A Look Back in History

Thanks to Mel AAnerud for his engaging passage spurred by our April 11 day in history

Who was the first white in what we now Call Minnesota. It was probably some French fur trader who happened here across Lake Superior. But Father Louis Hennepin gets most of the credit, but I would like you to consider Michael Accault, who has a very different slant on that first white exploration into Minnesota in 1680.

From the perspective of Michael Accault….. by Mel Aanerud

Good day, Good day.

I have just left a meeting with the commander…you know him Rene Cavalier De LaSalle, the great explorer.
He has just gotten this book from France and he read parts of it to me.
I will take it home and have my wife read the whole thing to me.
It entitled “A new discovery of a vast county in America between New France and new Mexico” and was written by the priest Father Louis Hennepin.
In it he says that he found the source of the Mississippi River and traveled it from its beginnings to New Lisbon and New Orleans, that he named everything in-between in the name of the King of France and that he converted all the Indians he met in his many travels to Christianity.
La Salle said that he exaggerated a bit…I said he is a ball faced liar.
It was in February of 1680, just five years ago, when La Salle planned a major exploration of the lands to the west of New France and Sioux Saint Marie.
La Salle led a group down the great lake which we now called Michigan and about a month later Daniel Grysolon De L’hut led another group west into what you now call Lake Superior.
I am sorry, I should introduce myself, I am Michael Accault and I was one of La Salle’s main lieutenants. We went to the end of the lake and took a river as far as it went west and south. A short portage into what is now called the Illinois River and we continued west and south.
We knew there was a great river in that direction from descriptions we had heard from the Spanish. But when we came upon the Mississippi even we were mightily impressed.
LaSalle had to decide what to do, and he decided to take the main group south on the river, for he wanted the most men with him, in case he happened upon any Spaniards who would claim we were trespassing. He pick me to lead one canoe north on the river and he allowed me to pick my companion.
I picked Picard DuGay, he was young, only seventeen and inexperienced, but he was big and strong and could paddle a canoe up stream nearly as fast as anyone else we had could paddle one down stream.
 LaSalle decided I should also take the priest Hennepin.
 I protested, but he insisted. For three reason; one: we might need his spiritual guidance, two: if we meet heathers, he could help convert them and three: he couldn’t stand having him around anymore and for his own Sanity, he foisted him on me.
We traveled north on this great river only two days, with father Hennepin from time to time standing in the canoe, risking our lives, raising his cross and naming this stream or that rock formation after some saint or other.
On the third day we met at least 40 canoes of natives coming south. We had asked the Ojibwa who the Indians were to the west and were told the ‘Nada Sioux Denya’. So I greeted them as such and they became very angry. I did not know that this meant ‘eaters of bad meat’ and was a negative description of the Dakota.
This was a war party that was going after some Winnebago Indians to the south. Some went on and others took us prisoner.
We were each put in a different canoe and became passengers heading north.
As if we were not prisoners at all, each time Father Hennepin saw something that he thought ought to be named he stood in the canoe, held out his cross and named it in the name of the king of France. The Indians were no happier about this than Picard and I had been.
He named a widening in the river ‘Lake St. Phillip’, and a river coming from the east ‘St Croix’ and one from the west ‘St Peter’, and a great falls we had to portage around, ‘St Anthony’ and when we left the bigger river and took a smaller one he called it ‘St. Francis.’
They took us to a very large settlement on the shores of a big lake, which Hennepin called ‘Lake St. Louis”. There must have been over a thousand Indian living there. They called the village Izatys.
They treated us very well, we were fed and clothes and housed, but we did not know why they were keeping us or if we would ever see home again.
Father Hennepin badgered them constantly about our God and how they could be saved by him. One day they bundled him into a canoe and took him out to an island on the south edge of that large lake that was only rock and bird guano.
I pleaded with them to bring him back. I was told that they had decided that if his God could save him, than they would think about listening to him about his God. But with him on the island they had a degree of peace they did not want to lose.
But now I became their nemesis as I pleaded and pleaded unceasingly. On the third day they finally brought him back. He wrote in his book that God had moved them to save him and he gave God all the credit.
We were rescued by Sir De L’hut in July of that same year. He had reached the end of Lake Superior and began down the St. Croix when he head there were whites at this village of Izatys. He was very interested as to whom this might be so he came across land to see. He had very few men with him, but they did have guns, the discharge of which created at great deal of respect among the Dakota.
We were taken back to Montreal and reports were made to LaSalle. Father Hennepin was asked, directed by LaSalle to go home to France on the next boat.
And now five years latter the book comes.
There was no way Hennepin could have done everything he said he did in his book, there just was not enough time. And also I know, because I was with him the whole time.
You have now named a county and a street after him and there a statues of him and he is given credit in your history books with discoveries he never made.
And what of Picard DuGay? No one has ever heard of him. He married an Indian and lived many years north of Montreal as a fur trapper and trader.
And what of me; Michael Accault, the leader of that expedition which were the very first white men every to step foot in what you now call Minnesota.
I continued in the military and made other explorations with and for LaSalle. I married Marie Suzanne who could read and write. I gathered some land to farm so that my sons would have it and with Francis La Forest as a partner we gained some wealth and influence in the fun trade. But does anyone remember me? Are there counties or roads or anything named after me? “No”
LaSalle told not to be too concerned, but that it normally was those who wrote, whither what they wrote was true of not, who would dictate history.

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