Essay title: Lasalle

La Salle, René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de (1643-1687), French explorer in

North America, who navigated the length of the Mississippi River and claimed

the Louisiana region for France.

La Salle was born on November 22, 1643, in Rouen, France, and educated

by the Jesuits. In 1666 he immigrated to Canada, was granted land on the

St. Lawrence River, and became a trader. From 1669 to 1670 he explored

the region south of Lakes Ontario and Erie, and he later claimed to have

discovered the Ohio River in 1671. In the course of his explorations in the

wilderness, La Salle became familiar with indigenous languages and

traditions. Because of his capabilities, French colonial governor Louis de

Buade, comte de Palluau et de Frontenac, appointed him commander of

Fort Frontenac, then being built as a trading station. In 1674 La Salle was

sent to France as Frontenac's representative to justify the building of the

fort. His mission was successful, and he received a patent of nobility.

La Salle subsequently conceived a plan for exploring and trading farther

west, and in 1677 he again visited France to secure royal approval of his

scheme. He returned with Italian explorer Henri de Tonty, who became his

associate. In 1679 he set out on a preliminary expedition, and after

establishing forts at the mouth of the Saint Joseph River and along the

Illinois River, in February 1680, he sent a group to explore the upper

Mississippi River. La Salle then returned to Fort Frontenac to procure new

supplies and funds. By spring he was able to travel west again, and he and

Tonty proceeded with their party of French and indigenous peoples to the

Mississippi, which they descended to the Gulf of Mexico in 1682, claiming all

the land drained by the river for Louis.