Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 2, No. 4
LA HARPE’S FIRST EXPEDITION IN OKLAHOMA,
Bernard de la Harpe is one of the interesting French explorers who came into Louisiana as a result of Law’s scheme of settling
Louisiana. La Harpe had been given a grant on the Red River, and in 1718, when he went to take possession of the grant, the
Council of Louisiana took advantage of this opportunity to extend French interests in the Southwest. The Council made La Harpe
commandant among the Nassonites, Cadodaquious, Nadacos, and Natchitoches. He was also instructed to explore the Red River,
learn about the savages in that region, establish posts among the Cadodaquious, and to do all in his power to establish commerce
with the Spaniards in Texas and New Mexico.
The tribes which La Harpe had been given command over were located at this time above the big bend on the Red River. Accordng
to the maps of Texas in the eighteenth century compiled from original data by Herbert E. Bolton, these tribes are located
not far from the southeastern corner of Oklahoma. It was here that La Harpe decided to make an establishment.1 La Harpe says of the location, "This spot seemed to me very beautiful, having a beautiful coast spread toward the river."
La Harpe chose a site two leagues above the Nassonites. The Nassonite chief sold this to him for thirty pistols and some merchandise.
Two days later La Harpe, with the help of the Indians, began the construction of a house. He now had a base of operation,
1."big bend" of Red River is at the mouth of Little River, at the eastern extremity of Little River County, Arkansas, near the
present town of Fulton, and approximately thirty-six miles east of the Oklahoma-Arkansas boundry line. In the letter of Dr.
John Sibley, Indian Agent, to Gen. Henry Dearborn, secretary of war, dated at Natchitoches, Louisiana, April 10, 1805 (American
State Papers, Vol. V, p. 729) the following statement is made concerning the Red River country immediately above the confluence
of Little River:
"You now arrive at the mouth of the Little River at the right. The river is about one hundred and fifty yards wide; the water
clear as crystal; the bottom of the river stony, and is boatable, at high water, up to the great prairies, near two hundred
miles by the course of the river; the low (cont.)
and from this post, he made alliances with the Indians, and explored the surrounding country. La Harpe had left New Orleans
in December, 1718, and by June, 1719, was ready to explore and acquaint the surrounding tribes with his merchandise.
The following is a translation of La Harpe’s expedition into Oklahoma, which gives an interesting view of Oklahoma as seen
by a Frenchman in 1719. This journal of La Harpe’s is taken from Pierre Margry’s "Decouvertes et Establessement des Francais
dans l’Ouest et dans le Sud de l’Amerique." The thirteenth [June, 1719], the chief of the Canicons, with his attendants, came
to see me; I showed him very much attention, invited him to eat with me, and I gave him several presents. I could have had
several useful conversations with him, but I was without a good interpreter. Those who could have been of use to me on this
occasion had gone with Sieur Du Rivage to discover the roving nation.
The sixteenth, there arrived several Nadacos savages who brought me some news confused on the subject of the Spanish, whom,
they said, were angry with the French, that we had pursued the Adayes, and that the chief of the Assinais and his warriors
had withdraw from their Presidio. I judged by this discourse that they were at war with Spain, and, in order to be more
grounds generally from ten to fifteen miles wide, abounding with the most luxuriant growth of rich timber, but subject to
partial inundation at particular rainy seasons. After leaving this river, both banks of Red River are cane, as before, for
twenty miles, when you come to the round prairie, right side about five miles in circumference. At this place, Red River is
fordable at low water; a hard stony bottom, and the first place from the mouth where it can be forded. This round prairie
is high and pleasant, surrounded by handsome oak and hickory uplands; left side, cane as before, and then the same both sides
for twenty miles, to the long prairie, left side, forty miles long; opposite, cane as before. Near the middle of this prairie,
there is a lake of about five miles in circumference, in an oval form, neither tree or shrub near it, nor stream of water
running either in or out of it; it is very deep, and the water so limpid that a fish may be seen fifteen feet from the surface.
By the side of this lake the Caddoques have lived from time immemorial. About one mile from the lake is the hill on which,
they say, the Great Spirit placed one Caddo family, who were saved when, by a general deluge, all the world were drowned,
from which family all the Indians have originated. To this little natural eminence all Indian tribes, as well as the Caddoques,
for a great distance, pay devout and sacred homage. Here the French for many years before Louisiana was ceded to Spain, had
erected a small fort, kept some soldiers to guard a factory they had established for the Indians trade, and several French
families were settled in the vicinity, built a flour mill, and cultivated wheat successfully for several years; and it is
only a few years ago that the mill irons and mill stones were brought down. It is about twenty-five years since those French
families moved down, and fourteen years since the Caddoques left it. Here is another fording place when the river is low."
