Kickapoo Indians

Spellings: Kickapoo, Kikapo, Kiikaapoa or Kiikaapoi.

Names in other languages:

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).

Where are the Kickapoo from?

Ancestral Homeland: Great Lakes area (Illinois); closely related to the Sac and Meskwaki (Fox); all three tribes lived in Wisconsin

Homelands Today: Currently, there are groups of Kickapoo Indians in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

The Kickapoo were originally people of the Northeast Woodland Native American cultural group.

They originally lived in northwest Ohio and southern Michigan in the area between Lake Erie and Lake Michigan. Sub-nations after 1765 included the Prairie Band on the Sangamon River of central Illinois, and the Vermilion Band between the upper Vermilion River of east-central Illinois southeast to the mouth of the Wabash River in southwestern Indiana.

The Kickapoo  migrated to Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and southern Missouri, but then continued to move even further south and to the west due to colonial pressure and conflict with the Iroquois tribes.

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.

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.

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, where there were already Kickapoo living there.

These Mexican Kickapoo were joined by others 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.

What kind of food did the Kickapoo tribe eat?

The food that the Kickapoo tribe ate depended on the natural resources that were available to them in the locations where they lived.

The food of the Kickapoo Northeast Woodland people were fish and small game including squirrel, deer, elk, raccoon, bear and beaver. They planted corn (maize), squash, beans and pumpkins.

The food of the Kickapoo people who inhabited the Great Plains region was predominantly buffalo but also they also hunted deer, bear and wild turkey. Their diet was supplemented with roots and wild fruit and vegetables.

The food of the Kickapoo people who inhabited the Southeast regions included meat from animals such as rabbits, wild hogs, turkeys, opossums, raccoons and deer. Many farmed crops of corn (maize), beans, dried fruit, pumpkins and they gathered nuts.

The Kickapoo tribe’s staple food was corn. Kickapoo women baked a version of cornbread called pugna.

Tools and Weapons used by the Kickapoo  tribes

Weapons used by the Kickapoo tribe included bows and arrows, a variety of different clubs, hatchet axes, spears, lances and knives. The rifle was added to their weapons with the advent of the white settlers.

Kickapoo who inhabited the Northeast Woodland regions built river canoes made from the bark of the birch trees over a wooden frame.

These lightweight Birch Bark river canoes were broad enough to float in shallow streams, strong enough to shoot dangerous rapids, and light enough for one man to easily carry a canoe on his back.

What did the Kickapoo Indians wear?

Originally, Kickapoo men wore only a breechcloth and leggings and Kickapoo women wore wraparound skirts because they lived in a warm climate.

Bu,t as they moved to new locations, their style of dress changed depending on the climate.Warm robes or cloaks were worn to protect against the rain and the cold.

The Kickapoo also adopted the types of clothes worn by the white settlers and that were available through trade.

What did the Kickapoo tribe live in?

Typical of other Great Lakes Algonquin, the Kickapoo  lived in fixed villages of mid-sized longhouses during summer. After the harvest and a communal buffalo hunt in the fall, the Kickapoo separated to winter hunting camps, where they lived in more temporary shelters.

The Kickapoo lived in a variety of different temporary shelters, but the most common was the Wigwam, a form of temporary shelter that was used by Algonquian speaking Native Indian tribes who lived in the woodland regions.

Wigwams were small cone-shaped houses with an arched roof made of wooden frames that are covered with woven mats and sheets of birchbark which are held in place by ropes or strips of wood.

What language did the Kickapoo tribe speak?

The Kickapoo people  are an Algonquian-speaking Native American tribe. Their language is also called Kickapoo.

Anishinaabeg say the name “Kickapoo” (Giiwigaabaw in the Anishinaabe language and its Kickapoo cognate Kiwikapawa) means “Stands here and there,” which may have referred to the tribe’s migratory patterns.

Most still speak the Kickapoo language, and they have one of the highest percentages of full-bloods of any tribe in the United States.

Kickapoo Culture

In a tradition shared by both tribes, the Kickapoo and the 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 which the Shawnee had absorbed during the years they had lived in the southeastern United States.

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 at just how well the Kickapoo could farm.

Buffalo hunting was important to the 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 which 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 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.

Kickapoo History

The French established New France in the 1600’s and established trading links with the tribe.The Kickapoo were allies of the French during the violent Beaver Wars (1640 – 1701) and the long running French and Indian Wars (1688-1763).

The Kickapoo enemies were the tribes of the powerful Iroquois Confederacy who forced them to migrate further south and west. This set a pattern for the Kickapoo who migrated to new lands time and time again rather than be dominated by other tribes or the European settlers.

In 1785 the Kickapoo joined the Western Confederacy that consisted of a league of many different tribes including the Shawnee, Iroquois, Potawatomi, Ottawa, Delaware, Chippewa, Huron and the Seneca tribes.

The objective of the Western Confederacy was to keep the Ohio River as a boundary between Native Indian lands and the United States.

They fought in many conflicts with other tribes against the settlers but were pushed further away from their homelands.

The Kickapoo tribe adapted to the changing environments and climates of each of their new locations, adopting different lifestyles as they moved.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 resulted in the Kickapoo tribe being forcibly moved to reservations.

Kickapoo Tribe Timeline
History of the Kickapoo Wars

Kickapo Treaties:

1795 August 3, with the Wyandot
1803 June 7, at Fort Wayne, with the Delaware
1803 August 7, at Vincennes, with the Eel River, Etc.,
1809 December 9, at Vincennes,
1815 September 2, at Portae des Sioux
1816 June 4, at Fort Harrison, with the Wea
1819 June 30, at Edwardsville, Illinois
1819 August 30, at Fort Harrison
1820 July 19, at St. Louis
1820 September 5, Kickapoo of the Vermillion
1832 October 24, at Castor Hill
1854 May 18, at Washington
1862 June 28, at Kickapoo Agency

Kickapoo Tribes Today:

Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas 
Kickapoo Tribe of Indians of the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas
Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma