There is a controversy with this book by Hennepin.  There is enough evidence out there to indicate this book was pretty much copied (plagiarized) by Hennepin, for whatever reason.  

Hennepin’s explored the Mississippi at a time when “Antient” Medicine was at a peak.  Nicolas Culpeper just had his first writings published post-humously, and the general public had rapidly accepted some new healing beliefs posed by the “quacks” out of England.   This behavior was common to Europe, and had its greatest impact on the Non-Anglican countries, prvinces, colonies and communities.  Hennepin’s favorite remedy, Orveitan (Orvietanum), was once such example of this, for its history was that of a patent medicine produced in Italy.  Hennepin’s use of medicine focussed on this remedy.  He also tries to document a little about Native American healing, and most importantly, pays close attention to their ethnobotany.  The first volume details the trip and its various incidents.  The second volume reviews his discoveries in a more anthropological sense, by providing chapters on religion, medicine, dress, etc.  The second volume ends with brief recounts of part of this same journey and previous journeys by Salle and others.


L[ewis] Hennepin (Residing in Holland)/F. Louis Henepin, Missionary Recollect, and Apostolick Notary.].

Volume 1.  A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America.  Extending above Four Thousand Miles, between New France and New Mexico.  With a Description of the Great Lakes, Cataracts, Mountains, Plants, and Animals… (London, 1698)

Volume 2.  A Continuation of the New Discovery of a Vast Country in America, extending above Four Thousand Miles, between New France and New Mexico.  Giving an Account of the Attempts of the Sieur de la Salle upon the Mines, of St. Barbe, &c.  The Taking of Quebec by the English; with the Advantages of a Shorter Cut to China and Japan.  To which is added, several New Discourses on North America not published in the French Edition.  (London, 1698)

The following “several New Discourses” appear at the end of the book:

Louis Joliet.  An Account of New France

Pages 303-306;  published as an additions to the English rendering of Hennepin’s book.   Includes a brief note on Hemp (p. 305), and good description of Canoes, minerals, feed, etc.  No material added to these notes.

An Account of M. la Salle’s Voyage to the River Mississipi. (sic).

Pages 318-355; published as an additions to the English rendering of Hennepin’s book.  makes mention of the Wild Hemp, the Serpent-Tongue, and “Divine River.”  No material added to these notes.

Fr. Jacques Marquette. 13 May 1673.  A Discovery of Some New Countries and Nations in the Northern-America.

See several entries in the attached data came from this writing.   His conclusion regarding this newly discovered land (Of land near the Cape of Florida, or “Carolina”):

“For considering the Benignity of the Climate, the Healthfulness ofthe Country, Fruitfulness of the Soil, Ingenuity and Tractableness of the Inhabitants, variety of Productions, if prudently managed, it cannot, humanely speaking, fail of proving one of the most considerable Colonies of the North-Continent of America, profitable to the Publick and the Undertakers.”  (p. 355)

Animal Fat/Grease

Hennepin gave a description of natives rubbing themselves with “the Grease of Deers, Wild Goats, and other Beasts, and the Oil of Bears.” (vol. 1, p. 53).  Hennepin later wrote of the Bear’s Oil as: “with what they rubb’d themselves all over from Head to Foot.”

[Hennepin, 1698]

Animals (described)

The “great River Meschasipi” was noted to be full of “dangerous Monstors, as Crocodiles, Tritons (meaning a Sea-Monstor) and Serpents.” (v. 1, p. 126)


“It looks lie a Rat as to the Shape of its Body, burt it is as big as a Cat…That Creature has under the Belly a kind of Sack, wherein they put their young ones when they are pursu’d…” (v. 1, p. 172)

Manatee [Sea-Monsters]

The “Sea-Monstors” noted by Hennepin were the Manatee (Trichesus), which lived in the coastal waters of Florida, the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies.  In his discussion of Sea-Monstors, Hennepin described the petroglyphs of Manatee inscribed on the rocks along the river (vol. 1, page 169).  The Natives gave their respect for this “Manitou” by offering tobacco to the beast from a rock overlooking the river.  Hennepin’s version of this view of Manitou is that it is “an Evil Spirit.”  He developed this same impression of the Natives’ spirits earlier through his encounters with the Iroquois whose equivalent was known as “Otkon.”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1,]

“We saw also a very hideous Sea-Monstor; his Head was like that of a Tyger, but his Nose was somewhat sharper, and like a Wild-Cat; his Beard was long, his Ears stood upright, the Colour of his Head being Gray, and the Neck Black.  He looked upon us for some time; but as we came near him, our Oars frightnened him away: This is the only one we saw.”  (Petroglyphs of these Monstors, which were painted on the rocks, are described on page 339-340).