While the abandoned French settlement thus mentioned by Sibley may not be identical with the establishment of La Harpe, it
is not improbable that it occupied the site of the latter and, indeed, that it had been continuous from the time of La Harpe’s
settlement, in 1719. If so, it was on the Texas side of the river, in the northern part of Bowie County, about twenty miles
east and six miles south of the intersection of Red River by the eastern boundary of Oklahoma.
certain, I sent the corporal of the garrison to the Nadacos with the savages of this nation. I requested him to go as far
as the Assinais in order to be informed of all things, I gave him some merchandise in order to trade for some horses for me.
He set out for his journey on the twentieth of June.
The twenty-fourth, there arrived a savage from the nation of the Oulchionis in order to inform our savages that the French
were at war with the Spanish, and that the chiefs of the nation (Oulchionis) had sent him to solicit them (the Nassonites)
to declare themselves in our favor. The chiefs of our nation replied that they did not wish to enter in our disputes, but
in case the Spanish attacked us, they would join the French.
The twenty-ninth, Sieur Du Rivage arrived from his journey with two savages from the Quidehais nation; he reported to me that
at seventy leagues on the west side and from the west a fourth northwest, he had encountered a party of the roving nation,
who were the Quidehais, Naouydiches, Joyvan, Huanchane, Huane, Tancaoye, among whom he had been very well received. He learned
from them that they had just had an encounter with a party from the Cancy nation, of whom they had had the advantage, that
the Cancy nation composed a thickly populated village on the banks of the Red River, at sixty leagues from the place where
Sieur Du Rivage had reached, the Spanish were established among the Cancys. He learned, also, that the Spanish extracted a
very heavy substance from the earth; and that one could go by the Red River in the high water as far as three days journey
of these nations; that sometimes the roving nation had pursued the Cancy by land as far as their village, but that the Spanish
had drawn on them large guns (a term they used to distinguish the cannons and the swivel-guns).
Sieur Du Rivage gave these nations the presents I had intended for them. He solicited them on my behalf to maintain friendly
relations with the French, and upon his asking them if they had any knowledge of the nation situated towards the North on
the banks of a large river, they assured him that they were allies, and that the most important of these nations was called
Touacara. He told them then that I desired to go there to make an alliance with them but that I needed a guide. Thereupon,
the chiefs agreed among themselves to send two, and assured Sieur Du Rivage that they would be at my post in a moon to offer
their services. These people were a wandering people, having no fixed place of habitation, they followed the buffalo, which
served them as their nourishment, their skins as their robes or clothing. It is in these hunts that they are subject to encountering
their enemies. They make up, in all, two thousand five hundred men, but they are divided into cantons, in order to find their
sustenance more easily. These nations are allied with those of the Quichuan, situated two leagues from the Red River, to the
left, in the neighborhood of the place where Sieur Du Rivage had found these roving nations. These are warlike people, they
have nearly always the advantage over their enemies, although inferior in number. The Tancaoyes are the most famous among
them; most of the chiefs are one-eyed from the blows they have received in battle. These nations and the Cancy are so embittered
against each other that the conqueors eat the conquered; they do not spare even the women or children. The weapons of both
are the tomahawk and the spear. The Cancy have some swords, clothing apparel, cloth, and some hats, but they have no fire
arms, there being an inviolable law among the Spaniards not to furnish them to the savages.2
2.Most of the Indians with whom La Harpe came in contact, both at his newly established post on Red River and also at and near
his destination on the Arkansas, belonged to various tribes of the great Caddoan linguistic family, many of which tribes have
since disappeared. His post was located among the Cadodaquious (Kadohadacho, i.e., "real Caddo"), which tribe was the head
of the Caddo Confederacy. At that time there were three confederacies composed of Caddoan tribes living in the region of the
Arkansas and Red rivers, namely, (1) the Hasinai, or Lower Caddo, (2) the Caddo, both of which were located on Red River,
and (3) the Paniouassa (i. e., Lower Pawnee or Southern Pawnee), located in the valleys of the Arkansas and upper Red rivers.
