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Painting of Jean Nicolet's 1634 arrival in Wisconsin
Jean Nicolet (Nicollet) de Belleborne (c. 15981 November 1642) was a Frenchmarker coureur des bois noted for exploring Green Baymarker in early modern North America.

Life and exploration

Nicolet (Nicollet) was born in Cherbourgmarker, Normandy, Francemarker, the son of Thomas Nicollet who was "messenger ordinary of the King between Paris and Cherbourg", and Marguerite de la Mer.

Arrival at Quebec

In 1618, Jean Nicolet came to Quebecmarker as a clerk and to train as an interpreter for the Compagnie des Marchands, a trading monopoly owned by members of the French aristocracy. As an employee, Jean Nicolet was a devotee of the Roman Catholic Church and a faithful supporter of the Ancien Régime.

On his arrival in Quebec, in order that he learn their language, he was sent to live with the Algonquins on Allumette Island, a friendly First Nation settlement on the important fur trade route on the Ottawa River. Nicolet returned to Quebec in 1635, but was then directed to go to the Lake Nipissingmarker area where he spent more than eight years among the Nipissing First Nation nation, running a store and trading with the various indigenous peoples in the area.

From a relationship with a Nipissing native, a woman named Sauvagesse Nipissing, he had a daughter, Madeleine Euphrosine Nicolet, whom he later brought back with him to the colony. On July 19, 1629, when Quebec fell to the Kirke brothers who took control for Englandmarker, Jean Nicolet fled back into the safety of the Huron country and worked against English interests until the French were restored to power.

Jean Nicolet is noted for being the first European to cross Lake Michiganmarker, and, in 1634, became Wisconsinmarker's first European explorer. He landed at Red Banks, near modern-day Green Bay, Wisconsinmarker, in search of a passage to the Orient. He and others had learned that the people who lived along these shores were called Winnebago ("the people from the stinking water") and "the People of the Sea." He concluded that these people must be from or near the Pacific Oceanmarker and would provide a direct contact with Chinamarker.

Nicolet became the ambassador of the Winnibago people, and wore brightly colored robes and carried two pistols, to show that he was in power. the Winnibago people respected him for this.With some Winnebago guides, Nicolet ascended the Fox River, portaged to the Wisconsin, and travelled down it until it began to widen. So sure was he that he was near the sea, he stopped and went back to Quebec to report his discovery of a passage to the "South Sea," not knowing that he had just missed finding the upper Mississippi.


  1. UW - Green Bay - Wisconsin's French Connections Jean Nicolet Statue
  2. Nicolet, Jean 1598 - 1642

External links


  • Brook, Timothy. (1998). The Confusions of Pleasure: Commerce and Culture in Ming China. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-22154-0

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