Daniel Greysolon Dulhut, the peacemaker at Fond du Lac (Duluth)

Daniel Greysolon Dulhut landing at the far end of Lake Superior (painting by Francis Lee Jacques)

In the 17th century the Ojibway Nation, renowned for its birchbark canoes and wild rice, and the Dakota (Sioux) Nation shared the lands west of Lake Superior.

Convinced that it was a necessity for New France to pacify these belligerent Native American nations, Daniel Greysolon Dulhut, born in Saint-Germain-de-Laval near Lyon (France) and ten companions left Montreal (Canada) on Thursday September 1, 1678, toward Lake Superior. The group traveled the Ottawa and Mattawa rivers and then the French River to Lake Huron. After spending the winter among the Ojibway people near the mission of Sault Ste. Marie, the intrepid travelers finally reached the far end of Lake Superior in the fall of the following year. During the summer of 1679, Dulhut visited several Dakota villages scattered throughout the Lake Buade area (now Lake Mille Lacs in Minnesota). On September 15, senior representatives of both nations met at the site of what is now the city of Duluth (Minnesota) and concluded a lasting peace as well as a commercial treaty securing all furs for the French rather than the British. A profitable franco-native American alliance was established.

Where the Mississippi begins

When the city of Duluth was incorporated in 1857, its incorporators did anglicize the name of the French peacemaker who made the site a healthy fur trading center. Did you know that today a district of Duluth is called Fond du Lac in memory of this historic episode, that the Ojibway word “Nagaajiwanaang” means “where the waters end”, and that an Ojibway assembly in nearby Saint Louis County took the name of Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior.

Lake Itasca is the start of the mighty Mississippi River (Photo DNR)

Daniel Greysolon Dulhut was the son of Claude Greysolon and Marie Patron. He arrived at Quebec City in 1674 and became a woodsman (coureur des bois), explorer, captain in the navy, and fur trader. While operating from Michilimackinac (now Mackinaw, Michigan), he built a nombre of trading posts around the Great Lakes, notably Fort Kaministiquia (now Thunder Bay, Ontario) on Lake Superior and Fort St. Joseph (now Port Huron, Michigan) on the St. Claire River, north of Detroit. The early history of Minnesota, sold by France to the United States in 1803, teaches us that Dulhut was the first known White to have stayed in Duluth and visited Lake Itasca (accompanying photo), the headwaters of the Mississippi River. Dulhut died in Montreal on February 25, 1710 and was buried in the Recollets’ chapel.

The fleurs de lys on the flag of the city of Duluth, the fourth largest community in Minnesota, honor with pride the French facts of this community at the far end of Lake Superior. The colors green, white and blue represent the wild, the snow and the water, respectively.