Kickapoo Indians, Kickapoo People (from Kiwǐgapawa, ‘he stands about,’ Or ‘he moves about, standing now here, now there’). A tribe of the central Algonquian group, forming a division with the Sauk and Foxes, with whom they have close ethnic and linguistic connection. The relation of this division is rather with the Miami, Shawnee, Menominee, and Peoria than with the Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Ottawa.

Kickapoo Tribe History

The people of this tribe, unless they are hidden under a name not yet known to be synonymous, first appear in history about 1667-70. At this time they were found by Allouez near the portage between Fox and Wisconsin rivers. Verwyst 1Verwyst, Missionary Labors, 1886 suggests Alloa, Columbia County, Wisconsin, as the probable locality, about 12 miles south of the mixed village of the Mascouten, Miami, and Wea. No tradition of their former home or previous wanderings has been recorded; but if the name Outitchakouk mentioned by Druillettes 2Jes. Rel. 1658, 21, 1858 refers to the Kickapoo, which seems probable, the first mention of them is carried back a few years, but they were then in the same locality. Le Sueur (1699) mentions, in his voyage up the Mississippi, the river of the Quincapous (Kickapoo), above the month of the Wisconsin, which he says was “so called from the name of a nation which formerly dwelt on its banks.” This probably refers to Kickapoo river, Crawford county, Wis., though it empties into the Wisconsin, and not into the Mississippi. Rock river, Ill., was for a time denominated the “River of the Kickapoos,” but this is much too far south to agree with the stream mentioned by Le Sueur. A few years later a part at least of the tribe appears to have moved south and settled somewhere about Milwaukee river. They entered into the plot of the Foxes in 1712 to burn the fort at Detroit. On the destruction of the Illinois confederacy, about 1765, by the combined forces of the tribes north of them, the conquered country was ‘partitioned among the victors, the Sauk and Foxes moving down to the Rock river country, while the Kickapoo went farther south, fixing their headquarters for a time at Peoria. They appear to have gradually extended their range, a portion centering about Sangamon river, while another part pressed toward the east, establishing themselves on the waters of the Wabash, despite the opposition of the Miami and Piankashaw. The western band became known as the Prairie band, while the others were denominated the Vermilion band, from their residence on Vermilion river, a branch of the Wabash. They played a prominent part in the history of this region up to the close of the War of 1812, aiding Tecumseh in his efforts against the United States, while many Kickapoo fought with Black Hawk in 1832. In 1837 Kickapoo warriors to the number of 100 were engaged by the United States to go, in connection with other western Indians, to fight the Seminole of Florida. In 1809 they ceded to the United States their lands on Wabash and Vermilion rivers, and in 1819 all their claims to the central portion of Illinois. Of this land, as stated in the treaty, they “claim a large portion by descent from their ancestors, and the balance by conquest from the Illinois nation, and uninterrupted possession for more than half a century.” They afterward removed to Missouri and thence to Kansas. About the year 1852 a large party left the main body, together with some Potawatomi, and went to Texas and thence to Mexico, where they became known as “Mexican Kickapoo.” In 1863 they were joined by another dissatisfied party from the tribe. The Mexican band proved a constant source of annoyance to the border settlements, and efforts were made to induce them to return, which were so far successful that in 1873 a number were brought back and settled in Indian Territory. Others have come in since, but the remainder, constituting at present nearly half the tribe, are now settled on a reservation, granted them by the Mexican government, in the Santa Rosa mountains of east Chihuahua.

Footnotes:   [ + ]

1.Verwyst, Missionary Labors, 1886
2.Jes. Rel. 1658, 21, 1858