Radisson, Pierre-Esprit

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Radisson was born in France and emigrated to Canada in 1651 with his family. Within months, while out walking with friends he was captured by the Iroquois (one source says the Mohawks), who killed the other boys, and he was adopted by a family which had lost three sons in wars (the couple also had a surviving son and two daughters), who named him Oninga.

As a captive he settled quickly and happily into his new life, learning the Iroquois language, and apparently did not take advantage of several opportunities to escape. But in 1653 he did escape and rejoin white society, becoming an explorer and fur trader.

With his brother-in-law, Médard Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers, he was the first European to explore Lake Superior, making good use of the survival skills he had learned from the Iroquois. They returned to European civilization with a very large cargo of furs, which were confiscated in Montréal by the government because they had been obtained without a license. This turned both men against the French government and they went to England, where they influenced the founding of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1670, who employed them as guides and advisors.

Radisson founded Port Nelson, the first permanent European settlement in Manitoba. After retiring he settled in England in 1687.


Dever, Maria, and Dever, Aileen. Relative Origins: Famous Foster and Adopted People. (Portland: National Book Company, 1992)
Dictionary of American Biography
Dictionary of Canadian Biography
Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-97
Nute, Grace Lee. Caesars of the Wilderness: Médard Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers and Pierre Esprit Radisson, 1618-1710. (1943, repr. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1969)
Syme, Ronald. Bay of the North Sty Pierre Radisson. (New York: Morrow, 1950)
"Historic HBC: The Adventures of Radisson and des Groseilliers." [Includes portrait]. Available at: http://www.hbc.com/hbchistory/historic_hbc/radisson.htm
Infoplease.com. "Radisson, Pierre Esprit." Available at: http://www.infoplease.com/ce5/CE43096.html


Uk/great Britain
17th Century
18th Century
Business and Industry
Exploration, Adventure
Self-made Men and Women
School-age Years, Adolescence
Captured by Another Tribe or Group
Others ("Strangers")
Adoptive/Foster Family Included Birth Child(ren)
Trans-Racial, Trans-Tribal, International or Trans-Cultural Adoption or Fostering
Customary or Traditional Adoption, Informal and Extra-Legal Care
Birth Sibling(s) Separated
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