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The First Portage

Jolliet and Marquette continued down the west shore of Green Bay to the mouth of the Fox River at the southern end of the Bay.   They paddled four miles upstream to the first rapids where they stopped and visited with Father Claude Jean Allouez at his St. Francis Xavier Mission.  Allouez had traveled extensively in Wisconsin over the previous two years.  He described the route to the headwaters of the Fox River and apparently accompanied them that far.

On June 7th, nearing the headwaters of the Fox River, the explorers reached a large village near today's Berlin, Wisconsin inhabited by three tribes.  Thirty seven year old Jacques finally found himself at the edge of the world known to the French.

HERE we are at 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.

In fact, Nicolet had portaged from the Fox to the Wisconsin more than thirty years before, but neither Jolliet nor Marquette knew that.  Marquette described the differences between the tribes:

"This Village Consists of three Nations who have gathered there Miamis, Maskoutens, and Kikabous. 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 Alloues when he Instructed them 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.”


Next page: Beyond the Known World

Marquette in a canoe