The main contenders for control of the rich resources of the Western Hemisphere were Spain, the Netherlands, England and France. By decree from a papal bull, the Inter Caetera, Pope Alexander VI, a Spanish Borgia, gave half of the undiscovered world to Portugal and half to Spain. The Portuguese were given Brazil, while Spain got the rest of South and Central America, Mexico and all of North America. However, in the 16th century when Henry VIII of England broke with the Roman church and established the Anglican Church he, in effect said, “Up your pope pious holy arse!” His daughter, Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth I, sent her commissioned privateers not only against the Spanish treasure fleets of Spain’s Most Catholic Majesty in the Caribbean, but also gave land along the Atlantic seaboard of North America to trusted courtiers in royal companies to establish colonies that would thwart Spanish expansion northward from Florida. Disney and Depp to the contrary, the Pirates of the Caribbean were quite different than the contemporary perception.
Although Canada was claimed by England, in 1507 the French slipped up the St. Lawrence River and took control of Canada, the Great Lakes, the Illinois territory, and in 1673 sent explorers Marquette and Joliet down the Mississippi River as far south as the Arkansas River.
In 1682, Rene Robert Cavalier de la Salle, led an expedition down the Mississippi to its mouth and claimed all the land it drained. He named it Louisiana for his king, the French monarch Louis XIV and installed a lead plaque on a large tree announcing the claim. This was valuable artifact was found in the 20th century by a Cajun fisherman who cut up the lead as weights for his nets. Later, in a vain attempt to find the mouth of the Mississippi River from the Gulf of Mexico, La Salle’s expedition overshot the mouth of the river and ended up in Matagordo Bay, Texas–400 miles off course.
The task of colonizing Louisiana and securing the French claim fell to two Canadian brothers, Pierre Le Moyne Sieur d’Iberville and Jean Batiste Le Moyne Sieur de Bienville. Their expedition of 1699 not only found the mouth of the great river (by accident), which they explored as far up as the village of the Tunicas near where the Red River joins the Mississippi, but also chartered the northern Gulf Coast and later the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. On the way back to their ships anchored off Ship Island, Iberville and four Canadian coureurs de bois in two birchbark canoes spent the miserable night of March 28, 1699 on Goose Point just west of Bayou Lacombe.
For nineteen years the soldiers and sailors lived with the local Indians of the Gulf Coast–Acolapissa, Biloxi, Alabama, Mobila, Pascagoula–family groups of the larger Choctaw, until the founding of Nouvelle Orleans in 1718. Many northshore and gulf coast families trace they ancestry back to these early French-Canadian-Choctaw liaisons. With the establishment of New Orleans as the capital of the vast Louisiana territory, these families and their Choctaw relatives flocked to the bayous of the north shore to establish a most favored trading status with the new city. They supplied all manner of products from food stocks to raw materials: produce and wild game such as deer and duck, hides and fur, fish, crabs, frogs, oysters; building materials such as lumber, bricks, lime and sand; as well as manufactured items like baskets, pirogues, whips, file’, nuts and muscadine grapes.
Colonial Governor Jean Batiste LeMoyne de Bienville decreed that Indians be given free passage on all schooners plying Lake Pontchartrain. He even sent is aunt to the north shore to learn from the Indians how to cook some of the native foods. This was the start of the distinctive Creole cuisine, a melange of French, Amerindian, African, Spanish, and Caribbean cultures. Similarly, Cajun food did not come from Nova Scotia with the Arcadians; it was taught to them by the indigenous Amerindians of southwestern Louisiana.
Despite the secret treaty in 1762 attempting to cede the area, known as he Biloxi District of Louisiana, from France to Spain, the Florida Parishes were given to the British in 1763 by the Treaty of Paris ending the Seven Years War. France lost all her territory east of the Mississippi River to Great Britain, including the Florida Parishes, which became known as the Manchac District of British West Florida.
The French influence is still strong in Lacombe and Bonfuca.