Iowa History Daily: June 25 - Marquette & Joliet Wander into Iowa

Iowa History Daily: On June 24, 1673, the French Jesuit missionaries Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet stepped onto the eastern shore of the Mississippi River in the lands which would become Iowa. On the ninth day of their expedition to explore the Mississippi River the Frenchmen investigated footprints on a sandbar and inadvertently gained the distinction as the first Europeans to enter Iowa.

The two canoe expedition entered the Mississippi on the 17th of June, slowly descending past familiar landmarks including the dominant bluff now known as Pike’s Peak. The voyagers' journals do not include any reference to human life until the footprints led them to the Iowa shore of the Mississippi near the Des Moines confluence. Following the path for five or six miles, the expedition eventually caught sight of Indigenous inhabitants observing them from a nearby hill.

The voyagers’ journals suggest they encountered a large Illini village with quiet streets. Women ground corn raised along the banks (likely near modern-day Montrose) of the river they called “Mon-in-go-na.” After a tense moment, the Illini welcomed the Frenchmen and conversed with Marquette, whose elementary knowledge of Algonquin family languages allowed limited translation.

A large feast followed. From Marquette’s account: “It consisted of four courses. First there was a large wooden bowl filled with a preparation of corn meal boiled in water and seasoned with oil. The Indian conducting the ceremonies had a large wooden spoon with which he dipped up the mixture (called by the Indians tagamity), passing it in turn into the mouths of the different members of the party. The second course consisted of fish nicely cooked, which was separated from the bones and placed in the mouths of the guests. The third course was a roasted dog, which our explorers declined with thanks, when it was at once removed from sight. The last course was a roast of buffalo, the fattest pieces of which were passed to the Frenchmen, who found it to be most excellent meat.”

The Frenchmen estimated the village consisted of roughly 300-lodges, and following the feast over 600 Illini accompanied the voyagers back to their canoes to bid them farewell as the Frenchmen continued on their exploration of the Mississippi River. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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