The State of the Study

Now that all the “state of’s” for 2019 are done, I thought I would share how all my “professional” endeavours are progressing. We have had the State of the Union, the State of the State, and the State of the City, as well as numerous state of’s anything you care to name. Now approaching my late 60’s, I feel confident in stating that pretty much nothing has changed. Politicians are still crooked. Gun as well as other violence between citizens remains as strong as ever. A year ago I had $400 in the bank, today I have $600 in the bank (at least it didn’t go down). The infamous 1% still controls the vast majority of wealth in the country. But I can still blog and say such things in public – our Constitution – daily threatened by the powers that be, still lets me be free in my speech. So having done with this review of the State Of’s, I present the State of my Study.

The State of the Study shows promise this year. The Second book in the Culinary History series is finished and in the second edit before publication. Research has begun on the third book.

Look For;

A revised webpage for Technical Support Services, Inc. now including info on TSSI Editorial Services- a local editing service for indie and otherwise authors.

A revised webpage for marking events between 1717 – 1722 as the Tricentennial continues to evolve.

New continuing Blogs on the 1718 theme. Including updates and recipes based on Madame Langlois’ Legacy, publication set for midsummer, 2019.

New continuing Blogs on The Classics Blog re; life in the study of a classicist.

Sharing notices on some really good blogs,to wit . . . – a writer’s blog to end all writer’s blogs; Cooking in the Archives; a blog about what the British Americans were doing while we French were planting civilization in the New World;, a blog from a practitioner of culinary history;

Notices/blogs etc. about the Bayou Writer’s Club;

and a new blog on the up and coming Hwy 25 Writer’s Group.

Notices and info on TSSI Editorial Services.

Now having set the agenda for 2019, lets see if I have the cahoonies to get it done 🤪 🤓 🧐

BTW, my physical study, the room where all the magic happens, is still a cluttered mess of books, papers, unpaid bills, and mismatched furniture in loving homage to all my professors’ offices throughout my academic career !!!

Business Card

tssi copy-editing & proof reading service

Helping You Be A Better Writer

21373 Dutch Rd. Franklinton, LA 70438. 985-795-2372,,


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1698 Prelude Part V

Dear readers,

Below is the penultimate entry in this seemingly endless coverage of that area, called by the Native Americans, Brubancha – the land of many tongues. We call this area home, or to be less trite – the Greater New Orleans area, La Ile d’Orleans, including SE Louisiana and the Gulf Coast to Pensacola. There is only one more entry, to be posted in the next fortnight or so. Thanks for your patience.

And now Part V – Another well-established concept, generally accepted among scholars and the general public, holds that Native Americans are one with the lands they inhabit. Unlike the Euro-Americans who hold political power on the American continents today, there is an almost mystical bond between American geographical land-forms and the original Americans. The original Louisiana natives wandered the Gulf Coast between Mobile and the Mississippi Delta. One focus of these wanderings was shown to the LeMoyne brothers only two days after they had entered the great river from its mouth. A Bayougoula guide showed Iberville and Bienville a portage from the river to a bayou. That bayou, later called St. John, was a native shortcut from the Mississippi to the Gulf Coast. It was to become a crucial element in the establishment of New Orleans. In the seventeenth century, the local Natives made great use of Bayou St. John (called Tchoupic by the Indians) and its associated streams, namely the Tchoupitoulas and Sauvage bayous, to travel through the swamps between river and lake, and to fish and hunt along their banks. The bayous brought river and lake together, and the final tie that bound the region into one was the portage. What would those long- gone Indians – who showed Iberville and Bienville the portage from the river to the bayou, who helped the French survive, who understood the land and it properties – think of today’s magic city that arose along that fateful passage?

