For weeks they ascended the river until they reached the mouth of the Illinois. Here they learned from the Indians that this river afforded a much shorter route to the great lakes than the Wisconsin. They ascended it for two weeks, and then crossed the Illinois prairies from its head waters to the Chicago River, and followed that stream to the shore of Lake Michigan.
Here the two leaders parted company; Father Marquette returning to his mission among the Huron Indians; Joliet going on to Quebec to report to his government the magnitude of the discoveries made by the expedition. The story of finding the great river and its large navigable tributaries, their broad and fertile valleys, the forests and boundless prairies, filled all of New France with rejoicing. The discovery gave France the right to occupy this entire region. Its resources of fertile soil, valuable timber, navigable rivers, natural meadows, fur-bearing animals and game, mineral wealth and genial climate, were unsurpassed by any country yet explored in America.
This territory embraced parts of what are now the States of Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas. It was found to be occupied by Indians in all respects similar to those living along the St. Lawrence and the great lakes. They spoke a variety of dialects, but careful observation showed but eight radically different languages. The Algonquin tongue, spoken along the St. Lawrence, the upper Mississippi, the Des Moines and the Illinois, was most widely diffused. It was heard from Cape Fear to the land of the Esquimaux, a thousand miles north of the sources of the Mississippi.
The Illinois Indians were kindred to the Miamis, and their country lay between the Wahash, the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Marquette found a village of them within the limits of Iowa on the lower banks of the Des Moines River. At this time (1673) the entire tract embraced in Illinois contained only five or six Indian villages, so far as known. Marquette saw but one village along the Iowa