Thursday, March 30, 2023


The original inhabitants of the area that had become the State of Illinois in 1818 included the Chickasaw tribe, the Dakota Sioux tribe, the Winnebago (Ho-Chunk, and the Shawnee tribe. 

The indigenous tribes of the Chicago area were the Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Odawa (Ottawa) Nations, as well as the Miami, Winnebago (Ho-Chunk), Menominee, Sauk (Sac), Meskwaki (Fox), Kickapoo tribes, and the Illinois Confederacy. 

The Illinois, aka Illiniwek and Illini [the Illinois is pronounced as plural: Illinois'], was a Confederacy of Indian tribes consisting of the Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Peoria, Tamarais (aka Tamaroa, Tamarois), Moingwena, Mitchagamie (aka Michigamea), Chepoussa, Chinkoa, Coiracoentanon, Espeminkia, Maroa, and Tapouara tribes that were in the Algonquin Indian family. The Illinois called themselves "Ireniouaki" (the French word was Ilinwe).


Algonquin, Illinois – Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) - Named after the Algonquin people, a large linguistic group encompassing numerous tribes.

Annawan, Illinois  Derived from the Kickapoo word "Aniwa," meaning "thunder." Named for Chief Annawan.

Aptakisic, Illinois  Potawatomi

Ashkum, Illinois  Named for Chief Ashkum of the Potawatomi tribe.

Aptotakin, Illinois – Named for Chief Optagushick of the Potawatomi tribe.

Big Foot, Illinois  Potawatomi

Cahokia, Illinois – Named after the Cahokia Mounds, a major pre-Columbian Mississippian culture city. While not directly named after a chief, it honors the community's historical leaders.

Chebanse, Illinois  This comes from the Potawatomi word "Zhishibéns," which means "the little duck." Possibly named after Chief Chebanse of the Potawatomi tribe.

Channahon, Illinois  Named for Chief Channahon, a Potawatomi leader. Possibly name for Chief Shabbona.

Chenoa Township, Illinois – From the Ojibwe word "Shenowa," meaning "big." Potentially named after Chief Chenoa of the Peoria tribe.

Du Quoin, Illinois  Kaskaskia

Half Day, Illinois  Potawatomi

Kankakee, Illinois – This comes from the Potawatomi word "Kankakee," which means "cornfield."

Kaskaskia, Illinois – Named after the Kaskaskia tribe, part of the historic Illiniwek confederacy.

Kewanee, Illinois  Named after Chief Kewanee, a Peoria leader.

Lake Ka-ho, Illinois  "Ka-Ho" translates to "big water" in Potawatomi, referencing a nearby lake and possibly honoring tribal leaders associated with the area.

LaSalle Township, Illinois  Named for René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, who had strong ties with Native American tribes.

Loami, Illinois – Possibly from the Miami word "loam," meaning "earth."

Mackinaw, Illinois – Derived from the Ojibwe word "mikinaak," meaning "turtle."

Mahomet, Illinois – Named after the Prophet Muhammad, likely due to a local legend about a Muslim traveler.

Makanda, Illinois  Possibly named after Chief Makandocle of the Kaskaskia tribe, though historical records lack clarity.

Marseilles Township, Illinois  Named for Chief Marseilles, a Potawatomi leader in the 1810s.

Mascoutah, Illinois – Derived from the Mascouten tribe, an Algonquian people.

Matteson, Illinois ─ Named after Chief Matteson, a Potawatomi leader.

Mendota, Illinois – From the Dakota word "Mendota," meaning "junction of two trails."

Menominee, Illinois  Named after the Menominee people, an Algonquian tribe. Historically present in Wisconsin but with cultural ties to Illinois.

Metamora, Illinois – Potawatomi

Mettawa, Illinois – Potawatomi

Minooka, Illinois – Named for Chief Minooka, a Potawatomi leader.

Momence, Illinois ─ Named after Chief Momence, a Potawatomi leader.

Monee Township, Illinois – Possibly named after Chief Monee of the Potawatomi tribe, though this connection lacks definitive proof.

Moosomin Township, Illinois – Possibly derived from the Ojibwe word "moozomin," meaning "moose," but could also be a reference to a chief.

Moweaqua, Illinois – Possibly from the Kickapoo word "Moweaqua," meaning "place of the turtle."

Neponset, Illinois – Possibly named for Chief Neponset, a Massachusett leader.

Niantic, Illinois – Named for the Niantic tribe and their chief, Ninigret. Possibly from the Narragansett word "Niantic," meaning "island."

Niota, Illinois – The name "Niota" was based on the name of a fictional character in a dime novel[1], a Native American chief named "Nee-o-tah." (Algonquian Tribe?)

