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The first European outpost in Indiana was Tassinong, a French trading point established in 1673 along the Kankakee River. The French explorer René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle arrived in the area in 1679, claiming it for King Louis XIV. La Salle came to explore an area between the St. Joseph and Kankakee Rivers, and Father Ribourde, who traveled with La Salle and marked trees along the way. In 1681, La Salle negotiated a common defense treaty with the Miami and Illinois nations against the Iroquois.

After further exploration, the French established a major trade route between Canada and Louisiana via the Maumee and Wabash Rivers. The French built a series of forts and outposts in Indiana as a defense against the western expansion of the British colonies, and to encourage trade with the native tribes. The tribes produced metal tools, kitchen utensils, and other manufactured objects instead of skins. The French built Fort Miamis in the Miami settlement of Kekionga (modern Fort Wayne, Indiana). France appointed Jean Baptiste Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes, as the first agent against the Miamis at Kekionga.

In 1717, François-Marie Picoté de Belestre established Fort Ouiatenon (southwest of present-day West Lafayette, Indiana) to deter the Weas from falling under British influence. In 1732, François-Marie Bissot, Sieur de Vincennes, established another outpost near the Piankeshaws in the area of ​​the present city that bears his name. Although the forts were garrisoned by men from New France, Fort Vinceness was the only outpost to maintain a permanent European presence to this day. Jesuit priests accompanied many French in Indiana in an attempt to convert the natives to Christianity. The Jesuits carried out missionary activities, lived among the natives and learned their languages, and accompanied them during hunting and migrations. Gabriel Marest, one of the first missionaries to Indiana, was teaching among the Kaskaskias in 1712. The missionaries would have great influence over the natives and would play a key role in maintaining the alliance between the natives and the French.

During the Franco-Indian War, the American front of the Seven Years’ War, the British competed against the French for control of the region. No pitched battles occurred in Indiana, but the natives of the region were allied with the French, and the tribes sent large groups of warriors to support the French early in the war.

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