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THE INTERPRETATION OF THE PAST IN ITS OWN CONTEXT.
The Kaskaskia Indian Reservation, just west of Murphysboro in Jackson County, Illinois, has been all but forgotten.
The name Kaskaskia is the anglicized version of the tribal term "kaskaskahamwa," which means "he who scrapes it off by means of a tool." The Kaskaskia tribe was part of the once-powerful Illinois Confederacy.
The Illinois (aka Illiniwek or Illini) is pronounced as plural: (The Illinois') was a Confederacy of Indian tribes consisting of the Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Peoria, Tamarais (Tamaroa, Tamarois), Moingwena, Mitchagamie (Michigamea), Chepoussa, Chinkoa, Coiracoentanon, Espeminkia, Maroa, and Tapouara tribes that were of the Algonquin family. They spoke Iroquoian languages. The Illinois called themselves "Ireniouaki" (the French word was Ilinwe).
In 1673, representatives of the French government came to The Illinois County and observed where the native tribes were living. They discovered that the Kaskaskia were living in the vicinity of the present-day city of Peoria; the Peoria were living on the western, or Missouri, side of the Mississippi River, just south of Alton; the Cahokia was near Wood River; the Tamaroa lived between East St. Louis and Alton, and the Mitchigamie lived in the southern tip of the state.
Jean Baptiste Ducoigne, Kaskaskia chief, was born in 1750 to a French father and a Tamoroa Indian mother. He was baptized as an infant at the Church of St. Anne outside of Fort de Chartres (whom the Perry County town of DuQuoin is named after). Ducoigne was made chief of the Tamaroas in 1767. It was the same year the Illinois Confederacy dissolved when Indians from the Michigan tribe murdered notable Chief Pontiac. In retaliation, the other tribes drove the Michigans onto Starved Rock (<--- fact or fiction?) and starved them to death.
|Chief Jean Baptiste Ducoigne was born in 1750. At the age of 17, he was named the chief of the Kaskaskia Indian tribe. During his time as chief, he played an active role in the Revolutionary War by making trips from Illinois Country to Virginia to meet with Thomas Jefferson and General Marquis de Lafayette. He was also instrumental in negotiating treaties with the government to secure land for the Chaokias, Tamaroas and Kaskaskia Indian tribes. The city of DuQuoin is named in honor of him.|
The Kaskaskia were nearly annihilated. After the defeat of the Kaskaskia, the supremacy of the Illinois Confederacy over their rivals continued to diminish. By 1832, nearly 70 years after having moved from Peoria to Fort de Chartres to seek protection, the Illinois Confederacy barely numbered 300. Those who remained were located on a half-mile wide by two-mile-long reservation along the Big Muddy River in Sand Ridge Township -- The Kaskaskia Reservation.
Their stay at Sand Ridge was a short one. After a few months along the banks of the Big Muddy, the surviving members of the Kaskaskia, Peoria, Cahokia, Tamaroa, and Mitchigamie tribes signed a treaty on October 27, 1832, with the United States at Castor Hill, near St. Louis. The treaty was signed first by William Clark, Co-Captain of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, then employed as the government's western Indian agent after his return from the Voyage of Discovery. Clark was regarded by natives and the government as being very fair and honest. Among others who signed on behalf of the government were Pierre Menard and Clark's son, Meriwether Lewis Clark.
In this treaty, the Confederacy ceded all lands the tribes held in Illinois. In exchange, the tribes received 96,000 acres in northeastern Kansas, which were promised to be theirs forever. Besides this land in Kansas, the Peoria, the name the tribes collectively adopted after signing the treaty, received an annual payment of cash or farm supplies, whichever they preferred, for improvements made to the land at Sand Ridge and the area surrounding Fort de Chartres.
Chief Ducoigne's daughter, Ellen, was able to keep 350 acres in northern Ora Township, given to her and her white husband by Ducoigne.
|The Jean Baptiste Ducoigne house at Kaskaskia.|
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.
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