Of the first of these, but two tribes were mentioned incidentally, their range being many leagues below La Harpe’s post, namely,
Amediche, Naoudiche (both identical with the Nabediche) and Dulchioni. Five tribes mentioned by him belonged to the Caddo
Confederacy, namely Adayes (Adai), Cadodaquious (Caddo), Nadaco (Anadarko), Nadsoos (Natasoho), and Nassonite (Nasoni). Of
the Paniouassa, or Wichita-Waco-Tawakony Confederacy, to visit whose people and leaders was the object of this expedition
of La Harpe, he mentioned no less than seven tribes, namely Adero (Ardeco), Ascania (Yscania), Huanchane, Huane, and Honechas
(all three identical with Waco), Wusitas and Ousita (both identical with Wichita), Quiscasqueris (Quiscat), Toayas (Tawehash)
and Touacara (Tawakony). In addition to the people of the tribes composing this last mentioned confederacy, La Harpe seems
also to have met representatives of the Caumuche (Comanche) and Quataquois (Plains Apache) tribes at the big village on the
Arkansas, though this would seem very doubtful. In addition to the foregoing, he mentioned three other Caddoan tribes, namely,
the Pani, (Pawnee), Arricara (Arikara) and Quidehais (Keechi) none of which were included in either of the confederacies mentioned.
The Cancy, who were hostile to his Caddoan guides and traveling companions and a band of whom he narrowly escaped meeting
on the course of his return journey, were really Lipan, whose people were since driven from the plains of western Texas into
the mountains of New Mexico and who originally constituted one of the subdivisions of the great Apache tribe. The Anahous
were the Osage, being known by that name to the Caddo people. The Comanche are also mentioned as the Padouca, that being their
designation among the Osage people. The Quichuan (Kiowas), Canicons (Tanico or Tunica) and the Tanoayoe (Tonkawa) and their
kinsmen, the Jovvan (Yojuane) are mentioned only incidentally. The Caumuche, Quichuan and Quataquois are here listed as Comanche,
Kiowa and Plains Apache, respectfuly, because (cont)
The advantage that the Cancy have over their enemies is that they have good horses, whereas the other nations have very few,
only those taken from the defeat of their enemies. In their encampment, they make houses with skins of buffalo prepared after
the manner of parchment; but what is peculiar is that in their marches, there are dogs which carry these houses on their backs.
It is from observation that one learns that the range of mountains which extends as far as the Illinois, takes its origin
in these districts at the altitude of thirty-five degrees, thirty minutes, and that they extend to Santa Fe, the capital city
of New Mexico, which is only one hundred leagues by direct route through the prairies.
The Presidio of Paral, so famous for its richness and for its situation, only forty or fifty leagues distant from the Rio
Conchas, which descends to the sea of California, is located, they say, at thirty-three degrees, thirty minutes latitude,
at a few leagues west of the river of the north and in the southwest of the Cancy about eighty leagues. This shows how important
it is to maintain the posts established on the Red River, particularly those of the Nassonites, which is not far distant by
land from the Cancy nation, at whose territory the Spanish obtain gold, only one hundred and twenty leagues through a very
The first of August, the corporal arrived from the Assinais with the chiefs of that nation, who assured me of their friendship
for the French, notwithstanding the rupture with the Spanish. I gave some presents to them, finally engaging them to continue
their good intentions toward us; they sang to me the calumet in order to indicate their sincerity. I learned from the corporal
that we were at war with the Spanish, and that M. Blondel, commandant to the Natchitoches had pursued the fathers Recollets
of the mission of the Adayes. This appeared very strange to me, more so as these good fathers performed the duties of chaplain
to the Natchitoches. This corporal was attacked by a savage and had to remain at the cabin of the chief of the Amedi-
ches until the departure of the Spaniards, who, learning of our garrison and our savages, had withdrawn to the other side
of the Trinite River.