One interesting question is – ‘is this a real sighting or is it made up based upon the petroglyphs?’  Hennepin’s writings were uncovered to be plagiaristic and fraudulent, mainly because he never too the voyage that he wrote so much about.  A lot of this writing came from earlier writings of similar trips along the Mississippi River crossing the innermost parts of this continent.  Other writers also discuss “manitous”, often in a more reminiscent or symbolic way that as any direct result of a sighting.  The true manitee of the south, between New Spain (Florida) and across the gulf coast part of the way to Florida is one such origin for this claim by Hennepin.  If so, he would have transferred this legend or myth into the interior, where of course the ecology for Manatees might only exist at the south end of the Mississippi river.

But there are other animals Hennepin could have seen, if this part of his many stories was in fact authentic.  The most likely candidate would have been the sturgeon, a massive cartilage fish easily reaching  8 or 10 feet in length.  Trying to capture this creature would have been not only risky and dangerous, but also quite debilitating due to the scaley teeth that protect its entire outer skin, which by the way is directly above the cartilaginous bone, and not at all fleshy like with a boney fish (chrondricthyes vs. osteichthyes respectively).  Trying to capture this using legs or arm, or trying to haul it in by one’s hands, legs and arms, places you hold of its flesh just inches from its very strong tail.  This would have left anyone trying to attempt such a feat greatly abraded following one single swoop of its tail.  The abrasiveness of the skin as it tore away from its capturers would have resulted in a, tearing of the skin right off the arm, infecting it with all sorts of bacterium growing on its mucilaginous surface. (I know this from first hand/arm experience by the way, via the Columbia River.)

There are few other large animals that Hennepin could have seen and considered to be the Manitou.  A large catfish, large snapping turtle, or any of several swimming mammals might have also been the culprit.   Native americans repected the Manatee, and the sturgeon.  Canadian Indians used the sturgeon to define their seasonal activities in the large rivers of Canada.  Some of this philosophy may have migrated south from New France to the more southern New France settlements down by Louisiana as well during the earliest years of the part of New France history.  The Creoles who made their way down into this part of the continent after being forced to leave the Great Lakes area may have helped hybridize the beliefs from both of these parts of North America.  Hennepin’s writing occurred several decades after the removal of creoles to the southern Mississippi River Valley.

The Creoles officially established themselves in Louisiana between 1715 and 1720 (many say 1717).   Jean Nicolet of French Canadian descent initiated this French Canadianism typical  of the Great Lakes area like Wisconsin.  The Canadian French were down in St. Ignace and Saule St. Marie, Michigan in 1668 and 1671 due to the missions of Jacques Marquette and Claude Dablon.  In Prairie du Chien in 1685, trapper Nicolas Perrot set up a trading post.  In Biloxi, Mississippi in 1699, Pierre leMoyne d’Iberville laid claim to the region. Other famous french settlements south of Canada include Detroit, Michigan-1701, Mobile, Alabama-1702, Kaskaskia, Illinois-1703.   The Creoles evolved out of these missions as an unique cultural group due to their mixed heritage.  Like any new group they were chastised by the traditional French Canadians, and thus forced to remove into the hinterlands of New France, where form their new way of living. 

Hennepin’s work provides a little bit of insight into the culture that existed during this very early period in American Creole history.  The French Jesuit writings contain important missions reports detailing this unique piece of American negro, mulatto and creole history.

[J. Marquette, 1673 (Hennepin, 1698, v. 2), p. 327]

See Food (Wild “Oxen” entry), and Animal Fat.


