Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Cahokia Mounds and the Indian Village of Cahokia.

The name Cahokia is a reference to one of the Indian tribes of the Illinois Confederation, a group of related Algonquian tribes (usually referred to as  "Illinois" or the "Illiniwek" or "Illini," who were a group of Indian tribes in the upper Mississippi River valley. The tribes were made up of the Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Peoria, Tamaroa, Moingwena, Michigamea, Chepoussa, Chinkoa, Coiracoentanon, Espeminkia, Maroa, and Tapouara) who were encountered by early French explorers to the region.

Early European settlers also named Cahokia Mounds after the Illinois Confederation which was an extensive prehistoric Mississippian urban site located to the north of present-day Collinsville in Madison County.  Cahokia Mounds is the site of a pre-Columbian Indian village directly across the Mississippi River from modern St. Louis, Missouri. This historic park lies between  today's East St. Louis and Collinsville. The park covers 2,200 acres, or about 3.5 square miles, and contains about 80 mounds, but the ancient city was much larger. In its heyday, Cahokia covered about 6 square miles and included about 120 manmade earthen mounds in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and functions.
Cahokia was the largest and most influential urban settlement of the Mississippian culture, which developed advanced societies across much of what is now the central and southeastern United States, beginning more than 1000 years before European contact. The city's original name is unknown.
The mounds were later named after the Cahokia tribe, a historic Illiniwek people living in the area when the first French explorers arrived in the 17th century. As this was centuries after Cahokia was abandoned by its original inhabitants, the Cahokia tribe was not necessarily descended from the earlier Mississippian-era people. Most likely, multiple indigenous ethnic groups settled in the Cahokia Mounds area during the time of the city's apex. It is a World Heritage Site and an Illinois State Historic Park.

The "New France" (hereinafter called Canada), association with Cahokia began over 320 years ago, with Father Pinet’s mission in late 1696 to convert the Cahokia and Tamaroa Indians to Christianity. Father Pinet and the Seminary of Foreign Missions of Quebec built a log church. It was dedicated to the Holy Family. During the next 100 years, Cahokia became one of the largest French colonial towns in the Illinois Country.

Cahokia had become the center of a large area for trading Indian goods and furs. The village had about 3,000 inhabitants, 24 brothels, and a thriving business district. The nearby town of Kaskaskia on the Mississippi became the region’s leading shipping port, and Fort de Chartres became a military and governmental command center. The 50-mile area of land between the two cities was cultivated by farming settlers, known as habitants, whose main crop was wheat. As the area expanded, the relationship between the settlers and the Indians continued to be peaceful. Settlers were mostly Canadien migrants whose families had been in North America for a while.

In the following years, Cahokia suffered, mainly from the French loss in the French and Indian War in 1763. Defeated by Great Britain in what was an extension of the Seven Years’ War in Europe, the French were forced to cede large parts of the Illinois Country to the victors. Many Cahokians fled in fear of the British, or because they wanted to live in a Catholic province, Louisiana, where they founded new Canadien villages on the west of the Mississippi River, such as St. Louis, and Ste. Genevieve, Missouri.

The Odawa leader Pontiac was assassinated by other Indians in or near Cahokia on April 20, 1769. The Pottawattamies blamed the local Illinois Indians and took revenge on them at Starved Rock by cornering them on the top of Starved Rock, waiting for their food and water to run out -- then killing all of them. (Fact or fiction? Click the link to read the article.) 

In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, George Rogers Clark set up a court in Cahokia, making Cahokia an independent city state even though it was part of the Province of Quebec. Cahokia officially became part of the United States by the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Soon after that, the 105 Cahokia “heads of household” pledged loyalty to the Continental Congress of the United States.

In the 1800's a Tappist Priest built a church on top of what they called "Monk's Mound." The New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-1812 was the reason for this structure to be vacated.

Compiled by Neil Gale,Ph.D.

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