Bayous, Lakes and Swamps

The lands and waters of the Ile d’Orleans defined the existence the first French settlers as well as that of the Native Americans. New Orleans is where it is for one main reason, the Bayou St. John. Today, the bayou is a picturesque waterway gracing Mid-City and gently winding north along City Park’s eastern border to the Lake. In the late 1600’s, however, it was a major thoroughfare for natives and settlers alike. Now a recreational spot, where one can find, on any given day, a few fishermen along its banks, or some rowing shells manned by teams of vigorous youths, and occasionally, a small boat or pirogue being used to pass a sunny afternoon. The Bayou starts (or ends) at the base of Jefferson Davis Parkway and Lafitte St., three blocks north of Canal Street, If one follows St. Louis and Lafitte Streets towards the French Quarter, one trails along a cement canal and the railroad tracks that mark the path of the Old Basin or (originally) the Carondelet Canal. A few blocks north of Lafitte St. is the present day corridor of Esplanade Ave. Hard by the avenue is a street with the wonderful name of the Grand Route St. John. The Grand Route crosses Esplanade twice; west to east (uptown to downtown) about four blocks from the bayou, and then back again (downtown to uptown) several blocks further south. After the second crossing, it becomes Bayou Road down to Claiborne Ave., where it merges and becomes Gov. Nicholls through the Tremé fauberg and into the Quarter. These winding streets roughly mark the path of the Indian portage discovered by the Le Moyne brothers in 1699. There are many stories about this episode in the histories of New Orleans. Most of them relate that the brothers Le Moyne were shown the portage by a Choctaw a few days after their arrival at Pointe du Mardi Gras. In 1699, but as has been shown, the Choctaw country was far to the north of the river’s mouth, and it seemed strange to this writer that such a far-away native would be around to use the portage. The mystery was settled by Ms. Edna Frieberg in her 1980 work on colonial Bayou St. John (Freiberg, Edna B. Bayou St. John in Colonial Louisiana. 1980). Herein she makes it clear that Iberville’s party had encountered a hunting party of Bayougoula Indians a few miles upstream from their first campsite at Bayou Mardi Gras. It was a guide from this party that “ led him (Iberville) six leagues above the campsite where the Native pointed out the river-end of a portage path which he said led back to where the French had anchored their ships (Ship Island)” (Ibid. p.13). The portage, about 2 miles long, became the raison d’etre (the main reason) for the City of New Orleans. It was a quick connection from the river to Lake Pontchartrain and then out to the Gulf. From Bienville’s point of view (he had taken over administration of the colony upon his brother’s early demise in 1706), the establishment of the city on the river was for the purpose of controlling the river and securing it against the British and Spanish colonial powers. However, the first high ground above the mouth of the river, and the logical place to put a city would be about 200 miles upriver, where Baton Rouge is today. In the viewpoint of French colonial policy. seeking control of the mouth of the river, this was much too far from the river’s mouth to exert any reasonable control. Bienville’s problem in establishing a post downriver from Baton Rouge was the land south of Bayou Manchac. Here was a natural levee along the river backed by swamps stretching as far as one can see, a spongy no-man’s land that was not fit to hold a post. Further complicating the placement of a suitable stronghold were the endless twists and turns of the river. At the present day town of White Castle, the Mississippi makes one of its incessant loops and essentially turns eastward for the rest of its route to the Gulf. Now, instead of an east bank and a west bank, the river in real terms has north and south banks (although, for simplicity’s sake, the banks retain the titles East and West). From here to the Gulf, the north side becomes a marsh between river and lake(s), especially as it comes closer to New Orleans. Behind the natural levee on the West Bank (the south side), the land is virtually all marsh down to the Gulf of Mexico. Through these natural levees, the river occasionally cut a channel to help distribute the flow from the huge river system into the delta lands and the Gulf. These “dis-tributaries” carried the sand, clay, and silt, the trees and other flotsam that built up the delta into what is today south Louisiana. These distributaries also give Louisiana another of it’s nicknames, “The Bayou State”. Below Baton Rouge, the Mississippi punched the crevasses which became the Bayous Manchac, LaFourche, Trepagnier, Tchoupitoulas, Seignette, Bienvenue, and Sauvage (as well as many others). Bayou Manchac connected the Mississippi to the Amite River and then on to Lake Maurepas. Bayou Lafourche, of course, created Louisiana between the Mississippi and the Atchafalaya Swamp. Trepagnier, west of New Orleans, and Bienvenue to the east drained the delta into Lakes Pontchartrain and Borgne. Seignette gave us Jefferson Parish. But it was the Tchoupitoulas/Sauvage Bayou that created the land that would become New Orleans.

To be continued and finished within 2 weeks. Meanwhile, if you care to learn more about the Natives of SE Louisiana, check out the podcasts, or Tripods, offered by WWNO radio, 89.9 FM commemorating the New Orleans Tricentennial. The final episode in the series is specifically about and by Louisiana Natives and the descendants of the people of Brubancha. It makes for great listening. The Tripod podcasts can be accessed at

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Prelude to Louisiana, 1698, Part IV

To summarize the New Orleans “Indian Question” then, in the first twenty years of the eighteenth century, today’s city and its metropolitan area were populated by several small groups or “tribes” of Natives mostly speaking dialects of Choctaw. The Quinipissa and/or the Acolapissa (probably one and the same) definitely lived on Bayou St. John before 1700. By 1718, the Bayougoula had absorbed the Mougoulascha; while the Chaouacha, and the Ouascha had either become extinct or been absorbed as well. The Tangipahoa and the Tchoupitoulas also were gone or had merged with the Bayougoula. Since all of these groups were related in one way or another, it is probable that the original New Orleans Indians can be called the Quinipissa Group with another kin group to the west called the Chitimacha. In the two decades between the founding of Louisiana (1699) and the building of New Orleans (1718), these groups had been reduced by warfare, slave raids, and disease. Regarding the other tribes of Louisiana, those not native to the New Orleans area but who remain in Louisiana today, some Choctaw had migrated south to the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain during the French colonial period. The main body of the Choctaw nation remained in north central Mississippi, with the Creek immediately to their south and east and the Chickasaw east and north of both groups. The Tunica essentially stayed in their original homeland around the confluence of the Red and the Mississippi, later to be joined by their kinsmen, the Biloxi. The Houma moved west from the “baton rouge” on the Mississippi to lower Bayou LaFourche, where they live today.

The Houma, the Tunica-Biloxi, as well as the actual Choctaws, had been trading with the French at Biloxi and Mobile for nearly twenty years by the time New Orleans was established. The Indians of Louisiana and New Orleans were a crucial, if not essential, part of the French colonial experience. Indeed, it is safe to say that without the Native Americans along the lower Mississippi and the bayous, there would have been no French colonial Louisiana. Over the course of those first formative decades, Bienville and other government officials sent their soldiers to winter among the Natives because they could not afford to feed them. Indian trade goods, especially deerskins and tobacco, formed a vital component of the exports to France during these years (Usner, passim). Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the American Indian contribution to the emergent Creole culture must not be overlooked – the food. Beyond sheer survival, the Louisiana Natives provided the French settlers with some of the ingredients that would become essential to Creole cuisine. By far, the most famous is sassafras, or to be more precise, ground sassafras leaves. Called in Louisiana, file’ or gumbo file’ (pronounced fee-lay), the spice gives its particular flavor and thickening properties to Creole cuisine’s signature dish, Gumbo, either seafood or poultry. Other culinary contributions include the vast array of game and varied ways to prepare it. They introduced the French to the “Three Sisters” of Native agriculture – corn, squash, and beans (including the red kidney beans) – and how to grow them together for the best yield. No Creole menu would be complete without the immeasurable varieties of Louisiana seafood. The placement of New Orleans, a virtual island between fresh, brackish, and salty sea water gave the Creoles, through the Indians, access to a huge selection of finfish, shellfish, and edible crustaceans. Another universal symbol of the Louisiana menu, the red crawfish, was the totem animal of the Houma Indians. {“1718: The Cookbook of the Petticoat Rebellion” provides a great selection of recipes and historical data and trivia on this fascinating and flavorful topic}.

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Comparing and analyzing the colonial sources along with modern studies of archaeology, tribal histories, and Native Louisiana folklore, a picture emerges of nomadic groups who survived along the edges of the marsh and the various rivers and bayous that is the Gulf Coast of south Louisiana. It may be useful to compare their wanderings to the semi-nomadic lifestyle of the buffalo hunters of the same era on the North American Plains or even further afield to the mammoth hunters in the late Paleolithic and Mesolithic eras of Europe. In simple terms, all of these family groups and clan/tribes followed the migrating herds. Seasonal villages were built along the group’s migratory cycle. People came and went with the seasons or with the flux in population. Different groups merged together and broke apart as climate conditions, landscapes, game populations, and human politics demanded. Unlike our neat Euro- American farmsteads, settlements, ranges, and ranches, which we claim and call our private property, the Native Louisianans lived in the best places they could find, given the moment. During the moments around 1718, one of those places was on or near the portage between the Mississippi and Bayou St. John. 


