Hennepin, Louis, Narratives of

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HENNEPIN, LOUIS, NARRATIVES OF. The Hennepin narratives consist of the three known narratives of exploration written by Father Louis Hennepin, a Franciscan friar born in Belgium around 1640. He migrated to Canada, then known as New France, in 1675. Here he engaged in missionary activities among the Native Americans located along the Lower St. Lawrence River near Kingston, Ontario. Late in 1678 he accompanied Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, on his expedition to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Hennepin wrote an account of this expedition, Description of Louisiana: Newly Discovered to the Southwest of New France by Order of the King (1683). When the party reached the mouth of the Illinois River, Hennepin and two Frenchmen left de La Salle to explore the Upper Mississippi in 1680.

On 11 or 12 April 1680 Hennepin and his two companions were taken prisoner by the Dakotas, who resided in what is now Minnesota. They traveled to a major Dakota village near Mille Lacs, in central Minnesota. The Dakotas took them bison hunting in the western prairies and provided Hennepin with a view of their daily lives and customs. The trio was eventually rescued by a Frenchman, Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Luth.

Description of Louisiana, his first narrative, was a bestseller by the standards of the day, and encouraged a dramatic increase of interest in the Upper Mississippi region. It was translated into Italian, Dutch, and German almost immediately. His narrative recounted the adventures of the trip and described the geography, flora, and fauna of the Upper Mississippi. To appeal to readers he tended to stress the more sensational aspects of Dakota life. He was the first European to see Lake Pepin, and he described and named St. Anthony Falls in what later became Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is widely believed to be a fairly truthful account of the expedition, although there are remarkable similarities between his account and the official account of de la Salle's trip written by Claude Bernou.

Hennepin went on to write at least two other narratives. New Discovery of a Very Large Country was published in 1698. In this narrative he claimed for himself the exploration of the Lower Mississippi and the discovery of the mouth of the great river, discoveries usually attributed to de la Salle and Louis Jolliet. His third narrative, The New Voyage, was also published in 1698 and was a compilation of his and others' earlier works.


Hennepin, Louis. Father Louis Hennepin's Description of Louisiana: Newly Discovered to the Southwest of New France by Order of the King. Translated by Marion Cross. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1938.


See alsoExplorations and Expeditions: French ; La Salle Explorations .

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