A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri


A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri

The Journal and Description of Jean-Baptiste Truteau, 1794–1796

Jean-Baptiste Truteau
Edited by Raymond J. DeMallie, Douglas R. Parks, and Robert Vézina
Translated by Mildred Mott Wedel, Raymond J. DeMallie, and Robert Vézina

Studies in the Anthropology of North American Indians Series

728 pages
9 figures, 7 maps, 7 tables, 2 diagrams, index


August 2017


$100.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

August 2017


$100.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

2018 Dwight L. Smith (ABC-CLIO) Award from the Western History Association

A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri offers the first annotated scholarly edition of Jean-Baptiste Truteau’s journal of his voyage on the Missouri River in the central and northern Plains from 1794 to 1796 and of his description of the upper Missouri. This fully modern and magisterial edition of this essential journal surpasses all previous editions in assisting scholars and general readers in understanding Truteau’s travels and encounters with the numerous Native peoples of the region, including the Arikaras, Cheyennes, Lakotas-Dakotas-Nakotas, Omahas, and Pawnees. Truteau’s writings constitute the very foundation to our understanding of the late eighteenth-century fur trade in the region immediately preceding the expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson in 1803.

An unparalleled primary source for its descriptions of Native American tribal customs, beliefs, rituals, material culture, and physical appearances, A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri will be a classic among scholars, students, and general readers alike.

Along with this new translation by Mildred Mott Wedel, Raymond J. DeMallie, and Robert Vézina, which includes facing French-English pages, the editors shed new light on Truteau’s description of the upper Missouri and acknowledge his journal as the foremost account of Native peoples and the fur trade during the eighteenth century. Vézina’s essay on the language used and his glossary of voyageur French also provide unique insight into the language of an educated French Canadian fur trader.

Author Bio

Jean-Baptiste Truteau (1748–1827) was an explorer, trapper, fur trader, surveyor, and Canadian French teacher. Raymond J. DeMallie is Chancellors’ Professor of Anthropology, co-director of the American Indian Studies Research Institute, and curator of North American Ethnology at the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Lakota Belief and Ritual (Nebraska, 1991). Douglas R. Parks is a professor of anthropology and co-director of the American Indian Studies Research Institute at Indiana University. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Traditional Narratives of the Arikara Indians, volumes 1–4 (Nebraska, 1990–92). Robert Vézina is a linguist specializing in North American French historical lexicology. He is currently the president and chief executive officer of the Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Office of the French Language). Mildred Mott Wedel (1912–95) was a pioneer in ethnohistory and recipient of multiple awards, including a Distinguished Service Award for lifetime achievement from the Plains Anthropological Society.



"The result of several decades of collaboration, A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri merits cover-to cover reading. . . . Original manuscripts in French (and Spanish) are considered inaccessible by many students of the fur trade and of colonial St. Louis. For that reason, one important and potentially long-lasting benefit of this bilingual volume is that it can ease and even encourage further French-language study of various aspects of the fur trade, which is by no means yet fully explored."—Sharon K. Person, Missouri Historical Review

"This book is a chef d'œuvre in ethnography, a work of love that spans nearly three generations of scholars. For anyone wanting to read a firsthand, in depth, intelligent account by a French fur trader whose two year long journal and his later conceived description of the upper Missouri about the Indians who lived there and their inter-tribal relations, this book is not to be missed."—Michael McCafferty, Le Journal

"One of the most complete, well-edited, and best ethnographic and geographical late eighteenth-century fur trading accounts to ever be published. . . . A must-read for First Nation people, historians, ethnologists, linguists, historical reenactors, and professional and laypersons alike and will continue to be the aller á for historical reference work for the Upper Missouri River fur trade era for generations to come."—Kenneth Carstens, Michigan Historical Review

"This volume is remarkable in its scope and scholarship. It will be of great interest to scholars and students of the fur trade in the disciplines of history, geography, anthropology, historical linguistics, and Native American studies."—Rob Bozell, Nebraska History

"This is the first comprehensive critical edition of documents related to Truteau's two-year sojourn among Indian nations of the Upper Missouri a decade before Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery arrived at the Mandan villages. Superbly translated, edited, indexed, and annotated, the book eclipses previous efforts. Side-by-side French and English transcriptions offer easy access to Truteau's narrative, and an opportunity for readers to develop a feel for the early eighteenth-century French that fur traders spoke in the pays d'en haut, the "upriver country.” . . . This superb book reflects the talents of top-flight scholars who gave Truteau's significant narrative the attention it merits. An impressive example of "best practices" in fur trade scholarship, it makes compelling reading and is highly recommended."—Barton H. Barbour, Great Plains Quarterly

"This excellent new volume of Truteau's writings is required reading for anyone with either a serious or passing interest in the history of the indigenous inhabitants of the Upper Missouri River or the fur trade that so dramatically changed their lives."—Greg Olson, Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society

"While it is fascinating enough to consider Truteau's journal as a primary source on the late-eighteenth-century fur trade, his journal not only provides a detailed description of the Upper Missouri but also an intriguing firsthand look into the culture, customs, traditions, beliefs, and ritualistic ceremonies of the region's Native Americans. . . . This book is a reference resource that will satisfy the needs of historians and linguists alike."—Eileen M. Angelini, French Review

"A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri is a historically rich translated edition of crucial texts that explore and reflect on the cultures and environment along the Missouri River from Saint Louis to North Dakota. . . . Truteau's manuscripts are substantial, and the editor Douglas Parks's introductory essay is equally useful."—Aaron Luedke, Pacific Northwest Quarterly

"Raymond J. DeMallie, Douglas R. Parks and Robert Vézina have just published a remarkable contribution to this effort to make known and situate in its socio-cultural context a variety of French that remains undoubtedly still enigmatic for many Romanists."—Revue de linguistique romane

"With A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri, DeMallie, Parks, and Vézina set a new standard for a critical and textual edition of a fur trade journal, providing the most complete versions of the Truteau journals in English and the original French. During Truteau's day Native Americans dominated the Northern Plains. The journals are rich in eyewitness descriptions of interactions among Truteau, his party, members of various bands and tribes, some qualified allies, and many unrelenting adversaries. A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri also provides the necessary resources for a reader to begin to appreciate ways that Truteau's text is at many levels mediated by practices of the French fur trade society of the time."—David W. Dinwoodie, Journal of Anthropological Research

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations    
Explanation of Editorial Method    
Introduction   Douglas R. Parks
Extract from the Journals of the Voyage of Jean-Baptiste Truteau on the Upper Missouri
From St. Louis to the Arikara Villages, June 7, 1794–May 14, 1795    
At the Arikara Villages, May 24–July 20, 1795    
From the Arikara Villages to St. Louis, July 22, 1795–June 4, 1796    
Abridged Description of the Upper Missouri        
First Notebook    
Second Notebook    
Third Notebook    
Instructions Given to Truteau by the Company of the Upper Missouri    
Account of the Indian Trade    Jacques Clamorgan
Appendix 1: The Language of Truteau   Robert Vézina
Appendix 2: A Glossary of Voyageur French    Robert Vézina


2018 Dwight L. Smith (ABC-CLIO) Award from the Western History Association

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