In about 1618 the French explorer Étienne Brûlé, searching for a waterway to the Pacific Ocean, became the first white man to reach Michigan. He was followed by other Frenchmen, including missionaries, traders, and explorers, as fur traders from Canada extended their influence over the Great Lakes region. However, the first permanent settlement was made in 1668, when Father Jacques Marquette, a French priest and explorer, founded a mission at Sault Sainte Marie. Three years later, in a colorful ceremony at the settlement, the French proclaimed the sovereignty of King Louis XIV over all of the interior of North America as part of New France, the French colonies on the continent.
Forts and missions were built at Saint Ignace, Saint Joseph, Port Huron, and other sites. In 1696, seeking to concentrate French settlements along the St. Lawrence River, the king ordered all French inhabitants except the missionaries to abandon the western posts.
However, English traders began to challenge the French trapping operations, and the French decided that only colonization of the territory would protect it against English encroachment. In 1701 soldiers and farmers under the command of Antoine de la Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac, built Fort Pontchartrain on the Detroit River, which forms a strait connecting Lake Erie and the upper lakes. The French word for strait, détroit, later became the name of the settlement, which was the center of French control in the western Great Lakes region.
Fort Michilimackinac was later established on the Straits of Mackinac, and other forts were built at Sault Sainte Marie and Niles. However, despite these defenses, the entire region was taken by the British during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the last in a series of wars fought between France and Great Britain for domination of North America. "Michigan" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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