The Doctrine of Signatures has ruled herbal medicine throughout much of its history.  Its earliest mention include in the medical writings by Dioscorides, who used it to define the use for plants, plant substances, animals and minerals.  Over the millenium which followed, this system of defining medicines continued to influence the teachings and writings of herbalists.  Then, during the early Renaissance Period, it had a rebirth.  A redefinition of these signatures then followed due to the influences of theologians, astrologers and alchemists on the thinking of regular alternative or “antient” medics. 

Throughout the Renaissance and early Colonial periods (1500-1640), this belief system was defined by simple rules which focussed on plant appearance.  In the late 1500s, for example, Giambattista Porta termed this theory of plant use Phytognomica, and wrote texts on plants and astrology which made use of the same term in their titles.  Before Porta’s famous Phytognomica was published on the medicinal plants, he had written the same about the gnomics of astrological bodies, constellations, stars and planets.  Porta felt that the bases for phytognomica were also true for everything else in nature.   Thus people’s attitudes and behaviors were likened to animals in some of his writings.  This universal theory of nature became quite appealing by the 1600s in Colonial American history.

During the 1600s, the underlying principles of phytognomica changed.  There was first an increase in the value placed on religion over what some had by then termed supernatural, such as the symbols of body parts and astrological features of plants.  While religious phytognomics prospered, Biblical names came to be in vogue for plants as well, during which, such names as Solomon’s Seal, Priest’s Shoe, and Virgin’s Bower became popular as well as Biblical names like Hyssop.   As another example, Cinchona was discovered by Europeans during this time, and thus received the common name Jesuit’s Bark.

But also during the 1600s, a socially-accepted belief system entitled Ancient remedies became popular.  Many of these practitioners retained beliefs in such arts as Alchemy and Astrology.  Nicolas Culpeper, an important figure in this healing sect, helped spur it on by publishing several of the most important books in this ancient medical field.  Previously published in Latin, he reprinted a number of such texts for public use.    Similarly, another “quack”, William Salmon, translated the Latin materia medica for the time.  The recipes contained therein were straight out of the alchemical period, and Salmon’s translation of them helped further the movement towards the acceptance and use of ancient remedies.

This early alterantive healing movement led to a clash between religious healers and antient healers.  As these antient doctors came to be associated with the “quacks” who sold patent medicines, so to did the use of this popular terminology for referring to any alternative healer.   If the popular opinion was that the philosophy of a healer was erroneous, the term “quack” came to be used for such medics and salesmen.  Both Salmon and Culpeper essentially revived the old-fashioned alchemical and phytognomical thinking in regular and antient medicine.  Culpeper term phytognomica “the doctrine of signatures,” and wrote out his own astrological views of the plants.  Salmon’s alchemy remained “antient” medicine, and was a term used very little in English history, in both Europe and in the New World around New England-New Netherlands.  

Culpeper’s writings helped form the dichotomous nature of the rapidly evolving medical system during the early European Industrial Period.  As Doctors became defined as modern and antients, or alternatively proper doctors and quacks, this came to influence medicine during the early Colonial history of North America as well.  Therefore, we find antient healers exerting effects on the new societies then emerging in this country.  In regions where Great Britain ruled in both legal and vocational sense (as doctors), the modern system of healing remained dominant.  In areas where other cultures and religions came to rule the local behaviors, “antient” doctors and non-doctors were more open about their practices and fairly common.  

Near the Bay of Puans, where Miamis, Maskoutens and Kikabeux resided, Father Jacques Marquette wrote about the local natural history, making note of his views of the local plants based on the Doctrine of Signature approach.   history.  His view of the local phytognomica illustrates standard British-thinking, which was copied some by other European countries.  In contrast, it helps to compare this with a 1666 note made by some of the religious leader in the mid-Atlantic region.

“…before we arriv’d to their Village, I had the Curiosity to taste the Mineral Water of a River near it, and found a simple of a wonderful Virtue against the Venom of the Serpents.  A Savage who knew it, had shown it to Father Allouez, who had often the occasion to try its Virtues, God having been pleas’d to provide that country with that wonderful Antidote against the Serpents, who are very dangerous in those Parts.  The root of that simple is very hot, and tastes like Gun-powder; they chew it, and apply it upon the Parts of the Body stung by Serpents; and this without any other Mystery cures the Wound; and the Serpents have such antipathy with this Herb, that they run away from any Man who has rubb’d his Body with the same.  It brings several Stalks about a foot high; the Leaves are somewhat long; the Flower is white, and the Whole looks like our Gilliflowers.  I took one into our Canow, the better to examine it.”

