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The Illinois were a group of American Indian tribes that included the Peoria, Miami, Wea, and Kaskaskia, among others, who shared the same language, culture, and traditions. The Miami pronunciation of Ilaniawaki, meaning "real or original ones," became the French term Illinois. The Illinois called themselves Inuka and belonged to the Algonquian linguistic stock.

The Illinois subsisted on agriculture, hunting (including an annual communal bison hunt), fishing, and gathering. Food was dried and stored in pits. Peace and war chiefs governed, and members were punished for disobedience. A shaman association dominated tribal religion. Birds, especially to warriors, were representations of supernatural power. Socially, the Illinois originally had as many as twelve bands. Culturally, they were linked with the earlier Adena, Hopewell, and Mississippian mound-building cultures. The Illinois practiced polygyny and maintained patrilineal clans. Men married after proving their hunting ability and paying a bride price. Both sexes buried their dead, painting the body's face and hair red. After burial, survivors engaged in the deceased's favorite activities to ensure his or her spirit's entry into the afterworld. Other practices included clan bundle feasts, naming and adoption rituals, and such tribal-wide ceremonies as the fish dance during spawning season. Lacrosse games were a popular activity.

Between 1818 and 1832 the Illinois ceded their holdings in Illinois to the United States and moved to Missouri. Led by Chief Baptiste Peoria, they eventually settled on an eastern Kansas reservation. In 1854 they united with the Piankashaw and Wea, designating themselves the Confederated Peoria. In 1867 they relocated to lands purchased from the Quapaw and the Seneca and Shawnee in northeast Indian Territory (present Oklahoma). Now officially the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, they maintain tribal offices in Miami and counted a 2003 enrollment of 2,677.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Charles Callendar, "Illinois," in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15, Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978). Grant Foreman, The Last Trek of the Indians: An Account of the Removal of the Indians from North of the Ohio River (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1946). John K. White, "Illinois," in Encyclopedia of North American Indians, ed. Frederick E. Hoxie (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1996). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951).

Pamela Koenig

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