One of Louisiana’s earliest chroniclers, le Page du Pratz, settled at a spot on Bayou St. John in 1718. In the process of building his concession, he acquired a female Indian slave to keep house and cook (and, no doubt, to perform other wifely services). He writes that his lady is of the local ”Chitimacha” tribe. He also goes on to record that the Chitimacha danced the calumet ceremony (smoked the peace pipe) with and for Bienville at the new settlement being built at New Orleans (Pratz & Fortier). Also, on Bayou St. John (near the southern line of today’s City Park), another early settler, St. Denis, is said to have settled on land that was once an “Acolapissa” village (Phares, p. 39). The overall picture of the native population is clarified by the presence of another local bayou called the Tchoupitoulas, which connected to Bayou St. John from the west. Today, Metairie Road more or less traces its route, but in colonial times, it led to the country (settlements) of the Tchoupitoulas Indians. These people lived along the Mississippi in today’s Jefferson Parish. Some sources say that the Tchoupitoulas had disappeared by the time the French arrived. However, there is evidence that they remained there well into the nineteenth century, Mr. Meloney Soniat, writing in the Louisiana Historical Quarterly in 1924, tells of childhood memories of the Tchoupitoulas on his grandfather’s plantation-which was named after the Indians. 

“The Indians of the Tchoupitoulas Village were gradually driven away by the white settlers and moved over the lake in the neighborhood of Mandeville, there joining other tribes. Every winter, however, some of them would come back and camp on a piece of ground called Terre Haute, in the rear of the Tchoupitoulas Plantation, where there was a large grove of magnolias. There the Indians would remain until Spring, when they would return to their village near Mandeville. These visits continued until the United States Government had the tribes removed to the Indian Reservation. I remember that, as a boy, I visited the Indians on several occasions at Terre Haute, and saw their huts, which were built of palmetto leaves. The reason given by the Indians for coming from over the lake, was that the winters were less rigorous on this side, but the real reason, no doubt, was that the older Indians who had inhabited the village of the Tchoupitoulas were drawn back to the neighborhood where they, in their youth, had been accustomed to hunt and fish without interference from the whites; then again their descendants also desired to visit the hunting grounds of their ancestors.” (LHQ 1924; V7, #2, p.314 ff.)



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Filed under Louisiana History, Tri-centennial, 1718, 2018, 300th, anniversary, author, writer, speaker, teacher, non-fiction, Bienville, Iberville, Bayou St. John, Natchez, Indians, Native American, Tunica, Bayougoula, Mississippi,



We left the French sharing their “Gallic” attitude with the Natives, and so . . .

If you ask the proverbial ‘New Orleanian on the street today’ about the local Indians who were here at the founding of the city in 1718, you will undoubtedly hear that the Houma, Choctaw, Tunica, Tchoupitoulas, and/or Natchez were here when the French arrived (if you get an answer at all). Several factors played into the creation of this local Indian lore, not the least being the white man’s tendency to group all Native Americans together as one large homogeneous people. Beyond this, the fact that today, the Houma, the Tunica-Biloxi, and the Choctaw are all still viable groups living in South Louisiana makes it easy to assume that these were the groups who were here in 1718. In truth, all of these groups were present in colonial Louisiana before and after the founding of the city. But of the Indians who actually lived in the New Orleans area (listed below) none of these tribes or nations are counted. Much of the confusion arises because most of the people who did live in the area spoke dialects of the Choctaw language, known as Muskhogean. Since these languages were pervasive in the New Orleans area, many of the Indians were simply called Choctaws by the Europeans. It must be stated clearly that while the local (New Orleans area) natives spoke versions of the Choctaw language, the Choctaw Nation itself was located by all the original sources far to the north of the Ile d’Orleans. So the question becomes, who were the local New Orleans Indians in 1718? 

