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French explorer René-Robert Cavelier


State capitol ofNorth Dakota
State capitol ofNorth Dakota

In 1682 the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, traveled down the Mississippi River and claimed all the land drained by the river for France, including most of present-day North Dakota. The first person of European descent known to have entered North Dakota was Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye, who traveled there in 1738. La Vérendrye had been authorized by the king of France to explore new areas for the fur trade and to search for the Northwest Passage, a route that was believed to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through what is now Canada.

Such a route would allow ships to sail directly to Asia. La Vérendrye did not find the passage, but he did visit many Mandan villages and noted the complexity of their civilization, their farms, and their fortifications. Two sons of La Vérendrye also crossed the areas of present-day North Dakota and South Dakota in 1742.

More than 50 years elapsed before more European explorers visited the area. In 1797 David Thompson of the North West Company mapped and explored the Assiniboine and Souris rivers, the Turtle Mountains, and much of what is now central North Dakota. The same year Charles Chaboillez of the North West Company built the first fur-trading post in North Dakota at the confluence of the Pembina River and the Red River of the North. "North Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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