[J. Marquette, 1673 (Hennepin, 1698, v. 2), p. 322]


Mention of: vol. 1, p. 134, 218; vol. 2, p. 75 (with mention of its parallel to the practices of a Juggler).


Description of a Chapel made using tree bark.  Similar descriptions of chapel building are seen in the New France documents, and the document of Missions which tried to convert the Sauveurs and others in the Midwest, ca. 1820.

See Birch.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 53]

Birch Canoes

“The Savage Natives are very ingenious in making these Canou’s: They make them of the Rinds of Birch-Trees, which they pull very neatly off that sort of trees…”  Hennepin goes on the explain the method they use for making these canoes.  The uses of Willow and Cedar are also discussed in this section.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 13]


“…another sort of Tree, from which drops a most fragrant Gum, which in my Opinion exceeds our best Perfumes.”

 [Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 173]

      See Birch Canoes.

Conjurors–see Jugglers


WHEAT/CORN.  Corn is referred to as “Turkish Wheat” in the early colonial writings.  In Hennepin’s writings, the terms Corn, Indian Corn, and Turkish Wheat are interchanged; in addition, the latter part of this text refers to Wild Rice (Zizania aquatica) as “Corn,” likening it even to the “English Corn” (or Wheat) which they grew back home.   For more of his mention of “Corn,” see vol. 1, p. 53 (Iroquois Indian Corn), 80, 262.


See Foods/Nutriment.


M. de la Salle and his nephew M. Moranger are attacked by “violent Fever, which reduced them to Extremity…”  Makes a brief note about sickness and their long term recovery.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 28]

QUACKERY/JUGGLERY/BAPTISM.  Chapter XVIII (Vol. 2, pp. 73-76).  “Of the Remedies the Salvages (sic) make use of in their Diseases.  There are several Quacks and Mountebanks among them.   The Opinion they had upon the Baptizing of a Child, while the Author was with them.”

FATIGUE.  “When the Salvages have been much fatigu’d, they immediately go into a Stove or Bath to strengthen their Limbs; if they feel Pain about them, either in their Thighs or Legs, they immediately take a knife or sharp Stone (which comes to the Hand first,) and scarifie the Part therewith in several places, especially where they Perceive the Ailment.  When the Blood begins to gush out, they scrape it away with their Knives or sharp Stones, ’till it ceases running, and then rub the Wound well with Bear’s Oyl and Dears Fat, which two things, they find to be a Sovereign Remedy in these Cases.  They do the same likewise, when either their Hands or Arms ake. (sic)” 

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 28]

FEVER.  “To cure Tertian or Quartan Agues or Fever Treatment, they make a Medicine with a certain Rind that they boil, and cause the Patient to swallow it after his Fit is over.  They are very well acquainted with Herbs and Roots, with which they cure abundance of Diseases.  They ahve several never-failing Remedies against the Poison of Toads, Rattle-Snakes, and other such Dangerous Creatures; but never the less they have no Cure at all for the Small Pox.”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 73]

Doctrine of Signatures–see Antipathy


Dream of an animal is mentioned. (p. 246)

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1]

Fatigue–see Diseases

Fever–see Diseases

Fiber Products

Mentions a Cabin made with Marsh Rushes (vol. 1, p. 110).  Strongs made from the “Bark of White Wood.” [Cottonwood? Tulip Tree? Basswood?]

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1]

Reeds and Canes are well described.  “They grow very high and big, and their Knots are crowned with several leaves long and sharp, the greenness whereof is incomparable.”  [Arundinaria sp.]

[J. Marquette, 1673 (Hennepin, 1698, v. 2), p. 341]

See Canoes.


CHAPTER XXVII.  A method of fire-starting is described in detail:

“Their way of making a Fire, and which is new and unknown to us, is thus;  they take a Triangular piece of Cedar-Wood of a foot and an half long, wherein the bore some holes half through; they they take a Switch, or another small piece of hard Wood, and with both their hands rub the strongest upon the weakest in the hole, which is made of Cedar, and while they are thus rubbing they let fall a sort of Dust or Powder which turns to fire.

