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La Salle, René-Robert Cavalier de (21 November 1643–19 March 1687), explorer, was born in Rouen, France, the son of Jean Cavelier, a haberdasher, and Catherine Geest. The family was part of the prosperous bourgeoisie. The sobriquet “de La Salle” referred to an estate they owned outside Rouen. La Salle’s initial intention, however, seems to have been to escape his position, for after having studied with the Jesuits in Rouen, he renounced any claim to the family fortunes and entered the novitiate for the order in Paris in 1658. He actually took vows in 1660, continued, apparently rather brilliantly, his studies of mathematics, and taught in Jesuit schools until 1666. Having requested missionary assignments several times and been denied because he had been unable to demonstrate spiritual maturity and submission to the discipline of the order, he was released from his vows in 1667 and only a few months later went to New France, penniless but with many influential connections. There his brother, a Sulpician, was doubtless responsible for his obtaining from that order a grant of a seigneury on Montreal Island, but after two years La Salle sold most of it back to them and began his career of exploration by attaching himself to the Dollier and Galinée missionary party bound for the western Great Lakes. Hearing of the Ohio River from Iroquois Indian guides, he left the party, claiming illness, and virtually disappeared for four years....

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McIntosh, William (1778?–30 April 1825), military leader and high-ranking chief in the Creek Nation, was born in Coweta, in present-day Russell County, Alabama, the son of Captain William McIntosh, a recruiter for the British army, and Senoya, a full-blooded Creek. McIntosh was raised as a Creek, enduring the customary rites of passage and advancing to the rank of chief, ...

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Ridge, John (1803–22 June 1839), Cherokee leader, was born in Oothcaloga, Georgia, the son of Major Ridge, a Cherokee leader, and Susanna Wickett. As a young man Ridge was slight, delicate, and walked with a limp because of a hip problem, but he appeared to be a bright and eager student. His parents stressed education early in the boy’s life, and he attended a mission school at age seven. Ridge was a quick learner and felt that the school system, which called for advanced students to tutor younger, slower students, was retarding his education. Therefore, he, with several other Cherokee students, attended a school in Cornwall, Connecticut, in 1818. There they received religious and agricultural training and studied geography, history, rhetoric, surveying, Latin, and natural science....

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Richmond L. Clow

Spotted Tail (1823–05 August 1881), leader of the Brulé [Sican gu] Teton, was born in south-central South Dakota, the son of modest parents. (His name in his native tongue was Sinte Gleska.) At an early age, Spotted Tail sought a position of political leadership. As a young man he valiantly fought the Pawnee, earning his people’s approval and becoming a praiseworthy man. This was his first step toward political leadership, and it enabled him to understand that political gain could be achieved by waging a successful military expedition....