The Kickapoo Indians Essay, Research Paper
The Kickapoo Indians are Algonkian-speaking Indians, related to the Sauk and Fox, who lived at the portage between the Fox and Wisconsin rivers, probably in present Columbia County, Wis., U.S., when first reported by Europeans in the late 17th century.
The Kickapoo were known as formidable warriors whose raids took them over a wide territory, ranging as far as Georgia and Alabama to the southeast; Texas and Mexico to the southwest; and New York and Pennsylvania to the east.
Early in the 18th century part of the tribe settled near the Milwaukee River and, after the destruction of the Illinois Indians c. 1765, moved south to Peoria. One band extended as far as the Sangamon River and became known as the Prairie band; another pushed east to the Wabash and was called the Vermilion band. In 1809 and 1819, under the pressure of advancing white settlers, the Kickapoo ceded their lands in Illinois to the United States, moving to Missouri and then to Kansas. About 1852 a large group went to Texas, and from there to Mexico, where another party joined them in 1863. Some returned to Indian Territory in 1873 and later years. The remainder was granted a reservation in eastern Chihuahua State, in northern Mexico; other Kickapoo reside in Oklahoma and Kansas. Only a few Kickapoo village names have survived Etnataek, Kickapougowi, and Kithlipecanuk.
The Kickapoo lived in fixed villages, moving between summer and winter residences; they raised corn (maize), beans, and squash and hunted buffalo on the plains. Their society was divided into several exogamous, named clans based on descent through the paternal line. By the 19th century, as a result of scattering in small villages to prevent attack, central tribal authority had broken down, and chiefs of the various bands had become autonomous. From the beginning of European contact, the Kickapoo resisted acculturation in economic, political, and religious matters, retaining as many of their old ways as possible.
Before contact with Europeans, the Kickapoo lived in northwest Ohio and southern Michigan in the area between Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. Beginning in the 1640s, the Algonquin tribes in this region came under attack from the east, first by the Ottawa and Iroquian-speaking Neutrals, and then the Iroquois. By 1658 the Kickapoo had been forced west into southwest Wisconsin. About 1700 they began to move south into northern Illinois and by 1770 had established themselves in central Illinois (near Peoria) extending southeast into the Wabash Valley on the western border of Indiana. After wars with the Americans and settlement of the Ohio Valley, they signed treaties during 1819 ceding their remaining land east of the Mississippi River and relocated to southern Missouri (1819-24). Initially, most moved to the lands assigned them, but many remained in central Illinois and refused to leave until they were forcibly removed by the military in 1834. Fewer than half actually stayed on their Missouri reserve. Several bands wandered south and west until the Kickapoo were spread across Oklahoma and Texas all the way to the Mexican border (and beyond). In 1832 the Missouri Kickapoo exchanged their reserve for lands in northeast Kansas. After the move, factions developed, and in 1852, a large group left and moved to Chihuahua in northern Mexico. Apparently, there were Kickapoo already living there by this time. Others joined these Mexican Kickapoo between 1857 and 1863. Few remained in Kansas. Between 1873 and 1878, approximately half of the Mexican Kickapoo returned to the United States and were sent to Oklahoma. Currently, there are three federally recognized Kickapoo tribes: the Kickapoo of Kansas the Kickapoo of Oklahoma and the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas.
By 1660 almost all Great Lakes Algonquin were living as refugees in mixed villages in Wisconsin. Intermarriage and mixed populations made accurate counts impossible. The French estimated there were 2,000 Kickapoo in 1684 but by 1759 had increased this to 3,000. Later counts were equally suspect. By 1817 the Kickapoo had absorbed the Mascouten, and the American estimate was 2,000. This seems to have been the last time that the Kickapoo stood still long enough to be counted. A federal Indian agent during 1825 gave 2,200, but he admitted only 600 of them were actually on the Missouri reserve. 200 were still in Illinois, and at least 1,400 others were scattered somewhere between Missouri and Mexico. In 1852 there were 600 living in Kansas, but 300 left for Mexico soon afterwards followed 100 more in 1862. About 800 Kickapoo returned from Mexico (1873-78) and were sent to Oklahoma. Oklahoma and Mexican Kickapoo have routinely traveled back-and-forth ever since, so the 1910 census listed 211 in Kansas, 135 in Oklahoma, and an estimated 400 in Mexico. Current figures give over 2,500 Kickapoo in the United States divided between the 500 in Kansas and approximately 2,000 in Oklahoma. In addition, there are 700 members of Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas who live in both Texas and Mexico.
