Father Jacques Marquette
Explorers for Kids
Father Jacques Marquette was a French missionary. He explored the Great Lakes Region of North America. Marquette did a lot of exploration with his good friend and fellow explorer, Louis Joliet, a Canadian. They also explored quite a ways down the Mississippi. They had hoped the river would take them east to west, across this new land to the Pacific Ocean, but soon learned the river flowed north to south.
It was Father Marquette's habit to ask permission to enter Indian lands from the natives before he traveled through them to teach or explore. He found most of the Indians he encountered very friendly because of this, and also because Father Marquette was very good at learning languages. He learned to speak the language of six different Indian tribes - that of the Pottawatimis, the Foxes, the Huron, the Ottawa, the Macinac and the Sioux. He did much of his exploring by canoe. He had a lot of help from the natives. Some natives were not friendly, but they were by far in the minority, and when Father Marquette was warned by his Indian friends to avoid those natives, he did.
On his travels, some of the Indians he encountered spoke of a mighty river. Curious to see this river, Father Marquette asked permission from the natives to travel there, which he received. That's how he discovered the Mississippi River. On his travels of exploration down the river, he ran into some other friendly Indians. Fortunately for him, he spoke their language. These Indians told him of some white people further down the river who were violent and should be avoided. Father Marquette suspected they were Spanish explorers. To avoid confrontation or discovery, Father Marquette turned north, and returned back the way he had come, up river towards what would become the US State of Michigan.
Father Marquette kept wonderful journal notes of his discoveries, which greatly helped other explorers, and like other journals kept by explorers, are still used by historians today.