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The Piankashaw Indians were a former subtribe of the Miami and are no longer extant. Their name was a Miami term that possibly meant "those who separated and formed a tribe." Reportedly, only nine surviving Piankashaw resided in Oklahoma in 1937. They were the children and grandchildren of George Washington Finley, the last Piankashaw chieftain. Today their descendants are members of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. The Piankashaw were an Algonquian-speaking people. Europeans first reported them in 1682 along the upper Illinois River in Illinois. They subsequently moved into Wisconsin, where some crossed the Mississippi River. Most, however, returned to the upper Illinois by 1700. Little is known about their culture.

Principal Piankashaw settlements were located near the confluence of the Vermilion and Wabash rivers in present Vermilion County, Indiana, and at the French fur trading outpost of Vincennes (present Vincennes in Knox County, Indiana). Piankashaw loyalties fluctuated between the French and the British; they generally disliked Americans. Hostilities between the tribe and the United States continued through the War of 1812. There were ten treaties between them starting in 1795. The Piankashaw ceded their Illinois and Indiana lands to the United States in 1805 and moved into Missouri. There they joined other Piankashaw who had inhabited the region since the 1790s. Their villages soon spread south and west from near St. Louis and Cape Girardeau to the St. Francis, Current, and White rivers. They left Missouri in 1832 and joined the Wea on a Kansas reservation.

In 1842 Maj. Ethan Allen Hitchcock mentioned Piankashaw on Little River in the Creek Nation in the Indian Territory (present Oklahoma). By then the tribe's population had declined to about 100 from an estimated 1,500 in 1759. In 1854 they and the Wea united with the Kaskaskia and the Peoria in Kansas and formed the Confederated Peoria, which was assigned a reservation in northeastern Indian Territory (present Ottawa County, Oklahoma) in 1867. That land was allotted to 153 Peoria, including an unknown number of Piankashaw, beginning in 1889.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: J. Joseph Bauxar, "History of the Illinois Area," in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15, Northeast, ed. Bruce G. Trigger (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978). Charles Callender, "Miami," 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). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951).

Jon D. May

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