Led the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day United States

Hernando de Soto was a Spanish explorer and conquistador in the 1500s. He was the first European explorer documented to have reached as far as the Mississippi River in his expeditions.

While exploring North America, de Soto came in contact with several different Native American tribes. In his search for gold, he encountered one tribe that would not allow his brutalities to overcome them … the unconquerable Chickasaws.

De Soto demanded men from the tribe to be used as slaves and porters. But the Chickasaws refused. The Chickasaws attacked the Spanish camp, and the explorers fled for their lives. De Soto knew that this tribe would not be defeated.

As his men went different directions looking for gold, they encountered more obstacles. Harsh winters and warm summers left the de Soto camp weary and sick, and many died as a result. In 1542, a year after his encounter with the Chickasaw, de Soto died from fever on the western banks of the Mississippi River.

His expedition was fraught with ramifications for Native Americans. The tribes had no immunity to the disease and illness that the Spanish explorers brought with them. This led to the death of many Indians, but still the tribes pushed forward.