Nicolas Perrot (c.1644–1717), explorer, diplomat, and fur trader, was one of the first white men in the Upper Mississippi Valley.
Perrot came to New France around 1660 with the Jesuits, and traveled with them to the Western Great Lakes, reaching present day Wisconsin in 1665. He earned the friendship of the natives by swapping furs for guns, allowing the group to defend themselves on an equal footing against their enemies, and was nicknamed the "trafficker of iron", or "iron legs".
In 1667 he formed a fur trading company with three settlers Montreal and on August 12, 1667, he returned to the Green Bay region. Then, in 1670, he was enlisted as a translator for Simon-François Daumont de Saint-Lusson, a military officer and deputy of Jean Talon, who had been sent “to lay claim to the land of the Ottawa, Amikwa, Illinois, and of other nations discovered or to be discovered in North America contiguous and adjacent to Lake Superior(French: Lac Supérieur), the great inland sea, including all its length and breadth, and including the resources therein, for Louis XIV" at what was called "The Pageant of the Sault".
Afterward, he married Madeleine Raclot. He was given a land grant on the river Saint-Michel in present-day Quebec, and the 1681 census showed him having six children.
Perrot's relationship with and influence over the tribes of the west utilized again during the 1660s. In 1684, he participated in the peacekeeping mission of the Governor Lefebvre de La Barre and succeeded in bringing the warriors of several nations for the signing of a peace treaty. In the spring of 1685 he was appointed Commandant-in-Chief of Bais Des Puants (present day Green Bay, Wisconsin) and the neighboring regions when war broke out between the Fox tribe and the Sioux and Chippewa tribes. He worked hard to bring about peace, and was successful, at least for a time. After this, Perrot traveled to the northern waters of the Mississippi River, in the territory of the Sioux, where he built Fort Saint Antoine.
In the spring of 1687 he was in the region of Detroit taking part in an expedition. A fire broke out at the Jesuit mission at Bais De Puants, and 40,000 livres worth of his furs were destroyed. Perrot was financially ruined. He returned to Montreal where in the spring of 1688 he served as an interpreter for the treaty between Governor and Onondaga chief Otreouti, who promised the neutrality of the Onondagas, Cayugas, and Oneidas. In 1689 he built Fort Saint-Pierre at the mouth of the Wisconsin River, and established peace among area tribes. In 1690, he and Louis de la Porte de Louvigny led a vital supply convoy from Montreal to Michilimackinac. Their success in breaking the Iroquois blockade of the Ottawa River and in resupplying the western Indians loyal to the French may have saved New France from the Five Nations. In subsequent years he was involved in the discovery of lead mines brought to his attention by Miami chiefs.
In 1695 Perrot brought the Miami, Sauk, Menominee, Potawatomi and Fox chiefs to Montreal at the governor’s request, regarding war with the Iroquois. Perrot returned west where his concern was to maintain unity and peace among them in their efforts against the Iroquois. However there was danger, and on two occasions he was almost sent to be burned at the stake with the Mascouten and the Miami tribe.
Perrot then settled on his land grant at Bécancour. The Indian chiefs whom he had known saw him for the last time in 1701 at the Great Peace of Montreal. He still served as interpreter, but this period of his life was marked by financial difficulties and harassment from creditors. He asked the authorities for a compensation he said was due to him, and a pension in consideration of services long provided, but was not satisfied. He was involved in court cases involving lawsuits filed by and against him. He also wrote his memoirs, which became valuable to later historians.
Nicolas Perrot died on the 13th of August 1717 at about the age of 74 and was buried the next day in the church at Bécancour. Nine of his eleven children outlived him. His wife died in 1724.
- Charles Claude Le Roy de La Potherie, "Adventures of Nicolas Perrot, 1665 -1670"
- La Forest, Thomas J., "Our French-Canadian Ancestors"
- Perreault, Robert, "Les familles PERREAULT du Québec", Vol 1; Le Groupe de Nicolas Perrot et de Madeleine Raclos
- Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online
- Association of Descendants of Nicolas Perrot