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Red Banks & Jean Nicolet Memorial
Red Banks, located on the shore of Green Bay, is the first documented point of contact between Europeans and the Indian tribes living along the Parkway. It is at this location, that French explorer, Jean Nicolet, is famously depicted greeting the Indians while donning a silk robe and firing two pistols.
In the 17th century, Samuel de Champlain, explorer and governor of New France, heard that there was a land to of untold wealth located across a vast body of water and inhabited by a group of people calling themselves “People of the Sea.” He believed that, by pushing westward, he would encounter this land and find a direct water route to China. In July of 1634, he chose explorer Jean Nicolet to travel from Quebec, Canada into this vast wilderness.
Nicolet arrived in Green Bay in late summer. Having encountered no saltwater, Nicolet was aware that he had not reached China. Nevertheless, he stepped ashore wearing a silken robe and brandishing two pistols. Upon firing in the air, the hundreds of Winnebagos, who were expecting his arrival, scattered. Nicolet spent the remainder of his time with the Indians, who first told him of the Fox-Wisconsin Waterway.
Nicolet’s voyage opened Indian relations and prompted a century of European exploration and conquest in Wisconsin. Red Banks remains a seminal location of this era of history.
A short drive from the City of Green Bay, this small park allows visitors to walk near the spot where Nicolet first landed over 350 years ago. This site contains a short walking path to the statue of Nicolet and Wisconsin historical marker.
Marker Inscription: “Many of the explorers who followed Columbus were more interested in finding an easy route to Asia than they were in exploring and settling this continent. In 1634 Jean Nicolet, emissary of Gov. Samuel de Champlain of New France, landed at Red Banks on the shore of Green Bay about a mile west of here. His mission was to arrange peace with the “People of the Sea” and to ally them with France. Nicolet half expected to meet Asiatics on his voyage and had with him an elaborate Oriental rove which he put on before landing. The Winnebago Indians who met him were more impressed with the “thunder” he carried in both hands as he stepped ashore firing his pistols. Nicolet reported to his superiors that he was well entertained with “sixscore beavers” being served at one banquet, but it was the pelts and not the flesh of the beaver that were to be highly prized by those who followed him.”
Site can be reached from Bay Settlement Road north of Van Laanen Road on the right when traveling north. Look for signs on Hwy 57.