The name comes from the Algonquin word Kiwegapawa “he stands about” or “he moves about.” Other names were: Auyax (Tonkawa), Hecahpo (Otoe), Higabu (Omaha-Ponca), Ikadu (Osage), Kicapoux (French), Ontarahronon (Yuntarayerunu) (Huron), Quicapou (French), Outitchakouk (French), Shakekahquah (Wichita), Shigapo (Shikapu) (Kiowa-Apache), Sikapu (Comanche), and Tekapu (Huron).
The Kickapoo?s native language is Algonquin. That is a Southern Great Lakes (Wakashan) dialect closely related to Fox, Sauk, Mascouten, and Shawnee.
In a tradition shared by both tribes, Kickapoo and Shawnee believe they were once part of the same tribe which divided following an argument over a bear paw. The Kickapoo language is virtually identical to Shawnee, and culturally the two were very similar except for some southern cultural traits that the Shawnee had absorbed during the years they had lived in the southeastern United States. Typical of other Great Lakes Algonquin, both lived in fixed villages of mid-sized long houses during summer. After the harvest and a communal buffalo hunt in the fall, the Kickapoo separated to winter hunting camps. The Kickapoo were skilled farmers and used hunting and gathering to supplement their basic diet of corn, squash and beans. Many Indian agents in the 1800s were startled just how well the Kickapoo could farm, but modern Americans would probably be just as surprised to learn how important buffalo hunting was to Kickapoo in Illinois during the 1700s. Before most of the other tribes in the area, the Kickapoo were using horses to hunt buffalo on the prairies of northern Illinois – a skill that allowed their rapid adaptation to the lifestyle of the Great Plains after removal. Like the Shawnee, the Kickapoo were organized into patrilineal clans with descent traced through the father, but the brothers and sisters of the mother had special responsibilities in raising the children.
The Kickapoo name is familiar, but most people have trouble remembering where they have heard it. For most Americans, the name sounds humorous, especially for those old enough to remember Al Capp’s “Little Abner” and “Kickapoo joy juice.” There was, however, nothing funny about the Kickapoo who were a very serious and traditional native people. Until 1819, they lived in Illinois and Wisconsin and played an important role in the history of the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley, but during the 1870s, they were suddenly in northern Mexico and fighting American cavalry in Texas. Other groups were scattered across the Great Plains from Kansas to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. This is not surprising to those familiar with them. The most distinctive characteristic of the Kickapoo was their stubborn resistance to acculturization, and it is difficult to think of any other tribe, which has gone to such lengths to avoid this. Years after the eastern tribes with famous names had given up the fight; the Kickapoo were still in the midst of the struggle to preserve Native America.
From the beginning, the Kickapoo distrusted Europeans. French traders rarely were allowed to visit their villages, and the Kickapoo refused to even listen to the Jesuits. In later years, British and Americans fared no better. Following the American conquest of the Ohio Valley, the tribal authority of the Kickapoo disintegrated. Relocated first to Missouri and then Kansas, small bands of Kickapoo scattered across the plains warning other tribes that the white man was coming. In Kansas, white settlement closed in on them once again during the 1850s, and rather than surrender or adapt, most chose to escape by moving to northern Mexico. Although many of the Mexican Kickapoo returned to the United States during the 1870s, relatively few have converted to Christianity. The traditional Drum (or Dream) religion has the most adherents, followed by Kanakuk and the Native American Church. Of all the Kickapoo, the Mexican branch has remained the most traditional and generally has been reluctant to allow visits by outsiders. The American Kickapoo are similar in this regard. Most still speak the Kickapoo language, and they have one of the highest percentages of full bloods of any tribe in the United States.