Seeing that the war was an obstacle to commerce that I had attempted to make with the Spaniards and that I had nothing to
fear from them for the present at my point, I thought it would be of interest to the King to go to discover the nations which
hey had spoken of as being on the northwest coast and to make an alliance with them in order to shorten the way into New Mexico
and the territory of the Padoucas from whom the Spanish obtained much riches. The corporal had negotiated with the Nadachos
and the Assinais for twelve horses which he brought me. I bought ten more from our savages: I loaded them with luggage and
provisions, and on the eleventh of August, I started with our two Quidehais guides, a savage Nassonite, the genalemen Du Rivage
and de La Filoche, a soldier, two enlisted soldiers, and two negroes. The same day, I sent a message to M. de Bienville to
inform him of the state of the garrison and the enterprise that I intended to make; I also sent to him for a commission to
explore in this part of the West, in order to shelter myself from the events which might take place. We advanced three leaguees
on the West, and Northwest this same day.3
The twelfth, we passed several meadows and some country filled with vines; we made six leagues to the West, a quarter to the
The thirteenth, by the point of the compass, we advanced five leagues. We passed several chestnut and walnut groves; we camped
near a pond.5
The fourteenth, to the northwest, we made six leagues, at a tall forest we commenced to find some precious stones. Afterwards,
we entered in a large prairie, rock in part, which continued in the West, the length of the river, to the Cancy village established
in New Mexico. One discovered from that place along the North side, several ranges of mountains.6
The fifteenth, in the North and Northwest, we made five leagues. We crossed the prairie and we camped near a cross-road, which
formed two little pathways, one which ran in the West to the roving nations, and the other to the Northwest which was the
one that we followed the next day.7
The sixteenth, on the Northwest, we made five leagues through a very beautiful sloping country, we passed the night in a forest.8
The seventeenth, we remained in camp, our guides killed for us two buffalos and some roebucks, but the heat was so great that
the meat could be preserved for only two days, unless it was smoked. As time was necessary for this dressing, we did not stop.
The eighteenth, we advanced the length of several hills, and through beautiful prairies we found some slate-quarries and several
pieces of rock crystal; we made during the day four leagues in the North and Northwest.
The nineteenth, we continued to wind the length of several hills; at ten o’clock, we left the shortest pathway which led to
the Touacaras, because of the difficulty of the mountains, in order to follow that of the West; at six o’clock, we descended
a great hill, at the bottom of which we camped after having made seven leagues in the West.9
The twentieth, we passed mountains difficult enough because of the quantity of large overturned stones that we encountered,
and the heights and descents that we had to pass. At ten o’clock, we camped near a swamp, after having made seven leagues
on the North and a quarter on the Northwest.
The twenty-first, we followed a little pathway which wound the length of several hills; at nine o’clock, our guides killed
some venison, while they were cutting them, I killed a very large bear;
we stopped near a brook between the rocks. At eleven o’clock, a party of thirty Nassonite and Nadsoos warriors came to join
us; they were returning to their village because they feared encountering a party of the Anahous nation, whose fire they had
noticed. These Nassonites had been hunting for fifteen days, during which time they had killed forty-six buffaloes; this day
we advanced three leagues in the North, and Northwest.
The twenty-second, our guides, alarmed by a party of Anahous, that roved in these quarters, they wished us to leave; it was
necessary to use very much persuasion in order to get them to let us continue our journey. We went to the Northeast a league
and a half, afterwards, we went on the left and passed several hills and prairies. At four o’clock we found a little river,
which in this place falls to the West.10 It winds very much and falls finally beneath the Cadodaquious, in the Red River. We entered afterwards in a beautiful prairie,
enclosed by mountains, which passed through the Illinois; they have in this place a width of thirty leagues from the North
to the South, and according to all appearances, there are some metallic mines judging from the different colors of the earth,
the marcasites that was found there, and the assurances that were given to us by the savages. The route for this day had been
Northeast, a quarter, to the North, five leagues.
The twenty-third, we advanced in the prairie on the Northwest, quarter North, two leagues, after which we passed a little
river which descends to the South, which winds among several mountains and falls into the river below the old Nadsoos village.
We camped afterwards, in order to rest our horses, which had been lessened by two, as we had been forced to abondon them,
they not being able to keep up.11
The twenty-fourth, we continued to advance in the plain as far as a very thick wood, near a brook that was necessary to cross,
in the afternoon we entered in the mountains, very difficult to pass because of the thickness of the wood and the upturned
stone that one encounters here. Two of our horses were lost here. At five o’clock in the evening we camped in a valley, near
a brook, at the foot of several mountains.12 I had taken the precaution to bring a large hammer to break the rocks, in which one might find some metal; I found in this
place several black marcasites, lined within by several grains resembling gold, and some flint lined with a white metal. I
picked some up, and I do not doubt by any means, that if they do not find metal in these stones that they will not fail to
denote metallic mines. We made this five leagues on the Northwest.
The twenty-fifth, we mounted to the summit of a mountain. Having advanced a league, we entered in some prairies and valleys
very pleasing to the sight; we killed three buffalo. This day we made three leagues toward the Northwest.
