The vicinity of Vincennes was inhabited for thousands of years by different cultures of indigenous peoples. During the Late Woodland period, some of these peoples used local loess hills as burial sites; some of the more prominent examples are the Sugar Loaf Mound and the Pyramid Mound.:668 In historic times, prominent local native groups were the Shawnee, Wabash, and the Miami tribe.
The first European settlers were French, when Vincennes was founded as part of the French colony of New France. Later on, it would be transferred to the colony of Louisiana. Several years later, France lost the French and Indian War (part of the Seven Years' War), and as result ceded territory east of the Mississippi River, including Vincennes, to the victorious British.
Once the area was under British rule, it was associated with the Province of Quebec, until after the American Revolution. It then became part of the Illinois Country of the Colony and Dominion of Virginia. Next it became part of Knox County in the Northwest Territory, and it was later included in the Indiana Territory. Vincennes served as capital of the Indiana Territory from 1800 until 1813, when the government was moved to Corydon.
The first trading post on the Wabash River was established by Sieur Juchereau, Lieutenant General of Montréal. With thirty-four Canadiens, he founded the company post on October 28, 1702 to trade for Buffalo hides with American Indians. The exact location of Juchereau's trading post is not known, but because the Buffalo Trace crosses the Wabash at Vincennes, many believe it was here. The post was a success; in the first two years, the traders collected over 13,000 buffalo hides. When Juchereau died, the post was abandoned. The French-Canadian settlers left what they considered hostile territory for Mobile (in present-day Alabama), then the capital of Louisiana.