Chitimacha? Acolapissa? Choctaw? Houma? Tchoupitoulas? The probable answer is all of them… and a few others as well. LaSalle, in 1682, called the local natives at the southern end of the great river the Quinapissa. These were the Indians whom Iberville sought to contact to unequivocally prove that he had come up the same river which LaSalle had come down. In his journals, Iberville names the natives he encountered upon his arrival in 1699. He notes that on his first voyage during the spring of 1699, the following groups were below the joining of the Red and the Mississippi Rivers; the Pascagoula, and the Bilocchy aka Biloxi (on the coast), the Bayougoula, Mougoulascha, Quinipissa, Moctoby, Chitimacha, Chaouacha, Ouascha, Houma, and the Tangipahoa (on or near the river). (Iberville, p. 40-65) By the end of March, 1699, Bienville and Iberville had come into possession of a letter left by Henri de Tonti with the Natives in 1685. This letter, as well as a book, and some empty bottles had been given to the Natives by Tonti before he returned to Canada. In the letter he calls the Natives the Quinipissa. The LeMoyne brothers knew the same Natives as the Bayougoula/ Mougoulascha. (Iberville, p. 89) On the river, the French appear to have dealt mainly with the Bayougoula group(s) during their early explorations, Iberville notes that the Quinapissa (read Bayougoula) had deserted a village on Bayou St. John some years before their arrival. (Iberville, p. 111) This same village was associated with the “Acolapissa” by du Pratz and St. Denis (see below). Prior to discovering the Tonti letter, Iberville further clarifies the identification of these groups as he records a discussion with the Bayougoula on March 14th. Within this conversation, Iberville learned that the Bayougoula, Mougoulascha, Quinipissa, Chaouacha, Ouascha, Chitimacha, and the Tangipahoa were almost certainly kinship groups. Group names and villages were constantly in flux, joining and splitting apart probably in response to local economic conditions. The dialogue revealed that the Tangipahoa group had been destroyed by a Houma raid and therefore the Quinipissa were thus reduced from seven to six villages (Iberville, p. 61).


Raids such as these were common among the various Native groups and contributed to the population flux. Small tribal groups, like the Bayougoula, et. al. were prime candidates for slave raiding by more powerful neighbors, The Houma, the Natchez, and the Choctaw (proper) made many such raids that further decimated the populations, European diseases, against which the Indians were defenseless, were also part of this scenario, These factors, disease and raids, are most likely the cause of the disappearance or absorption of the Tchoupitoulas. Finally, we must consider the Chitimacha. The tribe holds (on their website) that they were the original inhabitants of New Orleans. The truth in this tradition adds strength to the above population outline. Today, the Chitimacha are located just to the west of Greater New Orleans, and very likely were part of the kinship groups who wandered the lower reaches of the Mississippi, Lake Pontchartrain, and Bayou Lafourche areas, now joining, now diffusing from their kinsfolk taking advantage of the abundant natural resources of the area ( 



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Filed under Louisiana History, NEW ORLEANS TRI-CENTENNIAL 1718 TO 2018



I promise I won’t repeat this for a long time (maybe a couple of months). But to just set the tone once more re: the TriCentennial. The date of the founding of New Orleans may be placed anywhere  (depending on how one defines “founding”) between 1717 and 1722. So I plan to continue this blog for a while yet. During a typical New Year’s task of reviewing and cleaning out old files (this one specifically on the website, I came across an old essay I had written back in 2012 which I named and later posted on the site as:


Enjoy this look back to the beginnings of our project and I hope you pick up sense of what the “founders” were dealing with.

Forests of odd-looking trees. Marshes and prairies of waving grasses. Water everywhere… lakes, bayous, a spectacular river, and soggy swamps. Insects galore. Half-naked Indians with strange customs. Strange foods. Unpredictable, unmerciful weather. LaSalle had passed through this landscape in 1682 and claimed it all for France. None of his countrymen, though, made it back until an expedition under the LeMoyne brothers of Canada arrived in 1699. This is the prelude to what they would find as they paddled and slogged through the land that would eventually become New Orleans. It was largely due to these very elements – good and bad – that the City of New Orleans is what it is today. Understanding the original inhabitants and the basic geography of this area is key to understanding how New Orleans came into existence in the first place, and why it is still such a dynamic and economically important city today. 

