The Niagara River is innavigable for ten leagues from the falls to the entrance into Lake Erie, it being impossible to bring up a vessel, at least without enough men to handle the sail, to haul at the bow, and to warp at the same time, and even with such great caution one cannot hope to be successful always. The entrance into Lake Erie is so obstructed with shallow bars that, in order not to risk losing the vessel every voyage, it is necessary to leave it in a river six leagues away along the lake, which is the nearest harbor or anchorage. There are in Lake Erie three large peninsulas, of which two jut out more than ten leagues. These are sand bars which one may run afoul of before seeing them unless one takes great precautions.
A change of wind is necessary to enter the straits between Lake Erie and Lake Huron, where there is more water and a strong current. Great difficulties confront one at the Straits of Michillimackinac in entering from Lake Huron into the lake of the Illinois. The wind there is usually counter to the current, and the channel is narrow on account of the bars which extend out from the two shores. There are very few or no anchorages in Lake Huron, and no more harbors than in the lake of the Illinois along the north, west, and south shores. There are great numbers of islands in both lakes. Those of the Illinois are a hazard on account of the sand bars which are off them. This lake is not deep and is subject to terrific winds from which there is no shelter, and the bars border upon the approaches to the islands; but it is possible that with more frequent voyages the dangers will be lessened and the ports and harbors better known as has happened in the case of Lake Frontenac, on which navigation is now safe and easy. The haven which one enters in order to go from the lake of the Illinois to the Divine River is not at all suitable for navigation as there are no winds in the roadstead, nor any passageway for a vessel, nor even for a canoe, at least in a great calm. The prairies over which communication is maintained are flooded by the great volume of water flowing down from the neighboring bills whenever it rains. It is very difficult to make and maintain a canal that does not immediately fill up with sand
and gravel; one need only dig into the ground to find water; and there are some sand dunes between the lake and the prairies. And, although a canal would be possible with a great deal of expense, it would be useless because the Divine River is innavigable for forty leagues, the distance to the great village of the Illinois. Canoes cannot traverse it during the summer, and even then there arc long rapids this side of that village.
Mines have not yet been seen although pieces of copper have been found in a number of places where the water is low. There is excellent stone [?] and coal. The Indians relate having sold some yellow metal from the village, but from their description it was too pure to have come from a gold mine. The buffalo are becoming scarce here since the Illinois are at war with their neighbors; both kill and hunt them continually. It is possible to go by water front Fort Crèvecoeur to the sea. New Mexico is not over twenty days' journey distant to the west from this fort. The Oto, who have come to see Monsieur de la Salle, have brought with them a piebald belonging to some Spaniards whom they killed in their country only ten days' journey distant front this fort; one could go from the one to the other by the river. These Indians relate that the Spanish who make war against them use lances more than muskets.
There are no Europeans at the mouth of the great river Colbert. The monster a sketch of which the Sieur Jolliet brought back is a grotesque painted by some Indian of the river: no one will avow its origin. It is a day and a half's journey from Crèvecoeur, and if the Sieur Jolliet had descended a little farther he would have seen another more frightful still.
He has not reflected that the Mosopelea, whom he notes on his map, were completely wiped out before his voyage. He notes on this same map numerous nations which are only the names of some of the tribes composing the nation of the Illinois the Peoria, Kaskaskia, Tamaroa, Coiracoentanon, Chinko, Cahokia, Chepoussa, Amonokoa, Cahokia, Quapaw, and many others forming the village of the Illinois made up of about 400 huts covered with reed mats and without any fortification. I have reckoned up almost 1,800 fighting men who are at war only with the Iroquois; with them it would be easy to come to an understanding if there were not cause to fear that, being at peace with the Iroquois and feeling secure from their direction, the Illinois might wish to make war against the Ottawa, whom they hate exceedingly, and thus interrupt our commerce. But so long as it can be contrived to keep them dependent upon us, they may readily be held to their duty, and through them the more distant nations by whom they are feared.
There is some very fine wood for shipbuilding along the seven or eight rivers flowing into the Colbert, the least of which has a course of 300 leagues without falls.
