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It's the Tour de France, Oklahoma Style

August 13, 2003

Almanac Transcript

It's the Tour de France, Oklahoma style this week on Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

This week marks the anniversary of explorer Bernard De La Harpeís entry into the area that is now Oklahoma. La Harpe, employed by various trading companies, conducted numerous trips to North America between 1718 and 1723 in the hopes of finding trading partners with the Spanish and Native Americans living there. In 1718 on the first of his expeditions La Harpe and forty men left France for Louisiana. Once in North America La Harpe embarked on an ambitious plan of exploration, trade and discovery.

The group journeyed to the northeast Louisiana corner at the present day junction of Oklahoma, Texas and Arkansas where they built a fort and began their explorations of the Mississippi, Red and Sulfur rivers. As an agent for the company of the Indies and the French government La Harpe was assigned extensive exploration responsibilities as well as trade concerns. French and Spanish hostilities erupting in 1719 prevented much trade negotiations, but La Harpe continued with his exploring. It was in this week of 1719 that La Harpe and his men entered what is today Oklahoma.

The group found various responses from the Native American tribes they encountered along the way establishing good relations with the Missoni Tribe, the explorers used this group and their territory as a safe haven in not so welcoming environment. On their tour through present day Oklahoma, the group met with many hardships and surprises. In the Crosstimbers region on the western edge of the route, the group was turned back by impenetrably dense woods and overgrowth. Losing numerous horses along the way to sickness and accidents, the group was forced to slaughter and eat the rest of the horses in order to survive. The last few weeks of the expedition, the group was forced to continue their march on foot each carrying their allotment of cured horse meat.

During the last leg of the journey the men resorted to eating whatever they could catch no matter what it was including rats and other vermin. After five months of travel, the group starving, on foot and with its leader La Harpe delirious from fever returned to the red river and then on to New Orleans where after a period of recovery they left for France. This voyage into North America was the first of three trips led La Harpe. Repeated failure to establish successful trade routes and connections resulted in his dismissal from the company of the Indies and his retirement from the field of exploration.

French explorers taking a Sooner State tour this week on the Almanac.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of Oklahoma's Public Radio and the Oklahoma State University Library.

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