The Native Americans 

By 1650, Spain, Britain, and France had divvied up North America among themselves. No thought, of course, was given to the people who actually lived here. After all, they had no guns, were often migratory, living off the bounty of the earth in cooperation with the needs and requirements of the land. Besides, there were not a whole lot of them. To the European mind, therefore, the American continents were vast, empty lands upon which to plant their civilization. It appears that the French, as opposed to the other Powers, saw the natives as a bit more than half-naked savages. They were partners in trade, teachers about the land and its bounty, and a fertile population for the spread of the One, True, Catholic faith. This attitude was rooted in the Gallic approach to colonial policy. French strategy called for the creation of a balance to the economic and military advantages that Spanish and English colonies were providing to their countries. As the Englishmen and women settled in significant numbers along the coast and began to civilize the wilderness into what would become the USA, the French created some smaller settlements in the North, then began moving westward in sizable numbers. The coureurs de bois (literally, rovers of the forests and freelancers), the voyageurs (government sanctioned travelers), and the Jesuits spread French Catholic influence among the Natives all along the rivers and lakes above the 40th Parallel (the line that slices North America in half longways, approx. at the latitude of St. Louis, MO). While the French were not exactly enlightened in their opinion of the Native Americans and still considered them to be savages, they generally treated them with respect. Since they were more interested in religious conversion, trade, and lining their pockets as opposed to settling down, the Frenchmen created a less intrusive presence than the English. These Gallic attitudes permeated the social and geographical matrix that became known as Louisiana. 

There will be a few more installments to this story.



NOLA Tricentennial Con’t- Missouri Valley

French Exploration of the North American Prairies

and Relations With The Indians of the Great Plains.

It is an oft repeated cliché that the French colony of Louisiana “was a failure,” and while this argument may hold some water, especially under the regime of the Crozat company and the successor Company of the Indies up until 1732, the colony showed every sign of growth and improvement from 1734 until the Seven Years War ended in 1763.

This reputation needs correction in that the colony was not a failure. The failure was in the actions, or more to the point, the INACTIONS of the ruling boards (the regie ) of the Company(s). This in turn can be seen as a symptom of the failure of ancien regime which finally fell in 1789. These aristocrats on the “boards of directors” of the these companies consistently made promises of support to the colonial government, and their appointed soldiers and explorers of Louisiana who mapped out and built the vast colony.

Promises were made as well to the Native Americans with whom they desired trade relations and peace, and the actual settlers and colonists whom they shipped over to the New World. These promises were only rarely fulfilled and even then often at partial levels. Is it not any wonder that the actual “boots on the ground” in French Louisiana were able to make any progress at all with virtually no promised help, aid, or supplies from the homeland?

It appears that the real people here, Bienville, Boisbriant, Bourgmont, the rest of the “government”, the colonists, the settlers, the voyagers and coiuriers de bois, as well as the unheralded and forced Africans, really made a success of this “failed” colony. When the “companies” finally gave up. The decades of Bienville (1730’s), Vaudreuil (1740’s), and Kerlerec (1750’s) actually saw an economic and political stabilization comparable to any Spanish or British colony in North America.

An excellent example of this point is the case of Etienne V. De Bourgmont, who may be properly be called “The Discoverer of the Missouri Valley”. Not only did he travel and explore the Missouri and connected waterways, he treated with and established positive trade and military relationships with the Native communities along those rivers. He planted a settlement upriver from the Missouri/Mississippi confluence, Fort d’Orleans. The fate of this fort is also a case-in-point of the above mentioned “failed” policies of the home government in France.

Bourgmont‘s adventures in the New World read like a modern action thriller. His career began in 1702 when he was convicted at age 19 of poaching on monastery land and fined 100 livres. He decided instead to take ship to New France (Canada). Once there he ingratiated himself with the authorities and by 1706 he was placed in command of Fort Pontchartrain (modern Detroit) where shortly a flare up between two Native groups resulted in the death of a French priest and sergeant.

In true ancien regime fashion the aristocrats quickly passed the buck to Bourgmont, who, choosing the better part of valor quietly decamped into the vast forests of North America. Bourgmont and some companions became coureurs des bois around the eastern Great Lakes for a few years and finally made a return to Fort Pontchartrain where he became successfully involved in an inter- Native war between the Fox Indians (enemies of the French) and a coalition of Algonquin, Missouria, and Osage communities. By 1713, even though technically still outside the law, Bourgmont was once again in the aristo’s favor.

