Hennepin, Louis

Louis Hennepin, Récollet missionary, explorer (b at Ath, Belgium 12 May 1626; d c 1705). In 1675 Hennepin was sent to Canada with René-Robert Cavelier de La Salle, commandant of Fort Frontenac, where Hennepin was chaplain 1676-77. In 1678 he was asked to join La Salle's expedition through the Great Lakes and, in 1680, with 2 others was sent ahead to explore the upper Mississippi. His journal was the source for Description de la Louisiane published in 1683, a year after his return to France. It described the places visited, notably Niagara Falls, and the Iroquois and the Sioux who held the travellers in captivity for 6 months. Hennepin was vainglorious and rebelled against church discipline; he seldom held a position for long. In 1697 he published Nouvelle Découverte d'un très grand pays and in 1698 Nouveau Voyage d'un pais plus grand que l'Europe, in which he claimed he had travelled to the Mississippi's mouth. This attempt to appropriate La Salle's discovery was another self-serving embellishment to justify retelling the 1683 narrative. Hennepin's books were enormously popular in Europe, but he was excluded from Canada and passed into obscurity.