The Kickapoo Indians

.. apoo 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 lets 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. Youve 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. Anthropology.