Monsieur de la Salle has seen the Indians of three nations through whom Fernando de Soto passed, namely, Chickasaw, Casqui, and Aminoya. From them these people go into Mexico; they assure us that they have a very good water route from Crèvecoeur to their homes.
It is important that this exploration be carried out because the river on which the Chickasaw live, and which probably is the Sakakoua, has its source near Carolina, where the English are, 300 leagues to the east of the river Colbert in French Florida near Apalachee; whence the English would be able to come by ship to the Illinois, to the Miami and close to the Baye des Puans and the country of the Sioux, and secure thereby a great portion of our trade.
It was colder this year in the Illinois than at Fort Frontenac.4 Planting is done here only once a year and that is in the month of May, as there is always a hard freeze in April. It is true that the mildness of the month of January, which is the same at Fort Frontenac, at first caused us to believe that this country would be as mild as Provence, but since then we have learned that the winter is not less severe than that of the Iroquois inasmuch as on March 22, the river was still frozen; and the lake of the Illinois was again as full of ice along the south shore as Lake Frontenac ordinarily is in January, although Lake Erie was so clear eight days later that no ice was apparent at all in the quiet waters or in the open water along the north shore.
The entire country between the lake of the Illinois and Lake Erie for the space of 100 or 120 leagues, has only one chain of mountains, whence a number of rivers flow to the west into the lake of the Illinois, to the north into Lake Huron, to the east into Lake Erie, and to, the south into the Ohio River. Their sources are so near together on the summits of these mountains that in three days of marching we have passed twenty-two or twentythree more considerable than the Sorel or the Richelieu. The tops of these mountains are flat and covered with perpetual marshes, which, during periods of thawing weather, have given us considerable trouble. There is also some dry country and very good land overrun with an unbelievable number of bears, deer, roebucks, and wild turkeys, on whom the wolves make relentless war; these last are so bold that we have often been in danger of not being able to defend ourselves with shots from our guns.
There is a river' at the end of Lake Erie ten leagues from Detroit by which one should be able to go up far along the road toward the Illinois, as it is navigable for canoes to within two leagues of the river which leads there; but there is yet another route, the Ohio, which is shorter and better, and is navigable for sailing vessels; by it one may avoid the difficulty of the harbor at the end of the lake of the Illinois and that of getting over into the Divine River, and making it navigable to Fort Crèvecoeur.
It should not be supposed that these lands of which we speak in the country of the Illinois are lands to which one has only to put the plow, for the greater part are drowned by ever so little rain. Others are too dry, and the best require considerable labor to clear off the aspens which cover them, as well as to drain the marshes which comprise wide areas.
The possession of a calumet of peace enables one to pass safely through all of these nations. The greater part of them through whom we had to go already knew of our coming and were prepared to receive us well.
The Illinois offered to escort its to the sea from the hope that we have given them that thence will come everything which they need. That other tribes need knives, hatchets, and so forth increases their desire to have us among them.
The buffalo calves are easy to tame and can be of great use as well as the slaves in which these people are accustomed to traffic and whom they compel to labor f or them. There are as many rogues among them as elsewhere; there are more women among them than men. There is not a man who does not have several wives - some having as many as ten and as far as possible all sisters, that they may agree better among themselves, as indeed they do.
I have seen three healthy children baptized - one was named Pierre, the other Joseph, and the third, Marie - the children of the brother of Chicagou. They are in grave danger of growing up to be like their father, who has three sisters as wives. It does not appear that they will have further instruction, since Father d'Allouez, who baptized them has left the Illinois, unless a staff which he has left wrapped up behind to indicate that this country is to be the field of his labor, has any extraordinary virtue. These are the only Christians I know who cannot but be in the faith of the church.
Father d'Allouez has retired to a village composed partly of Miami and partly of Mascouten and Wea who have abandoned their old village and most of their kinsmen in order to make an alliance with the Iroquois and along with them carry on war against the Illinois. For that reason they sent five men and a woman last summer as an embassy with a letter from Father d'Allouez. The purpose of their embassy was to urge the Iroquois to join them in making war on the Illinois. This matter had been under negotiation for twenty-four days when I arrived at the Sanchioragon village of the Seneca but as it was known that I was at Kanagaro where Father Raffeix was, a woman who had once upon a time been captured by the Miami came from this village to tell the ambassadors their heads would be broken, and they had better flee, fearing perhaps that my being there I might learn the object of this embassy.
