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The area that would become Des Plaines was first settled by French colonists in the late 17th century, when it was part of the New France colony. The settlers had relations with the nearby Potawatomi tribe. Following a series of skirmishes and treaties in which most tribes ceded their lands to white settlement, much of what is now northern Illinois came under British rule following an expedition led by Captain George R. Clark from Detroit down Lake Michigan's western shore during this period (1779–1780). In 1803, Fort Dearborn was constructed on what is now the city's north side; it became a center for trade among Native Americans and later between Europeans and Americans as well as an important outpost for US troops during subsequent conflicts between European nations over control of North America such as those resulting from Napoleon Bonaparte's ambitions in Europe.