left to develop their new religion in peace. Suddenly from central New York appeared large bands of their hereditary enemies, the Iroquois; by one blow after another the Huron missions were destroyed, some of the Jesuits fell martyrs to their cause, others escaping sought refuge with the remnants of their mission children under the cliffs of Quebec. The remainder of the Huron fled westward, their alarm was communicated to the Algonquian peoples living beyond them, and for fear of the Iroquois whole tribes left their ancestral homes for shelter in the farther forests. It happened that shortly before this disturbance the Winnebago of southern and central Wisconsin had suffered a severe defeat at the hands of the Illinois tribes living to the south, wherein they were so reduced in numbers that but a small fragment of the former tribe was left in its Wisconsin home. Into this sparsely-settled land the fugitives from Ontario and Michigan poured both by southern and northern routes. They hid from the pursuing Iroquois in the swamps and marshes of our State, and the Winnebago being in no condition to resist, made alliances with the intruding tribes, and yielded to them new homes on the lakes and streams where their ancestors had dwelt. Thus came the Sauk and Foxes, the Miami, Mascouten and Kickapoo. Thus, pressed down from the north and the islands of Lake Michigan, came the Menominee and Potawatomi to mingle with the Winnebago around Green Bay; while the Huron and Ottawa, impelled by a more dreadful fear, sought refuge on the southern shores of Lake Superior and about the headwaters of Black River. Thus in the middle of the seventeenth century Wisconsin became crowded with Indian villages, and was sustaining a larger number of red inhabitants than at any other time throughout her history. This aggregation of tribesmen conditioned her discovery and exploration, and made her a region tempting both to the French fur trader and to the French missionary of the cross.
Resources for the above information:
4 - Id., XVI, 1 - 3.
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