Saturday, August 4, 2018

The Kaskaskia Indian Reservation in Illinois.


In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM is the introduction of present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. I believe presentism is a form of cultural bias, and it creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. I'm well aware that historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present articles that are fact based and well researched, without interjecting any of my personal opinions.


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 along with the Peoria, Cahokia, Tamaroa, and Mitchigamie. In 1673, representatives of the French government came to the Illinois Country 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 were 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, 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 Chartes, (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 had 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 tribes of the Illinois Confederacy were rivals of the Iroquois, Sioux, and most notably, the Shawnee. The best-known battle between these tribes occurred in 1802 and was fought between the Kaskaskia and Shawnee. Both tribes fought constantly over hunting grounds. It was mutually decided to hold one final battle with the winner holding dominance over the contested grounds. The Shawnee, who lived along the Wabash River, met the Kaskaskia at the Big Muddy River in present day Franklin County. The battle ensued and the Shawnee drove the Kaskaskia to within twenty miles of the old French city to which the latter tribe gave its name.

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 Kaskasia 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.
Shortly after the treaty was signed the ragged Indians were rounded up and led west by a local man known only by the name of Worthen. In Kansas, the renamed Peoria were given farm implements, as foreign to them as the land itself. The tribes of the former Illinois Confederacy never fully adjusted from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to that of farmers. On the Great Plains, they continued to decline. In 1950, only 439 Indians remained out of the twelve native tribes of Illinois.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

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