The twenty-sixth, in the morning, we saw a troop of twenty savages; our guides thought themselves lost, having identified
them for the Anahous. They were some Osages . . . . . . Although they are friends of the French, this nation is treacherous,
and it is good to be on one’s guard. This party approached us carrying the tomahawk; our savages wished to flee, but I assured
them that if they took this action, they were lost, and that there were some other ways to extricate them. We kept our countenance
and the Osages appeared, on their part, to be getting ready to attack us. In this perplexity, I advanced toward them with
three Frenchmen well armed, one of which was the soldier of the garrison, who understood several languages. This hostile party,
surprised by our boldness, offered us the Peace Pipe. They explained to us then that they knew of our nation and that we were
their friends, but they were pretending to scalp our guides. I opposed their scheme, and I said to them if they persisted
in their demands I would find myself forced to fight with them. This resolution made them change their attitude. They reflected
among themselves and agreed to let us pass in peace. I gave them some presents, after which they withdrew, without approaching
our guides, who remained with the rest of my people
on their guard. This day, we found two brooks, some hills and prairies, and we made three leagues in the Northwest.13
The twenty-seventh, we entered in a beautiful country, where we saw a great quantity of roe-buck. At ten o’clock, we passed
a little arid mountain, then a brook, near which we stopped to pass the heat of the mid-day. At three o’clock, we saw several
camps, where there were lighted fires and evidences of horses. Our guides warned us that this as a party of Cancy. As this
nation as not friendly toward our savages, and as they had fear of becoming their prey, we marched away on our guard. Having
advanced a league and a half, we crossed a sunken lake, one of the horses fell into the water with his load, he drowned, but
we saved the luggage that he carried. We camped near the other side of the lake. At five o’clock in the evening, a Naouydiche
savage, who was making discoveries there, having taken us for allies, came to advise us on the camp that we had found, they
were a party of sixty Cancy warriors, of whom it was necessary to keep on guard; that at six leagues farther on the great
chief of the Naouydiche was situated on the banks of one of the branches of the Ouachitas River, and forty warriors, that
he went to the Touacara village to see there the French chief. This day we made six leagues to the Northwest.
The twenty-eighth, we came into a beautiful prairie, varied by hills and thickets; we found there a prodigious quantity of
wild cattle, and a great number of wolves; they are little and not at all bad. We saw there, also, some partridges, of woodcock
and of plover. The evening we mounted to the summit of a rock, on descending from which we camped near a little lake; the
same evening my little English dog was lost, of which I greatly regretted. We made three leagues to the North and one fourth
The twenty-ninth, we advanced three leagues to North and Northeast, a difficult enough woods and many little rocky mountains.
We entered afterwards in the prairies next in a very thick woods, in which our guides lost us. After a thousand impediments
we found ourselves on the bank of the west branch of the
river of the Ouachitas,14 which separated itself at twenty leagues lower from the other branch which reascended from the North and Northwest; this
river emptied in the Red River at fourteen leagues from its mouth. At two o’clock in the afternoon we joined the Naouydiches
party. They were busy smoking some unicorn.15 It is an animal big as a middle-sized horse; he has hair of reddish color and the length of that of the she-goats, the legs
rather thin and in the middle of the forehead a horn, without branches, of a half-a-foot long; the meat of it is very delicious.
This discovery confirms that which M. de Bienville had been told of the savages that in the upper head waters of the Ouachitas
River there were some unicorn.
The great chief Naouydiche and his warriors showed to us much friendship and sang for me in this place the Calumet; this required
me to make some new presents to him; I showed them the marcasite, that I had gathered in the mountains; they assured me that
in the same region to northeast where I had passed, there had been found some very precious stones.
The thirtieth, we stayed in camp; the savages busied themselves catching some fish in the stream which flowed into the river.
The thirty-first, we placed ourselves in march with the party of Naouydiche; we found a very thick woods, at the leaving of
which we entered in another woods much clearer; next in the prairies at the end of hich we passed woods, on the leaving of
which we came to the edge of the northwest branch of the river
of the Ouachita;16 that day we made six leagues in the North one-fourth Northwest.
