Lead Mining

QUESTION:  What do residents of Iowa consider the translation of their state's name from the original Native American?
A)  "The Beautiful Land"
B)  "Sleepy Ones"
C)  "Grey Snow"
D)  "Land of Prairies"

Yesterday's blog was dedicated to Sieur de La Salle, the explorer who claimed the lands along the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers for France in the seventeenth century.  His is a remarkable story of the early settlement of North America. The lithograph that inspired our entry does not merely depict La Salle posing stoically in a log cabin or anything like that. Indeed, he happens to presented at what is identified as Indian Lead Mine. In the pursuit of knowledge, the blog writers have done extensive research in the effort to obtain information about lead mining in colonial New France.  (And yes, that means we found a website or two on this newfangled internet thing the kids are talking about these days.)

One of the earliest-known lead mines in the future United States was located near modern Dubuque, Iowa, along Catfish Creek. The Catfish Creek valley had long been an important resource for the Meskawaki and other regional tribes. Local galena (the chief ore of lead) was used as make-up and in many ceremonial rituals. It's quite possible that La Salle visited the lead mines along the Catfish Creek; however, the first documented French explorers to come to the region were Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet in 1673. Twelve years later, Nicholas Perrot established a trading post at Prairie du Chien on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. Lead, of course, is a soft and malleable metal that also happens to be deadly for humans with too much exposure. But that does not mean use of it has been avoided. As recently as the 1980's, it was included in "leaded gasoline" as a knock preventative, despite unquestionable proof that it was deadly.  

ANSWER:  A)  "The Beautiful Land," although deeper examination suggests that this may not be wholly accurate.  The state was named after the local Ioway tribe that was removed from the land in the 1840's. Like many stories of Native Americans, the name they are identified with to this day was not the one with which they identified themselves, but that was given to them by their enemies, or by European settlers.  The Ioway called themselves Baxoje. which likely meant "the people." The study of names, onomastics, can be quite fascinating. 

Sieur de La Salle

QUESTION:  From which Native American tribe does the original name for Mississippi come?
A)  Anasazi
B)  Anishinaabe
C)  Alabama-Coushatta
D)  Apache

As regular readers of the American Treasure Tour blog know, we dedicate our blog entries to different items on display throughout the Toy Box and the Music Room.  Today, we return to the lithographs along our tram route with a French explorer named Rene-Robert Cavalier, perhaps better known as Sieur de La Salle. Born to a wealthy family in 1643 Rouen, France, La Salle gave up the promise of comfort to enter the Jesuit religious order and travel to New France, known today as Montreal, Canada. That was in 1666.  He was released from the Jesuits one year later, possibly because of his relationship with Madeleine de Roybon d'Allonne, a wealthy and powerful landowner. 

Back in the 17th century, fur was the biggest business there was in the New World, and the French were all about staking their claim in the industry. Working with the governor of New France, la Salle met with Native American leaders to secure land for the benefit of fort construction. And he learned about a a large river to the south that the locals called Ohio. Furthermore, it led to an even bigger river called Mississippi. Traveling south along what would become one of the most famous riverways in the world, La Salle set up forts and named the land surrounding them, including territory he dedicated to his king, Louis XIV.  Today's Louisiana. La Salle's explorations ended in 1687.  He was forty-three when he led a force of 36 men through modern-day Texas. There was a mutiny and La Salle was killed.  For the last three hundred or so years, people have speculated as to the exact location of his death, but his body has not been located. Honestly, it does not look good at this point. But he is remembered across the Canadian and American midwest.  Our lithograph notably depicts La Salle inspecting a lead mine. To build suspense, we will look into that tomorrow.

ANSWER:  B)  Anishinaabe.  Their word for "Great River" was Misi-ziibi, which the French translated into Mississippi.