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Kickapoo dwellings, 1894

The Kickapoo Indians were first contacted by Europeans in the mid-seventeenth century in southwestern Wisconsin. They were a Woodland tribe, speaking an Algonquian language, and were related to the Sac and Fox. By the mid-eighteenth century the Kickapoo lived in two communities, the "Prairie Band," along Illinois's Sangamon River, and the "Vermillion Band," east of the Wabash River in Indiana.

First woman chief of the Kickapoo's in front of the State Bank at Shawnee, OT - 1894

The Kickapoo were allies with the French, but by the time of the American Revolution they favored the British. The Kickapoo became involved with the social movement of Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh, and later with the Black Hawk uprising. In the 1830s the prophet Kennekuk led his Vermillion band to Kansas, where he advocated accommodation to white culture.

Two women with cradleboard - Shawnee,  1894

The Prairie band resisted acculturation and continued to migrate, going to Missouri and then to the Spanish province of Texas before the 1821 Mexican Revolution. They were given land in Texas by Spanish officials. The Republic of Texas did not want them, and they were forcibly evicted in 1839. Afterwards, many Kickapoo journeyed to Mexico. There, in exchange for protecting their northern borders, the Mexican government gave the tribe a land grant and eventually placed them at Nacimiento.
Kickapoo Village Indian Territory, late 1800s
Other displaced Kickapoo settled in two villages in Indian Territory. One was located on Wild Horse Creek in the Chickasaw Nation, and the other was established in the Creek Nation near the confluence of the Canadian and Little rivers. Many Kickapoo left the Indian Territory during the Civil War and rejoined their brethren in Mexico.

Kickapoo  Indians of the Grand pow wow July 4, 1889

In 1873 a military scheme forced some Mexican Kickapoo to relocate to the Indian Territory, where a reservation was assigned to them in 1883. However, they lost much of their land after enactment of the Kickapoo Allotment Act of 1893. These developments left the tribe desolate and in poverty, from which they began to recover in the 1930s and especially in the 1960s with the help of federal government programs.

Kickapoo Children playing, c. 1896-1900

The Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma was organized under the Indian Welfare Act of 1936. It is presently governed by a five-member business committee headquartered at McCloud, where tribal revenue is generated by the Kickapoo Casino. There were 2,522 enrolled Oklahoma Kickapoo in 2003, many of whom resided in Lincoln, Oklahoma, and Pottawatomie counties. The Kickapoo culture remains strong, and the language is still spoken. Other tribe members currently live near Topeka, Kansas, Eagle Pass, Texas, and Nacimiento, Mexico.

Kickapoo Indian Grave Yard, 1893


BIBLIOGRAPHY: 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). Arrell M. Gibson, The Kickapoo: Lords of the Middle Border (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963). M. Christopher Nunley, "Kickapoo Indians," in The New Handbook of Texas (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986).

Annette Kuhlman

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