[September, 1719.] The first, we crossed the branch of the river in which it had then only two to three feet of water;17 we followed a path to the right the length of a woods wide, which led us to some hills. Here we passed a brook full of large
shells made in the fashion of "Ricadoes," in one of hich we found a pearl of a very beautiful luster. I showed it to Chief
Naouydiche; he assured me that several days away from these villages where I was going, one finds some very large pearls in
shells in a river. We passed near this place a brook, next we entered in a vast prairie where we lost our way. At seven o’clock
in the evening we stopped close to a little lake of water. We moved forward this day some seven leagues to north.18
The second, we continued to cross a great prairie, in which are found two brooks among some thickets, after which we discovered
many deposits abundant with coal. We passed the night at the bottom near a pool of water. We made this day eight leagues to
The third, we continued to advance in the prairie as far as a woods near a brook, where the great chief of the nation Touacaras,
accompanied by six other chiefs of nations, waited for me, having had news of my arrival by some Naouydiches who were first
in the field; they (Touacaras) were mounted on some very beautiful horses, saddled and bridled in the style of the Spanish.
Our first compliments passed for some demonstrations of friendship. After which the chief of Touacara had said to me by a
Naouydiche who spoke the language (Nassonite), understood by a soldier of the garrison, that it was unusual to see in their
country a nation unknown to them. They assured us in all sincerity that they wished to make an alliance with us and
that our enemies would be theirs. I represented to them that the great chief of my nation of whose word I was the bearer,
had sent me to them in order to assure them of his protection and of his friendship and to offer them aid against their enemies,
and that I would accept, in his name, the alliance they proposed. The chiefs brought with them some bread of corn meal with
some wheat and some smoked meat of which they entertained me and my company; next I mounted on a beautiful horse that they
had led out to me, we went together to their village. The country through which we passed was level. Within easy musket range
of their village, we crossed a beautiful brook, enclosed in woods, on the other side of which were the villages.20 They were situated upon some hills which extended the length of the southwest branch of the river of Alcansas. This village
is very compact; the houses are joined together one to the other running east and west. The location is one of the most beautiful
that I ever saw. The nations of this location are the Touacaras, Toayas, Caurnuches, Aderos, Wusitas, Ascania, Quataquois,
Ouicaspueris, Honechas; they are able to provide for six thousand people of both sexes.
On arriving at the village the chief who had accompanied me had me dismount within easy musket range of Chief Touacara. Two
(considerees) carried me upon their shoulders, their faces turned toward the ground, they put me on a buffalo hide upon the
floor. Then, all the principal Indians made a circle around me, and each of them put out his hand as a sign of his friendship.
While I presented some presents to Chief Touacara, which consisted of some powder, some bullets, some "hatchets," some knives,
and several (anues d’estoffe). Although he was surprised to see so much merchandise, he showed only little emotion, continuing
his air of dignity.
He was in age in the neighborhood of twenty-five years. In order to show me his gratitude, he gave me a crown of eagle plumes
decorated with little buds of all colors, two calumet plumes, one of war and the other of peace, presenting the most valuable
gift that these warriors could make.
The fourth, the eight nations sang to me the calumet. There were there assembled more than seven thousand persons, a part
comprised the roving nation who came expressly from their villages to sing me the calumet. The Chief Toayas and Ascania, old
men of more than sixty years performed the ceremony of this feast; they handled the plumes with an infinite skill. They made
some speeches in which they told of the advantages of an alliance with us, that we were a warrior nation, who apprehended
not at all the enemies on the way, although we were small in number, that to trade with us would be to their advantage since
we could carry to them some arms in order to defend against their enemies, perhaps leaving some merchandise proper and useful
for their use; that it would be necessary to treat us well, at least that we would be able to leave their homes. After they
had made these discourses, all the chiefs and (considerees) of these nations told me of all their power and gave me the number
of all the scalps they had taken. Bored by the ceremony which has lasted from eight o’clock in the morning—two hours after
midnight, I took my departure to go to repose and to leave the Sieur Du Rivage in my place. Knowing well that this feast would
not be finished until the following day, upon the second hour of the afternoon. During which time the savages never went to
their cabinet, with the result that they were very fatigued by it and their voices so hoarsed that one could scearcely hear
The fifth, the chiefs came to take me to a place. I was placed on a buffalo hide, they carried me to a place where the calumet
was sung under a (antichon) covered with foliage because of the warmth of the sun; they painted my face of a blue ultra-marine,
next they threw at my feet thirty buffalo hides, several pieces of rock salt, some chunks of tobacco of grey-green and some
little ultra-marine. They added to these presents a little slave of the Cancy nation of eight years, of which they had eaten
a finger from each hand, a mark that one was destined to serve one day as food to these cannibals. For then, the Chief Togas
[Toayas], whose nation is the most numerous told me that he was sorry to have only one (slave to present to me), that if I
had arrived a noon sooner he would have given me the seventeen that they had eaten in a public feast. I thanked him for his
good will, regretting that I had not arrived in time to save the lives of these
poor unfortunates.21 By means of whom one could have made peace with their nation by returning them home again. I gave then to these nations the
presents that I had intended for them approaching nearly fifeen hundred pounds.