Use of a Pellet of Herbs in the form of a “white Dust” is also mentioned. 

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 103]


BISON.  Description of a broth made using [Wild] “Oxen”:

“They commonly boil it and drink the Broath of it instead of Water.  This is the Ordinary Drink of all the Savages of America, who have no Commerce with the Europeans; and it must be confess’d that the Broath is very wholesom. (sic)”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 116]

BISON.  Description of “Oxen” is given.  “Their Flesh and Fat is excellant and the best Dish of the Savage…”

[J. Marquette, 1673 (Hennepin, 1698, v. 2), p. 327-8]

BEANS.  Hennepin mentions “Beans which grow naturally…”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 174]

PURSLANE.  Hennepin mentions the vegetables he planted in the Village of Issati, August 14, 1680.  These included Cabbage and Purslane (Portulaca oleracea?).  Of the latter he wrote:  “The Stalks of Purslain were as big as Reeds.  But the Savages were afraid so much as to taste them.”

 [Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 246]

FISH.  A beverage was made using White Fish, which was drank hot; for if it is allowed to cool it gels up, “as if it had been made of Veal.”  This drink, he claimed, made the “Indian Wheat…go down better.”

 [Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 262]

DRAUGHT.  Mentions the use of the “Bark of a Tree” to maek a Draught.

 [Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 28]

FRUIT.  Mentions Mulberries, “another Fruit which we took at first for Olives, but it tastes like ORange,” “another Fruit as big as an Egg, and having cut it in two Pieces, we found the inside was divided into sixrteen, eighteen and twenty small Cells or Holes, and in each of them a Fruit like our Almonds, which is very sweet; tho’ the Tree stinks: Its leaves are like our Walnut-Tree’s.”  (p. 339)   “They have no other Fruit but Water-Melon.” (p. 347.)

[J. Marquette, 1673 (Hennepin, 1698, v. 2)]

FRUIT.  Hawthorn.  Ingesting berries noted to cause sickness in the explorers group.  Treated with Orvietan (which see).

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 97]

Chapter XXXV. details cooking methods, eating utensils, eating habits, dirnking water, birch tree bark containers, utensils, etc.

 [Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 146-147]

      See Fire.

Hyacinth, Confection of

Chapter XXV.  While on the Lake of Ihli, Father Gabriel fainted “in such a manner, that I verily thought he could not live; however, I brought him again to his senses by means of some Confection of Hyacinth which I found very useful.”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 110]


In the Chapter Recollecting their theory of Creativity, Hennepin notes the Native to be comparable with the Jews.  He noted their building of huts, “their Lamentations for Dead,” their belief in immortality,  and their belief in dreams, visions and spirits to be similar. “They annoint themselves with Oyl, and are zealous Observers of Dreams…”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 52]

See Jugglers.


Fairly lengthy writings about Jugglers are given in several key parts of this text.  His first mention of them is in Volume 1, page 134-5, “One of them who was said to be dead in the hands of the Junglers (sic); and consequently in the Superstitions of his Country-Men.”

Some Englishmen looked these Jugglers or Conjurors as Wizards who had made an agreement with the Devil.  To Hennepin, this seem not to be the case, and so he replied “but in my Opinion there is no great Reason to believe ’em such, or to think their practice favors anything of a Communication with the Devil.”  Hennepin instead felt these Conjurors were possessed by a “Cursed Spirit,” which led them to behave as their “Impostures.”   Such practice he deduced “makes ’em to amuse these poor Wretches, and prevent their ever coming to the knowledge of the true God.  They are, in a Word, extremely bewitch’d with these Juglers, tho’ they so plainly and frequently appear to deceive them.” 

The early English viewed the approach Jugglers or Conjurors take to be attempts to cure suhc misbeahviors and maladies as “Distempers.”  They were revered by the loca community as “Prophets which fore-tell Futurity”, but are looked upon by the Christians as having “unlimited Power.”  They claimed for example they could make of their power to cause the weather to change from wet to dry, or from calm to stormy, or use it to change the land from fruitful to barren.  They have the power to make hunters “Fortunate or Unfortunate.”  Hennepin adds, “They also often pretend to Physick, and to apply Medicines, but which are such, for the most part  as have little of no virtue in all in ’em, especially to Cure that Distemper they pretend to.”

