French Colonialism

Painting of Marquette with Native Americans
Père Marquette and the Indians, painted by Wilhelm Lamprecht, circa 1869

The recorded history of Southern Illinois began in 1673 when French explorers Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet traveled down the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, encountering Native Americans. European contact sparked dramatic changes in Native American ways of life, from fur trading to the introduction of guns, horses, and other goods. With few French women in America, fur traders married Native American women, who served as diplomats and helped conduct business. Tribes formed alliances and attacked enemies to supply the growing French market for Native American slaves.