Nicholas Perrot

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.