Minnesota Territory 1849-1858
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The Fur Trader

Frank B. Mayer, Old Trading House, 1851
Frank B. Mayer, Old Trading House, 1851
Courtesy of the Newberry Library
Edward Ayer Collection, Chicago

Louis Provencalle was a Canadian voyageur who transported goods and supplies in the early years of Minnesota fur trade. He traded with the Dakota Indians, married a woman from their tribe, and spoke their language. In the 1830s and 1840s, Provencalle operated a fur trading post at Traverse des Sioux, near what is now the town of St. Peter.

Because Provencalle could not read or write, he used picture writing, called pictographs, to keep his accounts. This method of record-keeping was advantageous because the Indians could easily read the pictures and understand the status of their accounts.