The Prairie Land
||edHelper's suggested reading level:
||grades 4 to 6
||Flesch-Kincaid grade level:
||clearing, outpost, populous, communication, territorial, northwestern, multiple, various, domestic, priest, breadbasket, provided, state, region, settled, settler
||Native American Indians, Jacques Marquette, Louis Joliet, Catholic Church, Lake Michigan, Native Americans, Illinois Indians, Ohio River, Mississippi River, Arkansas Indians
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The Prairie Land
By Dianne Fiedler
1 Illinois was the 21st state to join the Union in 1818. However, European people began arriving in the territory over one hundred years earlier. Many of the settlers were of French descent. They had traveled from the colonies of France in Canada and settled in the territory to live among the Native American Indians that were already here.
2 The first known explorers were Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet. Marquette was a priest from the Catholic Church who was looking to spread Christianity to the new frontier. Louis Joliet was on a mission to explore the territory and report back to the French leaders about the area's geographic features and the waterway passages through this new land.
3 Joliet and Marquette, along with others, began their journey on May 16, 1673. They traveled along the northwestern shores of Lake Michigan. Along their way they encountered various Native Americans; there were multiple tribes throughout the territory. One day during their journey, they encountered a group of Illinois Indians that escorted them back to their camp. It was Marquette's long robes that identified him to the Indians as a person who was not threatening. They were fed and provided with information that was very useful for their journey. The Illinois chief was kind and considerate; he provided a temporary tour guide, his ten-year-old son. He was sent along to help guide the explorers as they continued with their journey through this new territory.
4 A couple of weeks into their journey, they came upon another tribe as they traveled on the Ohio River, whose mouth was on the Mississippi River, near present day St. Louis. They were threatened by these men who were prepared to defend their territory. It was recorded that one of the Indians had thrown an axe at Marquette's head, but he missed. These were Arkansas Indians. Marquette had been given a peace pipe by the Illinois chief. Marquette stood in his canoe holding the pipe above his head; the pipe was identified by one of the protectors. It was after this that these Arkansas protectors realized that these people came in peace. The chief of the Arkansas told Joliet and Marquette of people down the great river, the Mississippi, who had guns. So rather than risking their lives with these people, they chose to return to Quebec and share their reports at the end of their 2,500 mile journey in late September.
5 As time went on, other Catholic priests from France established more missions. In 1701, the Tamarao Indians were introduced to a mission in the town of Cahokia. Other missions continued to be established, and more and more settlers from the French colony began to migrate to this new territory. It was not always peaceful for the new settlers and the Native Americans. Territorial fights broke out because of the differences in the use and control of the land. This led to the French and Indian war that finally ended in 1763.
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