Before they met their first European, the Kickapoo felt the changes he had brought. It started during the 1640s when the Beaver Wars moved into the Great Lakes. Seeking new hunting territory for fur to trade to the French, Tionontati, Ottawa and Neutrals warriors attacked the Kickapoo and their neighbors. A full-scale invasion by the Iroquois followed during the 1650s, which forced the Kickapoo to abandon their homeland and retreat west around the south end of Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River in southwestern Wisconsin. The Kickapoo was not the only tribe displaced. Thousands of Fox, Sauk, Potawatomi, Mascouten, and Miami also arrived from the east at the same time, overwhelming the resident Winnebago and Menominee and occupying their lands. However, the powerful Dakota (Sioux) were not so accommodating, and fighting erupted across western Wisconsin. Corn did not grow well in northern Wisconsin, and the refugees were forced to rely more heavily on hunting than before. This quickly exhausted the available resources leaving the refugees fighting among themselves over what little there was. The new arrival had also brought some of the new European epidemics with them, and as if there was not enough misery, Iroquois war parties roamed through the area striking without warning.
During the next ten years, the French went west and rebuilt their fur trade. By mediating the disputes between the refugee tribes in Wisconsin, they were able bring some order to the region and establish the relationships for a future alliance to defend the area from the Iroquois. Meanwhile, the attention of the Iroquois had been focused on their war with the Susquehannock in Pennsylvania. It took them until 1675 to defeat the Susquehannock, but by 1680 they were looking west again and found that Illinois hunters were invading the lands they had conquered during the 1650s. Their protests resulted in the murder of a Seneca sachem during a meeting with the Illinois. The second phase of the Beaver Wars began that year, when the Seneca retaliated and attacked the Illinois Confederation. The second attack was made the following year, but in 1684 the Iroquois failed in their attempt to take Fort St. Louis on the upper Illinois River.
By the 1690s the Iroquois were retreating back across the Great Lakes towards New York. At the same time, the Iroquois homeland was under attack from the east by French soldiers and native allies from Quebec. War between Britain and France ended in 1697 with the Treaty of Ryswick, which had placed the Iroquois League under British protection. Fearing the British would intervene, the French tried to stop their allies’ war with the Iroquois, but this was not easy. Not only did the Algonquin sense the Iroquois were near collapse, but they were also suspicious that the French would desert them and make a separate peace with the Iroquois. It took four years for the French to get them to agree to the peace signed in 1701.
They also became targets, since the Fox, Sauk, Mascouten, Miami, and Kickapoo were no longer willing to tolerate French trade with their enemies. Traders were robbed and murdered, and even the highly respected Perrot found himself tied to a Mascouten torture stake about to be burned alive. However, his friends among the Kickapoo intervened and saved his life, Discouraged and his trade permit revoked, Perrot left soon afterwards and went back to Quebec taking his secret of how to win the friendship of the Kickapoo with him.
Meanwhile, the Iroquois had seen their opportunity to reverse their military defeat through economic warfare and were offering French allies access to the British traders at Albany. More than 1,000 Fox, Kickapoo, and Mascouten arrived at Detroit. The Fox were returning to what had been their homeland before the Beaver Wars.
In 1712, a Mascouten hunting party was attacked in southern Michigan by Potawatomi and Ottawa and fled east to their Fox and Kickapoo allies near Detroit. As the Fox, Kickapoo, and Mascouten prepared to retaliate, the French at Fort Pontchartrain attempted to stop them. This was too much, and the Fox and Kickapoo attacked Fort Ponchartrain starting the first Fox War (1712-16).
The Fox and Kickapoo, back in Wisconsin, retaliated by killing French traders and attacking French allies. After three years of this, the other tribes of the alliance demanded that the French do something, but the French were ineffective until the trade restrictions were lifted after the death of Louis XIV in 1715. This allowed the French to reconcile disputes between the Miami and Illinois, and the Ojibwe and Green Bay Potawatomi. Their alliance repaired, the French were better prepared to deal with the Fox. A combined French and Potawatomi expedition attacked the Kickapoo and Mascouten villages in southern Wisconsin in 1715 forcing the Kickapoo and Mascouten to make a separate peace. Although isolated, the Fox drew themselves together into a fortified village and kept fighting. After an unsuccessful attempt to take the fort, the frustrated French offered peace. The Fox, battered but undaunted, agreed.
