Jacques Marquette: "They pass for Manitous," 1673-77

Jesuit Father Marquette's account of his first voyage down the Mississippi in 1673-77 declares:

I know not through what superstition some Illinois, as well as some Nadouessi, while still young, assume the garb of women, and retain it throughout their lives. There is some mystery in this, For they never marry and glory in demeaning themselves to do everything that the women do. They go to war, however, but can use only clubs, and not bows and arrows, which are the weapons proper to men. They are present at all the juggleries, and at the solemn dances in honor of the Calumet; at these they sing, but must not dance. They are summoned to the Councils, and nothing can be decided without their advice. Finally, through their profession of leading an Extraordinary life, they pass for Manitous,-That is to say, for Spirits;-or persons of Consequence.[1]


Jonathan Ned Katz, Gay American History: Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S.A. (NY: Crowell, 1976) pg. 287.

  1. Jacques Marquette, "Of the First Voyage Made by Father Marquette toward New Mexico, and How the Idea Thereof Was Conceived," The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites, 73 vols. (Cleveland: Burrows, 1896-1901), vol. 59, p. 129.

    Father Louis Hennepin speaks of a cross-dressing, Native male teen-ager in the area of the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley, 1678-80 (A Description of Louisiana, trans. John Gilmary Shea [N.Y.: John G. Shea, 1880], p. 334). A later work of Hennepin's, apparently partly plagiarized, speaks of "hermaphrodites" and boys dressed in women's Clothes, kept for sodomitical practices by the Natives (A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America, cd. Reuben Gold Thwaites, :2 vols. [Chicago: A. C. McClurg, 1903]. vol. I, p. 167-68).

    Father Zenobius Membre's narrative of the adventures of La Salle's party at Fort Crevecoeur, in Illinois, from February 1680 to June 1681, describes the customs of the Natives of the Mississippi Valley: "Hermaphrodites are numerous.... [The Indians] are lewd, and even unnaturally so, having boys dressed as women, destined for infamous purposes. These boys are employed only in women's work, without taking part in the chase or war" (Discovery and Exploration of the Mississippi Valley ... , trans. John Gilmary Shea, and ed. [Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1903, p. 155).

    In "An Account of the Amours and Marriages of the Savages," Louis Armand de Lorn d'Arce de Lahontan writes of his voyage to North America (1683-92): "Some Savages continue Batchelours to their Dying day, and never appear either at Hunting or in Warlike Expeditions, as being either Lunatick or Sickly: But at the same time they are as much esteem'd as the Bravest and Hailest Men in the Country, or at least if they rally upon 'em, 'tis never done where they are present. Among the Illinese there are several Hermaphrodites, who go in a Woman's Habit, but frequent the Company of both Sexes. These Illinese are strangely given to Sodomy, as well as the other Savages that live near the River Missisipi" (New Voyages to North-America, ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites, 2 vols. [Chicago: A. C. McClurg. 1905), vol. 2, p. 462).

    Barcia Carballido y Zuniga casually mentions La Salle's embarking on the Mississippi in the summer of 1687 with three Indian guides, "and another Indian--an hermaphrodite who invited himself to go along with them ..." (Barcia's Chronological History of the Continent of Florida . . . trans. Anthony Kerrigan [Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1951J, p. 306).

    Henri de Tonti's account of La Salle's expedition, first published in 1697. the year of Tonti's return from America, says of the Illinois: "They love women with excess, and boys above women, so that they become by that horrid vice, very effeminate. "Tis observable, however, that notwithstanding that vitious inclination, they have several laws to punish that infamous vice. For as soon as a boy has prostituted himself, he is degraded in a manner of his sex, being forbidden to wear the apparel or name of man, and to make any office or function fit for men, even not so much as to, be suflered to go a hunting. They are therefore look'd upon as women, and confined to their employments, of whom they are even more slighted and hated than by men; insomuch that these wretches become, by their crime, the scorn and contempt of both sexes. Thus without any help, but natural reason, they are sensible of their crime, and have made these laws as a bridle to master their brutish sensuality, tho', as I have said before, they hate all manner of restraint. ... Hermaphrodites are very common amongst them ... ("An Account of Monsieur de La Salle's Last Expedition ..." Collections of the N.Y, Historical Society, ser. I, vol. 2 (1814], p. 237-38).

    Buisson de St. Cosme's narrative of the American Northwest contains a reference dating to Jan. 2, 1699: "We saw ... in the village of the Kappas one of those wretches who from their youth dress as girls and pander to the most shameful of all vices. But this infamous man was not of their nation; he belonged to the Illinois, among whom the practice is quite common" (Early Narratives of the Northwest, 1634-1699, ed. Louise Philips Kellogg [N.Y.: Scribner, 1917], p. 360; also see p. 244).