Renville spent the last 10 years of his life working on translating the Bible into Dakota. it was a project that took another 30 years after he died but Renville did a lot of the foundational work on this. One thing that was published during his lifetime was a Hymnal which was published in 1842 it's a Hymnal which is still in use today it's been republished many time it's called the "Odawan" and in the Odawan there are three Tunes which are credited to Joseph Renville. one of those Tunes called Lac Qui parle is thought by historians to not have been written by Joseph Renville. it is quite possibly a Dakota chant which Renville repurposed into a Christian hymn - perhaps it was something his mother sang. if that's true then it would be the oldest published indigenous tune from this region and it makes an appearance in rather pivotal and dark moment in Minnesota History. 

And then he joined up for another expedition. This was the Stephen Long expedition of 1823 to explore map the upper Red River Valley. What is now the region between North Dakota and Minnesota.

After that expedition Joseph Renville decided to settle down. His parents were getting older and he founded his own business, the Columbia fur trading company, which he ran about a hundred and fifty miles from here near the present-day city of Montevideo. He built a stockade along the banks of a lake which he called Lac Qui Parle, which is French for "The Talking Lake"  and this could be an allusion to the loons that sing in the evening on the lake but it could also be a nod to how business is run at a trading post - you pass the peace pipe around, you smoke, you talk and eventually you start trading. but there is a third possibility as to the meaning of Lac Qui Parle because in 1835 Joseph Renville was the host to several missionaries from Boston. They came out here with a grand plan to translate the Bible into the Dakota language and Joseph Renville was an essential part of this. 

In 1862 in the depths of the American Civil War, a war which was fought predominantly in Virginia and Tennessee, there was a second war, a war that was fought up here in Minnesota called the Dakota War. Don't let anyone tell you that it was an uprising, and part of that conflict involved the hanging of 38 Dakota men on December 26th, 1862 in Mankato Minnesota.  It was largest mass execution in United States history. As those 38 men were being led to the gallows, to their death, they sang the song, Lac Qui Parle by Joseph Renville.


Click here to get the sheet music to "Lac qui Parle"  (The first published indigenous Minnesota tune)

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  • LacQueParle1:09

Joseph Renville


One of the oldest and most historically significant Minnesota Tunes is La Qui Parle by Joseph Renville. 

Renville was born in 1779 in a small village called Kaposia which was located near present-day downtown Saint Paul. His father was a French fur Trader and his mother was a Medawakhaten Dakota woman named "Mini-You-Hey". So, Renville was a child of two cultures. he grew up speaking in French and Dakota and because of his father's work it was necessary for him to learn English - which was a good thing because in 1803 when Renville was 24 years old, all the land west of the Mississippi became part of the United States.  

Two years later, a fellow by the name of Zebulon Pike came up the Mississippi and was in dire need of a translator and guide and Joseph Randle was the perfect man for the job.  Renville and Zebulon Pike traveled hither and yon and eventually completed their mission, after which Joseph Renville went East and got a job with the Hudson Bay Company, where he worked until the War of 1812 at which time he enlisted and rose the rank of captain by the time the war ended and he resigned his commission and came back here to his homeland by the Mississippi.