Sieur de La Vérendrye began his adventures when he was only nineteen, taking part in a raid on Deerfield. After campaigning in Newfoundland he went to France to fight for Louis XIV. He was left for dead on the battlefield of Malplaquet with three bullets and six sabre wounds in his body.
La Vérendrye did not die, but returned to Canada where he became a fur trader. From 1731 to 1743 he set up chains of forts from what is now Fort William to Portage La Prairie. He was convinced that he could find the route to the western sea because he had heard so many promising stories from the Indians, although he did not accept them at face value. He said: “These people are great liars, but now and then they tell the truth.”
In the spring of 1742, La Vérendrye two remaining sons and two Indians set out for Fort La Reine (Portage La Prairie) to track down a rumour that the Mandan Indians farther west could lead them to the western sea. They did not get back until July the following year, during which time they had gone south, crossed the Missouri River and made their way to a place where they could see high mountains. It is believed they were the Big Horn range of the Rockies. They were probably the first white men to see the Rockies.
They did not find the river that led to the western sea, but while conferring with the Little Cherry Indians, Chevalier de La Vérendrye left a metal plate as a souvenir.
It was uncovered in 1913 by some young people who were walking near (appropriately enough) Pierre, the capital city of South Dakota. The inscription read: “Placed by the Chevalier de la Vérendrye– the 30th of March 1743.”