The eighth, I called an assembly of all the principal chiefs of these nations in order to obtain information concerning the
river Alcansas, of the nearest dwelling of the Spaniard, and of the commerce that they had with the Padoucas. To these inquiries
they replied that their river formed two branches below their villages; that the one on which their villages were came from
the west near the Spanish and Padoucas villages; that the Spanish got from this country yellow metal and that they traded
some slaves and some peltry. That the country of these white men (Spaniards) was full of towns and that they had domesticated
roebucks, and that their prairies were covered with horses and other animals that bore wool; that the Padoucas were a numerous
nation whose villages extend much farther toward the north and northwest coast; that the Spanish were not allied with all
these nations, and that when they were busy going to some village remote from the coast of the Aricauas they were often attacked
by the Panis Nation, who were enemies of the Padoucas. They assured me that this river of the Alcansas was navigable in winter
to just below the Spanish villages; from here it took six days to go by land but that they did not go because the Padoucas
were their enemies. They told me the same things of the Anabous and Missoury, to whom they gave another name, that they made
war on them, but that they were allied with the two villages Ascania and Ousita situated to northwest of their dwellings,
sixty leagues distant; that they had seen these seven famous cities to the northwest of the Arricara, which were one hundred
and twenty leagues journey from their allies. I believe that these Arricara were part of forty-five Panis villages.
They assured me that, in the highest place on the river a distance of several days journey, one might find sack salt of gray-green
and ultra-marine blue, but that it was a risk for them to go there because of the Cancy who passed by these places to go
to war with the Padoucas. One of the chiefs assured me that there was there a little hill six days journey from the village
where there was yellow metal which the Spanish esteemed much. He gave me a stone of it that he had by chance in his cabin.
My intention was to leave with this nation three of my men until the council of Louisiana should decide upon an establishment
here, but I changed my mind, having learned that these people quit all of their villages in the month of October to go hunting
to which they return only in the month of March to sow their maize, beans and pumpkins which they eat in the summer. The lands
of these quarters were very fertile, black and light, the country is open and it is only by little canyons that one can perceive
some thickets of oak, chestnuts, and of mulberry; the prairies are high and fitted to the culture of wheat and other grains.
The savages cultivate their prodigious quantities of tobacco which they press into flat loaves after having pounded it. The
hunting there is abundant not only for beef, bears and roebuck but generally for all other animals. The river furnishes very
good fish and although the water is sometimes very low, it never fails to remain two or three feet in depth.
These nations raise very good horses being unable to do without them either in war or hunting. They have saddles, bridles
which are very well made and even wear breastplates of leather to protect their flesh; their cabins are raised higher the
most part built of straw and of reeds covered with earth forming a dome; over each door each of the nation has his arms painted
on a piece of brown leather. Some represent the sun, moon, or stars, or other different animals. The Chief of the nation of
Touacaras is the most respected of all nations. When his food was carried to him to eat he takes a part of it and gives the
rest to his (considerees). The plates are made of reed but so well worked that the water does not penetrate.
These savages are people of good sense, cleverer than the nations of the Mississippi but the fertility of the country makes
them lazy. They are always sitting around their chief and usually they think only of eating, smoking and playing. They are
also libertines but generous in their love affairs, giving to their mistresses all that they have. The women are pretty enough,
they have nothing to find fault with but their olive color. They push the gallantry farther than the men. During our sojourn
villages they never quit carrying us plates of greens and of maize, prepared with the marrow of beef and smoked meat. They
exerted themselves to outdo each other as to which should carry the best meat. We could not eat all they brought to us. These
people could not cease admiring my two negroes, the women made them advances and the men hoped that they would remain among
In regard to their religion I am not very well informed, but it appears to me that they have little of it, and that the greatest
good consists in the pleasure of the body. They recognize, however, a great spirit whom they worship under different forms.
