Father Marquette and the Great Rivers

Aug 10, 2022 | Blog, Book Reviews

by August Derleth

In school we are studying the further exploration into North America. Father Marquette was a Jesuit French priest who had dreamt from childhood to bring God to the Indians in the New World. His dream came true and he was sent on mission to New France.

He started in Quebec where he was taught the customs and languages of many of the tribes he would be serving. From there he worked his way deeper and deeper into the wilderness, trying to bring the message of God to as many tribes as he could find until finally finding himself on an exploration of the Mississippi for France to find out if it traveled west. (There was still hope of a waterway that cut through North America – the much sought after straight cut to the West Indies).

Though Father Marquette had much adventure at each mission, the adventure down the Mississippi proved to be the most exciting. It brought him into contact with tribes that hadn’t yet had much contact with Europeans, with American wildlife like buffalo and mosquitos and with terrifying natural phenomena that many of the natives thought were monsters living along or in the river.

It was an excellent snapshot of that time period. The missionaries lived difficult lives as compared to what they left behind (and definitely by our standards today). There was a lot to learn about the customs and the temperaments of the many tribes that lived around the Great Lakes at the time. Now-a-days, the term ‘Native American’ can conjure up a picture of a kind of monolithic people that lived here before Europeans showed up. But monolithic they were not. They were as diverse as the various kinds of tribes that had once peopled Europe (and which we learned about in Ancient History this year).

It was a well told biography about a man I hadn’t heard much about that brought his part in American history to life in a very vivid and entertaining way.

I would definitely recommend.


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