Hennepin follows this up with a lengthy note about their use of juggling, conjuring and enchantments.  He made mention of their belief in “superstitons” and brings up their behaviors with animal bones as healing objects as an example.  Of the fact that they allowed the bones to remain in a repository rather than be disposed of, he writes:

“They say, That the souls of these Animals observe how they deal by their Bodies, and consequently advertise both the living and Dead of that kind thereof, so that if they treat ’em ill, they must not expect that those sorts of Beast will ever suffer themselves to be taken by them either in this of the other World.”

Hennepin related this to “Corruption of Sin.”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 58]

QUACKERY/JUGGLERY/BAPTISM.  Chapter XVIII (Vol. 2, pp. 73-76).  “Of the Remedies the Salvages (sic) make use of in their Diseases.  There are several Quacks and Mountebanks among them.   The Opinion they had upon the Baptizing of a Child, while the Author was with them.”

“There are several Quacks among them…Jug’lers…”  Hennepin continued this description in detail, describing as well the ceremony of a cure which he commented about as “a great deal of blind Devotion.”  In his description of the Juggler, whom he notes as a tormentor, he noted their techniques of making “[the] very Blood burst out,” followed with the removal of “a peice of skin, a lock of a Woman’s Hair, or some other such thing.”  He details a method for “drawing the spell from the body.”  In one of the Baptism notes, Hennepin himself was likened to the talent of a Juggler.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 73-74]

During one of the Baptism he performed, Hennepin himself was likened to the Juggler.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 75]

Chapter XXXV of Vol. 2 is on Jugglers, Sorcerers, Consulting Spirits, the Missions, etc. (pp. 144-5).  Hennipen considered this topic to be important in the goals of establishing good colonies in the New World.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 144-5]

Jugglers and Physicians described. 

[J. Marquette, 1673 (Hennepin, 1698, v. 2), p. 335]

Manatee–see Animals


Several times noted in this book as Manitou or Manitoa.  Jacques Marquette’s writings note it as Manitoa.  The offering of Tobacco to this Manitou he likens to the first Christians offering Frankincense to Jesus.    (page 337)

Manitoa was called the Devil’s Place of residence. (p. 341).

[J. Marquette, 1673 (Hennepin, 1698, v. 2), p. 337]

See Animals, with lengthy review of this same topic.


QUACKERY/JUGGLERY/BAPTISM.  Chapter XVIII (Vol. 2, pp. 73-76).  “Of the Remedies the Salvages (sic) make use of in their Diseases.  There are several Quacks and Mountebanks among them.   The Opinion they had upon the Baptizing of a Child, while the Author was with them.”

Aside from being balemd for Jugglery by performing his baptismal cure, Hennipen was accused of living on “Chagran and Melancholy Humour,” being “fed upon Thunder.”

“They have often recourse to our Medicines, I suppose, because they find ’em good, but where they do not succeed, they rather lay the Cause on the Physick, than the Constitution of the Person.”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 76]

“They have often admired the effects of our Remedies, which I apply’d to their Sick; so endeavoring to Cure them of their Spiritual Maladies by bringing them to the knowledge of the True God, through the Care I took of their Bodies.”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 107]

Mithridate’s Treacle

Noted as “Mithradite” by Hennipen; an ancient remedy re-written as Theriac Andromachi, and considered the early treacle.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 76]

Natural History

      Ethnobotany/Natural History Note:

“There are many Medicinal herbs, altogether unkown (sic) in Europe, the efficacy of which is infallible, as the Barbarians have found by Experience, who make use of ’em to heal all their Wounds, as well as to cure Tertian and Quartan Agues, to asswage the Nephritic pains, to serve as Purges, and for other Applications of the like Nature.  To those may be added several sorts of Poyson, particularly the Bark of the Wild-Lemon-Tree, and others which are us’d by these People to put their enemies to Death.  Serpents are frequently seen in certain places, more especially Adders, Aspes, and other sort of Serpents that have a kind of Rattle at their Tail, and a re therefore call’d Rattle-Snakes: These last are of a prodigious length and thickness, and their Biting often proves fatal to Passengers; nevertheless, they do not Assault any Persons, unless they happen to touch the Herbs or Pieces of wood on which they lie; But Sovereign Remedies against their Venom are to be had in the Places which they frequent.  There are in like Manner certain Frogs of a surprising thickness, the croaking of which is as loud and thrill as the bellowing of Oxen.”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 133]