It is nevertheless true that the Iroquois had no desire to harm them for, although their flight was bound to raise suspicions against them, they were well received after they had been ensnared, but they had no desire to talk so long as I was present.
Having since met in their country these same ambassadors, one of whom spoke Huron, I became aware of things which I wish to believe were the invention of Indian maliciousness. However, when the news that I had arrived in the Illinois had been carried to the village where Father dAllouez is, a man called Monceau, one of the chiefs, who carried four large copper kettles, a dozen hatchets, and twenty knives secretly to the Illinois, was sent to say that I was a brother to the Iroquois, that I was breathing his breath, that I ate the serpents of his country, that they had given me a net to hem them in from one side while the Iroquois came from the other, that I was abhorred by all the black-robes, who, regarding me as an Iroquois, had given me up, that I previously had wished to kill the Miami, that I had taken two prisoners, and that I possessed a drug to be used in poisoning them all.
It was easy for me to disprove all these lies, and this poor Monceau was almost obliged to stay there as a hostage, he having been told that it was he that had the Iroquois serpent under his tongue, that his comrades who had been sent there as ambassadors had brought some and had not been able to smoke the same calumet without inhaling the breath of the Iroquois. If I had not intervened, the Illinois would have killed this Monceau.
Here is another matter wherein I suspect a trap and which is apparently a sequel of the desire which they have that Monseigrieur the Comte de Frontenac make war on the Iroquois if it becomes apparent that he has abandoned the Illinois. The vehemence with which the Iroquois wished him to make war is entirely abated although, in fact, there are some who have taken the warpath, a fact which is concealed from the Ottawa in order that they may continue to go to trade, and that the Iroquois, taking them for the Illinois, may kill them in order to embroil them. Moreover, negotiations are being carried on that the greater part of the Miami, who are our allies, will come to live with the Illinois. Thus the Iroquois could not fall upon one without the other; and thus Monseigneur the comte might be compelled either to abandon his allies or make war on the Iroquois in order to prevent them from warring on the Illinois. Perhaps this is rash judgment, but nevertheless the small number of Miami, among whom Father d'Allouez has retired, seeing that the Iroquois did not begin the war soon enough against the Illinois, have killed some of the Iroquois this winter in order to, precipitate it, and have cut off the fingers of a Seneca, whom they then sent back to his own country to say that the Miami joined with the Illinois to kill Iroquois. Perhaps the knowledge which Father d'Allouez must have had of the evil intentions of these savages and of their bad faith is what is obliging him to leave them as he was to do this spring.
However, I am certain of stopping this war, especially if Monseigneur the comte will come this year to lament for the deaths of the Onondaga, as I have prevented the Illinois from going in search of the Iroquois and obtained of them the return of some slaves that they have; the Iroquois learning this of me appeared perfectly satisfied.
It is not to be wondered at that the Iroquois speak of waging war against our allies inasmuch as they receive affronts from them every year. I have seen, among the Potawatomi and Miami at Michillimackinac, the spoils and scalps of numerous Iroquois whom the Indians from this region had treacherously killed while hunting last spring and earlier; which is not unknown to the Iroquois, our allies having the imprudence of celebrating this feat in their presence while they were trading among them, as I have seen Potawatomi at Michillimackinac who, dancing with the calumet, boasted of this treachery, holding up the scalps at arm's length in the sight of three Mohawk who were there to trade.
I cannot omit a conversation that I had with an Indian of the Mahican tribe as to the causes of his difficulty in choosing between our religion and that of the English on account of the two differences which he found between the apostles, some of the missionaries of this country and the English ministers. He perceived that the latter did not imitate the celibacy of the apostles and the former were far removed from their disinterestedness, judging by their pursuit of riches. Finally, he found consolation in seeing the Recollect fathers' love for poverty which determined him to come to seek baptism in our religion.
Many green parrakeets, smaller than those of the islands and large as those of Africa, are to be found in Illinois.