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International Explorers: The Frenchmen

Sailing the seven seas and staking their claim about the world, France has shipped off many different explorers who have founded cities and learning the ways of cultures different from their own. In this article, you will encounter information concerning the likes of a French miner who traveled about the United States and one sent by King Louis XIV to investigate a famous river.

Julian Dubuque (? , 1810)

This French miner is known for traveling about the Upper Mississippi region. In 1786, he also founded a city in the United States , named after him , Dubuque, Iowa. Following the purchase of land from the Fox Indians, Dubuque started mining lead close to the city of Dubuque. In history, he significantly became the first European settler to make a home in Iowa.

Marcos De Niza (1495 , 1558)

In what is now known as the western part of New Mexico, De Niza was a Franciscan priest who is believed to have made his way to the fabled “Seven Golden Cities of Cibola.” Born in Savoy (which was originally part of Italy and now French), De Niza grew up to become a Franciscan friar. In 1531, he organized a trip to sail to the Americas, stopping in Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico along the way. During his journey, he even freed a few Native American slaves living in Culiacan, Mexico.

De Niza and a Moorish slave named Estevanico were sent on a mission from Mexico City to locate Cibola. This was the wish of the Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza, who wanted to find new riches. Upon returning, De Niza exclaimed and he and his companion encountered the “Seven Golden Cities of Cibola,” which he described as full of wealth. However, their claims were refuted as it was later surmised that they actually happened upon Zuni Indian pueblos. During the expedition, the Zuni Indians murdered Estevanico, but somehow De Niza survived. Later on, in 1541, he became in charge of his Franciscan order.

Robert De la Salle (1643-1687)

The full name of this French explorer is René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle. It was King Louis XIV that sent De la Salle to travel south from Canada and sail down the Mississippi River in order to reach the Gulf of Mexico. His mission was to investigate the routes along the river that were involved in the fur trade. He wound up becoming the first European to travel the length of the Mississippi River in 1682. It was he that named the entire Mississippi basin Louisiana, which was in honor of the King. He claimed the land in the name of France on April 9th, 1682. Other places that he explored included Lake Michigan, Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and Lake Huron. He also attempted to establish a settlement located in the southern part of the Mississippi River Valley, but failed miserably in the end.