Natural Products (general notes)

Mentions “Firr-Tree Gum for Pitch and Tar,” skins, Oak Planks for ships.”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 132]


Orvietanum, a patent medicine invented by an Italian, Hieronymus Ferrantes, of Orvieto, who named himself Orvietano.  Served as an electuary and “invaluable antidote.”  Its ingredients included Old Theriac, Drief Vipers, Scorzonera, Carlina, Imperatorium, Angelica, Bistort, Rosemary, Juniper, Cinnamon, Cloves, Mace, Honey, etc.  Uses were like those of Theriac, i.e. as a Panacea and Miracle Cure.  Hennepin also calls this his “Treacle”, Orvietan (traditional Treacle is Theriac Andromachi, Mithradites Treacle, or Venice Treacle.

As written by Hennepin:

“As there are some stony Places in this Country, where there is a great quantity of serpents, very troublesome to the Illinois, they know several Herbs which are a quicker and surer remedy against their Venom, than our Treacle or Orvietan.  They rub themselves with these Herbs, after which they play with those dangerous Serpents, without receiving any hurt…” (vol. 1, p. 133)

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1]

Chapter LVIII.  While with the Issati along the River of St. Francis, who were hunting the “Wild-Bull,” Hennepin spent the following evening, “800 leagues from Canada,” discussing and interpreting each group’s healing traditions with the Natives.  Hennepin writes:  “That if they had received any good Usage from the Savages, ’twas owing to my Ingenuity more than their own, having been capable of letting several of them Blood, and otherwise assisting ’em in their Sickness by my Orvietan and some other Medicines which I carefully kept by me.”

Hennepin made use of such chances to improve his relation with the Natives.  He made several attempts to treat the snakebites of several tribal or crew members.  He writes:

I had made but little advance in or to their salvation, by reason of their natural Stupidity; but that the best way to take the Soul was to begin with the Body: That, in short, I had gain’d their Friendship by my Services, and that they wou’d have certainly kill’d us, but that they knew I had certain Remedies about me to restore Health to the Sick; which they thought was a Treasure never to be valued as it ought.”  

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 226]

Brief mention is made of the use of Orvietan Powder as a nutriment while Picard and Hennepin were searching for gooseberries.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 228]

Hennepin made use of Orvietan “for the recovery of our Health” after consuming a heavy meal consisting of pieces of Flesh from a Bull.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 235]

Mention of the treatment of Rattle-Snake bites with Orvietan.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 107]

Quacks–see Jugglers; Orvietan; Diseases

Sea-Monstors–see Animals.

Snakebite Remedies

As with most Native American histories, their views of the Rattlesnake were an important part of their spiritual healing faith. 

Hennepin noted sleeping alongside a rattler, and perhaps made use of his panacea Orvietan to treat the snakebite at least once.   

Hennepin noted snakes and snakebite remedies several times along the Mississippi.  One likely snakeroot growing in these parts fo early North America was a member of the Polygonaceae family.  The jointed stems and rhizomes these plants bore, and at times their flower tops of white and pink, with small bead-like flowers, made them appear like the the snake and its rattle. 

Hennepin made use of his opportunities to treat the victims of snakebites as his means to improve relations with the Natives.   He writes:

I had made but little advance in or to their salvation, by reason of their natural Stupidity; but that the best way to take the Soul was to begin with the Body: That, in short, I had gain’d their Friendship by my Services, and that they wou’d have certainly kill’d us, but that they knew I had certain Remedies about me to restore Health to the Sick; which they thought was a Treasure never to be valued as it ought.”  

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 226]

In the second volume, Hennepin discusses in more detail the snakebite case involving M. de la Salle’s “wild Huntsman” Nikana:

“They made his take some Orvietan-Powder; and having scarify’d the Wound to draw out the Venom and infected Blood, they laid Viper’s-salt upon it; So that by the help of these Remedies he was put out of danger, though some time was required to perfect the Cure.” (vol. 2, p. 22)

Mention of the treatment of Rattle-Snake bites with Orvietan.  The scarficiation of the wound was practiced, followed by application of a powder to prevent the pain from “getting to the Heart of the Person stunned.” 