The French colonial experience in Louisiana has been seen by many as an expression of that cultural phenomena sweeping through France (and Europe in general) in the 17th and 18th centuries known as the “Enlightenment.” Bourgmont’s career in New France and Louisiana offers an excellent example of what it means to be an “enlightened” explorer and trader in the New World. While living the rough and tumble life of a voyageur, hunting, trapping, and trading, Bourgmont also added writing to his repertoire. In 1713 he began writing Exact Description of Louisiana, of Its Harbors, Lands and Rivers, and Names of the Indian Tribes That Occupy It, and the Commerce and Advantages to Be Derived Therefrom for the Establishment of a Colony. After traveling to the mouth of the present-day Platte River in March of 1714, he composed The Route to Be Taken to Ascend the Missouri River. This account reached the cartographer Guillaume Delisle working in Lower Louisiana, who noted that it was the first documented report of travels that far north on the Missouri.

By 1718, Bienville had replaced Cadillac as commandant. On September 25, he recommended that Bourgmont receive the Cross of Saint Louis for service to France, for the value of his explorations and documentation of river travel. A year later the Council of the Colony of Louisiana also officially praised Bourgmont’s work with the Natives. Drawing upon his years of experience in what is now “the heartland,” he established long lasting positive relations with the locals. Tribes were said to have valued the products Bourgmont offered, as he traded gunpowder, guns, kettles, and blankets, in contrast to the Spanish whom were said to trade a few horses, knives, and “inferior axes.” He once described his knack for for dealing with the native Americans,

“For me with the Indians nothing is impossible. I make them do what they have never done.”

{N.B. Within the same time frame Bourgmont was connecting with the Indians and exploring the Missouri valley, Bienville and a small group of workers were busy building a new city, destined to become the capital of the French colony, New Orleans. As we celebrate our Tricentennial, it may be useful to remember that – thanks to Bourgmont – New Orleans, as it was being built, was also the capital of the Missouri valley.}

By 1720, Bourgmont had become a fixture in Louisiana, both Lower and Upper. He was recognized as a leader in Native American relations, as well as an explorer and geographer of note in the Missouri Valley. That year he and his son (by his Missouria wife) travelled to Paris. Remember, he was still technically an outlaw. Luck was still on his side, for simultaneously with his arrival, news reached France that Natives allied with the French had defeated a Spanish expedition invading the mid continental prairies where there were no established European claims.

Our not-so-reluctant hero, was commissioned as a captain in the French army. In August he was named “Commandant of the Missouri River” and was commissioned to build a fort on the Missouri River and negotiate with the tribes to allow peaceful French commerce. In 1723, he established Fort Orleans, the first Europeaniu fort on the Missouri River, near the mouth of the Grand River in present-day Missouri. The fort was to be the staging base for a planned visit to the Padouca on the Great Plains and Bourgmont hoped to open a trade route to reach the Spanish colony in New Mexico.

{N.B. -again – Trade between New Mexico and Louisiana was strictly forbidden by the two empires’ mercantile policies. Take note that nobody in either (colonial) government paid much attention to the two empires’ mercantile policies.}

Bourgmont sought aid from the Kaw (aka the Canzas) to facilitate his expedition. He sent 22 Frenchmen and Canadians by boat from Fort Orleans to the Canzas village on the Missouri with supplies and gifts. The explorer himself set out by land, marching with 10 French colonists, and over 150 Natives. Prior to this first official French visit, many voyageurs, including Bourgmont, had visited them in the first two decades of the 18th century. The Canzas had also likely journeyed to trade in Kaskaskia.

This grand expedition reached the Canzas village at the beginning of July, 1724. After innumerable speeches and feasts, the talk turned to trade, the Canzas were hard bargainers. Bourgmont wanted to buy some horses. With only five horses to trade, they extracted a high price. The Canzas also traded six slaves (likely American Indians of other tribes captured in battle), food, furs, and skins. At the end of July, in the high summer heat of the American prairie, Bourgmont, his original party of French, Missouri, and Osage, now swelled by most the Canzas village left on their quest to find the Padouca, (almost certainly the French name for the Apache).