By 1724 they had enlisted the Kickapoo, Mascouten, Dakota, and Winnebago into an alliance which was basically hostile to the interests of the French. They decided to destroy the Fox but first took the precaution of using diplomacy and treaties to isolate them from their allies. By the time the Second Fox War began (1728-37), only the Kickapoo and Mascouten still stood beside the Fox. Striking quickly, the French and their allies first attacked the Kickapoo and Winnebago and forced them west of the Mississippi. At this point, the Fox proved to be their own worst enemies. At a meeting, an argument over the refusal of the Kickapoo to kill some of their French prisoners caused the Fox to stalk out of the meeting and on their way home murder a Kickapoo and Mascouten who were unfortunate enough to cross their path. Furious, the Kickapoo and Mascouten switched sides in 1729 and joined the French. The following year Kickapoo and Mascouten warriors helped the French and their allies surround the Fox in northern Illinois when they were trying to flee east to the Seneca. Over 600 Fox were killed in this battle leaving only the 600 Fox who had found refuge with the Sauk in northern Wisconsin.
During the years of warfare between the Fox and Peoria, the Kickapoo were able to expand south, and during the 1720s, some groups had relocated along the Milwaukee River in southern Wisconsin. Taking advantage of the epidemics, which decimated the Illinois and Miami, populations between 1718 and 1736, the Kickapoo left Wisconsin entirely and pushed south into the buffalo prairies of northern Illinois and Indiana.
For the most part, the Kickapoo still remained aloof from Europeans in general and were content to allow other tribes (Miami, Fox, Sauk, and Illinois) to handle their diplomatic and trade relations with them – even the French. Throughout the 1700s, the Kickapoo’s loyalty appears to have been more with the tribes of the French alliance than the French themselves. For this reason, Kickapoo warriors participated in the French war with the Chickasaw between 1732 and 1752, not for the sake of the French, but as allies of the Miami and Illinois. When British traders began visiting Ohio for direct trade during the 1740s, the Kickapoo were interested in the trade goods which where usually cheaper and of higher quality than what the French could offer. Even then, the Kickapoo traded mainly through the Miami, and there was little direct contact.
Since 1724 the main purpose of the alliance between the Prairie Kickapoo and the Fox and Sauk had been their war west of the Mississippi with the Osage. Instead of slackening, this conflict had grown in intensity over the years until the Osage were being forced to retreat south across northern Missouri beyond the Missouri River. Still unfriendly with the British, the Kickapoo had maintained their ties with the French traders who were located west of the Mississippi in Spanish Missouri, Louisiana having been given to Spain in 1763. Competition between rival traders meant, however, that the Kickapoo and their allies would be well armed, and neither the French, Spanish, nor British could cut the trade to stop the warfare. In 1763, a group of Kickapoo moved across the Mississippi and established a village just north of St. Louis. Supported by their relatives in Illinois, the Kickapoo used this as a base to attack the Osage villages in central Missouri. During one raid in 1800, the Kickapoo destroyed a village of the Little Osage on the Missouri River and killed 50 of their warriors.
By the spring of 1786, almost 400 Americans were living in southern Indiana scattered among the French near Vincennes on the lower Wabash. After increasing tension and several confrontations, a large war party of 400-700 Kickapoo and Miami arrived at Vincennes in July and announced to the French they had come to kill all the Americans. The French stalled and finally managed to get them to arrange a truce. The Kickapoo and Miami left, but the Americans forted-up under the leadership of Daniel Sullivan and sent south to Kentucky for help.
A war party of 300 Kickapoo warriors attacked an army convoy near the mouth of the Wabash and inflicted heavy casualties. In Ohio, soldiers building a council house for the treaty meeting were attacked during July. When the Treaty of Fort Harmar was finally signed in January 1789, it placed the boundary on the Muskingum.
That summer Patrick Brown’s Kentucky militia retaliated by attacking the Kickapoo and Miami villages along the lower Wabash. The fighting spread to the Illinois country when the Kickapoo and Piankashaw moved west to the vicinity of Kaskaskia and began raiding American settlements in the area. With the renewal of warfare, the militant Miami and Shawnee began to dominate the meetings of the alliance. The Kickapoo, Wia, and Piankashaw supported this and deferred to the leadership of the Miami war chief Little Turtle. At this point, the Americans decided to use force. At the beginning of Little Turtle’s War (1790-94), Major John Hamtramck attacked the Wabash villages, but Josiah Harmar’s army was soundly defeated (200 casualties) by Little Turtle and the alliance in October 1790. The following year Little Turtle led the alliance to its greatest victory when they nearly annihilated Arthur St. Clair’s expedition in western Ohio – the greatest Native American victory over an American army (600 killed, 400 wounded).