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 107]

“I observed on a Rock a Simple, which I take to be very extraordinary.  Its Root is like small Turnips link’d together by some Flowers of the same Root, which tastes like Carrots.  From that Root springs a leaf as large as one’s Hand, and about an Inch thick, with some spots in the middle; from whence spring also some other leaves, each of them bearing 5 or 6 yellow Flowers, like little Bells.”

[J. Marquette, 1673 (Hennepin, 1698, v. 2), p. 339]

The plant Hennepin refers to in his writing is so far uncertain and unidentified (7/4/96).  Spotted Trout Lily (Erythronium americanum)? (3/24/2012)

See also Orvietan entry.


The Natives’ fascination with the Compass convinced them of Hennepin’s medicine man or Juggler skills.

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 1, p. 213]

“They have often admired the effects of our Remedies, which I apply’d to their Sick; so endeavoring to Cure them of their Spiritual Maladies by bringing them to the knowledge of the True God, through the Care I took of their Bodies.”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 107]

Sturgeon (and other fish)–see Animals.


“This is a Shrub resembling a Briar without Prickles, having a very great Root; which being well wash’d and dry’d up, is after wards pounded and reduced to Pouder in a Mortar.  The Potage these People make with it, is well tasted, but a little astringent.”

[Hennepin, 1698, v. 2, p. 20]


Ceremonial Pipe Smoking.  (vol. 1, p. 175).  See Animals (Sea-Monstor note).

Treacle–see Orvietan


In Chapter XIII “A Description of my first Imbarkment…”  (vol. 1, p. 40-47), Hennepin discusses “the prettiest Trees in the World, Pines, Cedars, and Epinetes (a sort of Firr-tree very common in that Country.)  [v. 1, p. 46; see also forest description for Lake Erie Passage on p. 80.]   Hennepin also discusses the use of “Canou’s” made from Birch bark (which see), and such trees as “large Cotton-Tree on the River” (Cottonwood?), “Palm-Trees, wild Laurels, Plum-Trees, Mulbery-Trees, Peach-Trees, Apple-Trees, and Walnut-Trees of five or six kinds.” (vol. 1, p. 157)  Hennepin later mentions Cotton-Trees, Oak, Mul-bery (sic), Plum trees, Pomegranate (identification?), and Chestnut.  Of the Peach trees he writes:  “The Peach-trees are like ours, and so fruitful”   Beans and Vines are also mentioned. (vol. 1, p. 173-4).

NOTE: Assuming the Peach tree is European in origin(?); its acceptance into Thomsonianism, which infers Thomson’s belief in its nativity, suggests that Thomson misinterpreted or misidentified certain native remedies when he first defined his materia medica.  The early European writings of Native flora gave traditional European names to many of these plants, which may have led to later misinterpretations by those such as Samuel Thomson.  

  [Hennepin, 1698]

Mentions Mulberries, “another Fruit which we took at first for Olives, but it tastes like Orange,” “another Fruit as big as an Egg, and having cut it in two Pieces, we found the inside was divided into sixteen, eighteen and twenty small Cells or Holes, and in each of them a Fruit like our Almonds, which is very sweet; tho’ the Tree stinks: Its leaves are like our Walnut-Tree’s”

[J. Marquette, 1673 (Hennepin, 1698, v. 2), p. 339]

Visions–see Dreams

Wild Oats–see Corn

Wild Rice (Zizania aquatica)

“Nation of the Wild Oats” (Tribal name).  “…the Wild-Oats, from which they have got their name, is a small sort of Corn which grows nationally on the small Rivers, the bottom whereof is owzie, as also in marshy Grounds.  It is much like our European Oats, the stem is knotted, and grows about two foot above the surface of the Water.  The corn is not bigger than ours, but is twice as long, and therefore it yields much more meal.”  This plant begins growing in June, and is harvested in September by shaking off the tops into canoes, followed by chafing the grain.

[J. Marquette, 1673 (Hennepin, 1698, v. 2), p. 318]

Willow–see Birch Canoes