The explorer became ill during the trip and had to return to Fort d’Orleans to recover. By autumn, Bourgmont was once again able to travel. Not surprisingly, his Grand Expedition by this time had shrunk considerably. After all, most of the Natives and even the colonists had gotten on with their lives. So, with fifteen Frenchmen and twenty-four Natives, including five Apache who had joined him as guides, the “Commandant of the Missouri Valley” set out to finally, hopefully, connect with the main Apache settlements.

Heading southwest across the Kansas prairie, and crossing the Kansas River on Oct. 11, Bourgmont recorded in his journal a sight that would dumbfound European and American travelers for the next two centuries, the buffalo. As they passed through the innumerable beasts, they saw unfolding before them “a hunter’s paradise. Recording 30 herds in one day, each herd consisting of 400-500 buffalo. Bourgmont wrote, “Our hunters kill as many as they please.” Deer were also abundant. In one day they saw more than 200, plus numerous turkeys near the streams. On October 18, Bourgmont encountered the Apache. Eighty of the village rode out on horses to meet the French and took them back to the camp.

The explorer’s journal narrates an honored welcome. It tells how he and his son with two other French explorers, were seated on a buffalo robe; carried to the tent of the Apache chief for a great feast. The next day Bourgmont assembled his trade goods and divided them into lots.

The following is the list:

“one pile of fusils [guns], one of sabers, one of pickaxes, one of axes,

one of gunpowder, one of balls, one of red Limbourg cloth, another of

blue Limbourg cloth, one of mirrors, one of Flemish knives, two other

piles of another kind of knives, one of shirts, one of scissors, one of combs,

one of gunflints, one of wadding extractors, six portions of vermillion,

one lot of awls, one of large beads, one of beads of mixed sizes, one of

small beads, one of fine brass wire, another of heavier brass wire for making

necklaces, another of rings, and another of vermillion cases.” The Apache

had never seen such a variety of European goods.

After the trading sessions were done an assembly of 200 of the Apache chiefs and the Commandant discussed the need for peace among all tribes. He implored them to allow the French traders to pass through their lands en route to the Spanish settlements in New Mexico. Next, he invited the chiefs to take what they wanted of the merchandise.

The Apache were hospitable; they feasted and fêted Bourgmont and his group for three days before the French party turned toward home on October 22. By October 31, Bourgmont had reached the Canzas village again. Traveling down the Missouri in circular “bullboats”, made of buffalo hides stretched over a framework of saplings, the party reached Fort Orleans on November 5.

Bourgmont thought his expedition had been successful, but little came of it. Within about a decade, the Apache whom he had met in Kansas were gone, pushed south by the aggressive Comanche tribe migrating from the Rocky Mountains. By the end of 1724, the French, in the person of Etienne Bourgmont, had now established friendly and peaceful relations with the central Plains Indians. The Missourias, the Cansas, the Apaches, the Oto, and several other Native Communities effectively providing a secure base for the French in the Missouri Valley. Bourgmont had in reality become the “Commandant of the Missouri Valley”. But, alas, it was not to be.

The next year Bourgmont was called upon to invite and accompany representatives of the tribes to Paris. The chiefs were shown the wonders and power of France, including a visit to Versailles, Château de Marly and Fontainebleau, hunting in the royal forest with Louis XV, and seeing an opera. In late 1725 the tribal leaders returned to North America. Bourgemont stayed in Normandy with his French wife, where he had been elevated to écuyer (squire).

As usual, The French did not continue to support Fort Orleans, and it was abandoned in 1726. Bourgmont remained in France where he died in France in 1734.

The above tale of Bourgmont’s Missouri expedition is a paraphrase of :


This account of the career of Ecuyer de Bourgmont is a perfect example of “the failed colony” of Louisiana. It is also a perfect example of the successful settling of a vast territory in the midst of an even vaster continent. The French who came here in the 18th century did anything but fail. And the Creoles (of all extractions) who live and thrive here even today can take pride in their heritage, their language, their culture, cuisine, and sheer joie de vivre that has withstood every tragic and destructive circumstance thrown at them by man or nature.