Horses Change Native Lives
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The 1724 Journal of de Bourgmont

Éttienne de Veniard, sieur de Bourgmont was the first known white man to systematically explore the Missouri River basin and was the first to record his findings. After leaving France a convicted juvenile delinquent, Bourgmont settled in Canada and joined the military. When an Indian attack on Fort Pontchartrain (near modern day Detroit) damaged Bourgmont's reputation, the acting commander escaped to the wilderness. He lived with Indians for years at a time and became a notorious and powerful figure among the them, eventually becoming the king's personal envoy to the tribes that complicated France's desire for western expansion. The following journal entries chronicle Bourgmont's expedition to negotiate peace between and among the French, Pawnee, Oto, Kansa, and Padouca (or Plains Apache) Native American tribes.

This is the main expedition's travel journal. French historians believe the journal was written by mining engineer Philippe de La Renaudière. The handwriting of his signature at the bottom of the document seems to match the writing of the journal entries. The story also seems to be written by a well-educated person and someone who was present daily. Besides Bourgmont, La Renaudière is the only member who fits that description.

Bourgmont Journal Entries in 1724

June 25 Company sets out
July 3 Bourgmont departs by land
July 4 Bourgmont departs by land
July 5 West by quarter west-northwest
July 6 Encounter with Kansa chiefs
July 7 Party reaches the Missouri
July 8 Kansa village welcomes Bourgmont
July 9 Bourgmont reaches out to tribes
July 10 Otos respond to overtures
July 11 Bourgmont suffers fever
July 12 Kansa chiefs holds feast
July 13 Waiting for pirogues
July 14 Indians catch fever
July 15 More fever in camp
July 16 Good medicine and pirogues
July 17 Bourgmont addresses chiefs
July 18 Bourgmont negotiates with Kansa Indians
July 19 Osages fear sickness
July 20 Chief offers daughter's hand
July 21 Preparing for the Padoucas
July 22 Departure delayed by rain
July 23 Horsethief strikes
July 24 Departure by land
July 25 Party encounters storm
July 26 Reconnaissance
July 27 Description of travois
July 28 Journey difficult for many
July 29 Description of prairie
July 30 Bourgmont taken ill
July 31 Bourgmont turns back
Aug. 1 Bourgmont returns on a stretcher
Aug. 2 Six leagues traveled
Aug. 3 Back at the Kansa village
Aug. 5 Bourgmont at Fort d'Orleans
Sept. 6 Bourgmont negotiates with Padouca
Oct. 2 Bourgmont's recovery
Oct. 4 Bourgmont greets Otos
Oct. 5 Bourgmont offers peace
Oct. 6 Smoking the peace pipe
Oct. 7 Chiefs accompany Bourgmont
Oct. 8 Landscape on way to Padouca village
Oct. 9 An 11 hour day
Oct. 10 Descriptions of weather & landscape
Oct. 11 The Great Kansas River
Oct. 12 The sites & sounds of the prairie
Oct. 13 An abundance of wildlife
Oct. 14 Bourgmont shoots bison
Oct. 15 Traveling the treeless prairie
Oct. 16 Party gets off course
Oct. 17 Smoke signals
Oct. 18 Party arrives at Padouca village
Oct. 19 Bourgmont addresses Indians
Oct. 20 The head chief speaks
Oct. 21 Trade begins
Oct. 22 Living and hunting styles
Oct. 23 Leaving for base camp
Oct. 24 Large herds of bison
Oct. 25 Fine weather
Oct. 26 Frost
Oct. 27 Re-crossing the Kansas river
Oct. 28 Traveling eight leagues
Oct. 29 Wolves
Oct. 30 Rain
Oct. 31 Approaching the Kansa village
Nov. 1 Crossing the Missouri
Nov. 2 Leaving for Fort d'Orleans
Nov. 5 Arrival at Fort d'Orleans

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