In recent decades, historical and archaeological research into the early French period in the western Great Lakes has revolutionized our understanding of both the French explorers and missionaries who penetrated the region and the Native people who resided there. Join Professor Patrick J. Jung as he presents his research on the case of Jean Nicolet, his journey to Green Bay which has been substantially recast by more thorough and careful research into the original documents that record his journey. Historians today reject the notions proffered a century ago that he landed at Red Banks on Green Bay, or at the entrance to Lake Winnebago at Menasha. Instead, the historical evidence suggests he landed on the western shore of Green Bay, likely at Marinette in 1634. The travels of Father Jacques Marquette are far better documented, and there exists no doubt that he plied the waters of Sturgeon Bay during his journey to the Illinois River in 1674.
The span of forty years that separated these two journeys witnessed a dramatic shift in the human geography of the western Great Lakes and the Door Peninsula in particular. In Nicolet’s day, the Puans, the ancestors of the later Ho-Chunk people, occupied the Door Peninsula and spoke a dialect of the Chiwere Siouan language family. Shortly thereafter, the Puans became engaged in a cataclysmic series of wars with nearby Algonquian speaking societies, particularly the tribes of the Illinois Confederacy. More than ninety percent of the Puans died in these conflicts, and the remnants reorganized as the Ho-Chunk Nation. By Marquette’s time, Algonquian peoples dominated the Green Bay region, particularly the Potawatomis, who would later migrate south toward Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Milwaukee, and Chicago.
The Door County Maritime Museum Speaker Series is graciously sponsored by the Door County Medical Center.