Oconee, Illinois –  Possibly from the Muscogee word "Oconee," meaning "river."

Okawville, Illinois ─ Potentially named after Chief Okaw of the Kaskaskia tribe. The Kaskaskia word "okahwa" means "big water."

Onarga, Illinois – Comes from the Potawatomi word "Onagan," meaning "white oak."

Oneco, Illinois – Potawatomi

Optakisic, Illinois ─ Named after Chief Optagushick of the Potawatomi tribe.

Oquawka, Illinois – Named for Chief Oquawka, a Sauk leader.

Orland Park, Illinois ─ Potentially derived from Chief Orland, a Potawatomi leader.

Oswego, Illinois ─ Named after Chief Oswego, Possibly a Fox or Sauk leader.

Owaneco, Illinois – Possibly from the Oto word "owanec," meaning "big river."

Pana, Illinois ─ Possibly named after Pana, a chief from the Cahokia tribe. Possibly named after Pana, a Chief from the Cahokia tribe.

Patna, Illinois ─ Kickapoo

Paw Paw Township, Illinois – Believed to be derived from the Miami word "Pawapaw," meaning "fruit of the pawpaw tree." While not referencing a chief, it honors the indigenous culture and environment. Possibly from the Pawnee word "pápa," meaning "head."

Pocahontas, Illinois – Originally known as Hickory Grove and then Amity. In 1850, the name was changed to Pocohontas (with an "o"). 1855, the current spelling with an "a" came into place. Pocahontas was incorporated as a village in 1847. The town was named after Pocahontas Coal.

Pecatonica, Illinois – Derived from the Winnebago word "pekatoniká," meaning "river of the painted feather."

Pekin, Illinois – Named after Chief Pekin, a Peoria leader who signed treaties in the 1810s.

Peoria, Illinois ─ Named after the Peoria tribe and their principal village.

Pesotum, Illinois  The village was named after Pesotum, a Kickapoo warrior in the Battle of Fort Dearborn.

Pontiac, Illinois  Named after Chief Pontiac, an Odawa (Ottawa) leader during the French and Indian War.

Sauk Village, Illinois – Named after the Sauk people, an Algonquian tribe.

Saukenuk, Illinois ─ Named for the Sauk tribes, though not after specific chiefs. (Black Hawk was born in 1767 in Saukenuk, Illinois).

Saunemin, Illinois – Kickapoo

Seneca, Illinois – Named after the Seneca people, one of the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, it acknowledges their influence and historical connections to the region.

Shabbona Grove, Illinois – Named after Chief Shabbona, a Potawatomi Chief, honoring his role in local history.

Shawneetown, Illinois – Named for the Shawnee people, who lived in the area before being forced to move west. Named after the Shawnee people, an Algonquian tribe.

Shobonier, Illinois – Potawatomi

Tampico, Illinois – Named for Chief Tampico, a Potawatomi or Kaskaskia tribe leader.

Tolono, Illinois – Possibly from the Illiniwek word "Tolowane," meaning "black walnut."

Tonica, Illinois – Possibly from the French word "tonique," meaning "bracing" or "refreshing," influenced by Indigenous names.

Wapella, Illinois – Meskwaki (Fox)

Waukegan, Illinois  Named for Chief Waukegan, a Potawatomi leader.

Wauponsee, Illinois – Potawatomi
Wauponsee is an unincorporated community in Vienna Township, Grundy County, in North East Illinois. Wauponsee is located on Verona Road, 7 miles south-southwest of Morris. Google Mapped: 41°16′28″N 88°29′40″W

The Potawatomi were a major tribe in the Great Lakes region, and they had a significant presence in Wauponsee Township in the early 19th century. The township was named after Potawatomi Chief Waubonsie, whose tribe were residents. Wauponsee Grove, today a state park, was named for Chief Waubonsie.

Wyanet, Illinois – Derived from the Wyandot tribe, an Iroquoian people.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] DIME NOVEL - Any cheaply produced popular fiction published in the United States between 1860 and 1930 might be called a dime novel, providing it was published on paper covers (paperback) and issued in a series (chapter books).

"Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the white hunter" is a groundbreaking novel, considered the first true dime novel. It sparked controversy, having a female author, a sympathetic portrayal of an Indian woman, and a strong, independent heroine. Malaeska tackled themes of race, gender, and frontier life. It was the first published title in Beadle's Dime Novels series and became a runaway bestseller.

The entire series in one (pdf) publication: 
Malaeska is the Indian wife of the white hunter, by Ann S. Stephens. pub:1860.


  1. Thanks for your interesting historical records. I really appreciate this site! Keep it going.


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