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The area that would become St. Louis was a center of the Native American Mississippian culture, which built numerous temple and residential earthwork mounds on both sides of the Mississippi River, their main settlement being at Cahokia Mounds (their major regional center) in present-day Illinois adjacent to what later became St. Louis. Their major regional chiefdom was located in what is now southern Illinois just north of St. Louis across the Mississippi; its capital was called Kaskaskia by early French explorers who visited there in 1673 during France's colonial-era expansion into North America via Canada and Louisiana as part of New France (see also Fort Vincennes). The first European settlement near modern-day St.