Pierre-Esprit Radisson was born in Avignon in the south of France sometime around 1636. His family immigrated to Canada in 1651 and settled in Trois Riviers. When he was on a duck hunt at age 15, he was ambushed by Mohawk Indians and taken captive to a village near Lake Champlain. He was adopted by a Mohawk warrior who had nineteen white scalps to his name. Radisson adopted quickly to the new way of life and became known as the White Indian. His memories of New France led him to escape with an Algonquin Indian by crushing their captureâ€™s skulls in with rocks. Days later they were caught and the Algonquin was killed on the spot while Radisson was tortured. His finger nails were pulled off, his fingers were put into hot coals and chewed on by Mohawk children and his soles were seared. After two years with the Indians he successfully escaped to Fort Orange and then went back to Trois Riviers in New France.
Over the next several years Radisson had many adventures. He was the first to explore the upper parts of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and made many treaties with the Cree Indians.
Radisson and his half sisterâ€™s husband, Medard Chouart de Groseilliers, became partners. Groseilliers meant gooseberries so people started to called Radisson radishes and they became known as radishes and gooseberries. In 1658 they left Montreal and went on a voyage to Lake Superior and Lake Courte Orielle to explore the wilderness. They were the first white people to explore the Great Lakes. They heard from the Huron, Sioux and Cree that there were lots of furs up and around the Hudson Bay and went up to see. In the spring of 1660 they returned to New France with plenty of furs and knowledge about the trading routes. The governor of New France immediately put Groseillier in jail for trading without a licence and gave both of them heavy fines. Radisson and Groseillier were not happy with the French for this, so they went to work for the British and shifted their loyalty from the French to the British.