With the other tribes of the alliance, the Kickapoo signed and ceded all of Ohio except the northwest. Disillusionment, social disintegration, and breakdown of tribal authority followed defeat. The last groups of Mascouten disappeared about this time and apparently were absorbed by the Kickapoo.
It was not until 1819 that the Americans got down to the real business of taking the Kickapoo’s land and moving them west of the Mississippi. By 1832 only 600 of the estimated 2,000 Kickapoo were actually in Missouri. With continuous problems with the Osage and white squatters, they petitioned the government to sell their Missouri lands and move them to Kansas. In October near St. Louis, the Kickapoo signed the Treaty of Castor Hill ceding their Missouri lands in exchange for 1200 square miles in northeast Kansas, $50,000 in goods, and services, and an annual annuity of $5,000. This time it did not take the army to make the Kickapoo move.
While the Kickapoo did not accept Christianity outright, they adapted some of it to their own ways. The Kickapoo Prophet, Kenekuk (Keeannehuh) adopted many Christian teachings he had learned from American missionaries and built a large following among the Kickapoo. Kenekuk was never a force towards accommodation, but since he opposed the use of alcohol, his religion had the support of the Indian agents. Even this moderate accommodation was distasteful to many Kickapoo.
Enough of history let?s talk about the present. Today, the newer houses that were built on the Kickapoo reservation do not look like normal Kickapoo houses. They look like the houses that you and I live in. In Mexico, just across the border from the reservation, they still have traditional style Kickapoo houses. Because of this, the Kickapoo still spend a lot of time on their traditional land in Mexico. It is in Mexico that they are able to maintain their traditional way of life. They perform all their important ceremonies there and their houses are set up according to tribal custom. The Kickapoo have come a long way in order to maintain their own customs and beliefs.
Before this new housing, the Kickapoo built wooden, bark covered structures for houses. These houses are called wickiups or wigwams. They raised crops, gathered fruits and nuts when in season, fished the rivers and hunted deer, bear and small game. Wood, gathered from the forests provided material for many of the tools and implements. For example, flint points, attached to wooden handles, served many purposes in day-to-day living and elaborately carved wooden war clubs were used in battle.
Nowadays the crops they raise are basically the same. They still grow squash, beans, potatoes, pumpkin, corn and sweet potatoes. In Mexico, the Kickapoo enjoy two growing seasons instead of one. They plant winter wheat and oats in the fall. This is a small but good change that has come from the difference in environment. The men still hunt deer, bear, squirrel and other small game. Much of this meat is made into jerky. The food is stored in baskets in their houses.
The Kickapoo have a very fine way of preparing the animal hides for use. I know, cause I have seen them. The hides turn out soft and are a rich golden color. They use animal brains to tan the hides and then they smoke them over a fire for a few days. The smoking is what gives the skin its rich color.
Deerskin was used for clothing until the arrival of the white man. Moccasins, also made from deerskin, are still worn by many Kickapoo today. The men wear shirts made of calico material that are adorned with ruffles and ribbons with khaki pants or Levis. Sometimes they even wear more traditional clothing such as buckskin leggings and breechcloths. The men decorate their clothing with silver brooches or exquisitely crafted beadwork, which is applied by the women. Traditional clothing for women consisted of finely tanned garments. Today, however, they wear skirts and blouses made out of bright print fabrics. Many of the children and young adults dress just like you and me. The chief and other men of importance wear a feather in their hat.
You may think that chiefs are only men. This is not true among the Kickapoo. In 1901 there were two Kickapoo chiefs. One was a man and the other a woman. The duties of a Kickapoo chief vary according to the needs of the tribe. They perform religious ceremonies, police the people, judge them on minor offenses, solve land and water quarrels and even act as a marriage counselor sometimes. The chief has advisors just like our president does. His advisors are called the Council of Elders. The Council of Elders meets with the chief to discuss all tribal matters.
Today, many Kickapoo children are sitting in the classroom. Some of their parents work in offices and factories. When they go home from school, they are taught how to be good Kickapoo and perform properly in ceremonies. Similar to how Americans are taught how to act during certain social functions like weddings and such.
So now you have met the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. You?ve learned about their lives, seen their journeys, and traveled with them from the past to the present. In all I hope this paper gives a greater understanding of the history and a look into another culture to broaden minds.