They present him with the first fruits of the land and believe when they are dead they will embark in a great pirogue guided
by a black man with horns who puts ashore those who have lived well, in a prairie country full of cattle, those who have not
been warriors and who have badly served their country are left on arid lands on which they live miserably.
There is not in the whole colony of Louisiana an establishment more useful to make than on the branch of this river not only
because of the mild climate, the fertility of the land, the richness of the minerals, but also because of the possibility
of trade that one might introduce with Spain and New Mexico. If one could control the trade which the Spanish carry on with
the Padoucas and Arricaras, one could become master of this region. It isn’t necessary to add to that that one could handle
a quantity of cow hides and other peltry that would be easily obtained from the Spanish. And as many cows and sheep as the
establishment on this river would need, that they could be transported by land easily to the post that we have established
on the Mississippi and as far as the Illinois.
From the sixth to the tenth of September, I employed Sieur Du Rivage to carve on a post the arms of the king and the company
and the day and the year of taking possession. It was planted in the middle of the village. The savages asked us what it signified,
I told them it was to mark the alliance we had made with them.
The eleventh, there arrived a savage from the Chicachas Nation with merchandise. He appeared troubled to see me in
these villages, he told me that he was returning to the Yasous. I gave him a letter to M. Bienville.22
My two Quidehais guides having left me with these nations, there remains only twenty Nassonites who came with me. When it
was necessary for me to leave in order to return, they (Nassonites) begged me to leave before they did, and that they would
come to join me in a few days. Having taken leave of these nations by preparing some provisions of beans and maize, I began
my journey the thirteenth of September. It was observed that from the Nassonites to the Touacaras it is one hundred and ten
leagues and that their location is southeast and northwest. We made today three leagues in the southeast as far as the woods,
near a spring where I had met the chiefs of these nations.
The seventeenth, we arrived at the northwest branch of the Ouachita river, where we rested until the twenty-first. When I
sent some of my people to the village, from which I came, to get information concerning my guide and to bring me some food,
there remained no more than twenty pounds of beans and having still seventy-four leagues of journey to make, which made me
regulate these beans to half a liter a day to each person.
The twenty-third, the night was very cold, the wind being in the north. We continued our little entrenchment, for fear of
surprise. We fished the same day for fish in the river.
The twenty-fourth, the cold continued. We saw several unicorns without being able to approach them. We gathered some small
glazed fruit from trees. It is a fruit like the medlar but much better when it is very ripe, without which it is extremely
The twenty-fifth, we began to see bustards, (wild geese), coming from the north and going to the south.
The twenty-sixth, the cold continued. We saw a quantity of roebucks, but our small supply of powder and the fear of going
too far from our entrenchments because of enemies, kept us from hunting them.
The twenty-seventh, the food having failed we killed one of our horses to serve for food. We smoked a part of it. The same
day I killed a bustard and a wood-rat, which we ate.
The twenty-eighth, my English dog which I had lost a month ago came to our cabin, but she had lost her memory, so that she
could not recognize us. What was singular, is that my other dog carried her food, depriving himself of his food to exercise
this charity. The same day my people arrived from the Touacaras with some maize and some beans. They brought me a Naouydiche
guide who had abandoned me to follow a savage woman, with whom he was in love.
The thirtieth, we began the journey, we made four leagues to the lake where one of our horses was drowned in going to our
discoveries, having found a short cut of a league and a half by a good road.
The first, we perceived a very great multitude of wild cattle which appeared frightened. Our savage killed some of them; he
stopped to smoke them against my advice having judged that the cattle were hunted by some enemy nations, I followed my journey.
Having advanced a league we noticed about fifty horsemen who were following the cattle. We recognized them to be some Cancy.
That made us redouble our steps until six o’clock in the evening when we stopped by a brook. I found one of my blacks was
lost, having remained with the Naouydiche hunting, but he arrived at two o’clock in the morning, having saved himself by the
help of the grass, where he had hidden himself. According to his report our guide and his wife had been put to death.
The third, we were misled into the mountains. As I had observed in coming the direction and had gone that route, I went to
the southeast; but we found the roads were difficult, with lakes that it was necessary to cross, that I lost this day three
horses with their baggage.
The fourth, from the fourth to the eighth of the same month, we roamed in the mountains. All of our horses perished there,
we were forced to go on foot each with a pack of smoked horse flesh.
The ninth, we found again our road, and the thirteenth we arrived at the Nassonites, extremely fatigued from such a painful
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