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Native Americans and French Explorers

The Ojibwa, the Ottawa, the Potawatomi, and other Algonquian-speaking Native American groups were living in Michigan when the French explorer Étienne Brulé landed at the narrows of Sault Ste. Marie in 1618, probably the first European to have reached present Michigan. Later French explorers, traders, and missionaries came, including Jean Nicolet, who was searching for the Northwest Passage; Jacques Marquette, who founded a mission in the Mackinac region; and the empire builder, Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, who came on the Griffon, the first ship to sail the Great Lakes. French posts were scattered along the lakes and the rivers, and Mackinac Island (in the Straits of Mackinac) became a center of the fur trade. Fort Pontchartrain, later Detroit, was founded in 1701 by Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. The vast region was weakly held by France until lost to Great Britain in the last conflict (1754–63) of the French and Indian Wars.

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