Tonkawa Massacre

The Kickapoo people (Kickapoo: Kiikaapoa or Kiikaapoi; Spanish: Kikapú) are an Algonquian-speaking Native American and Indigenous Mexican tribe, originating in the region south of the Great Lakes. Today, three federally recognized Kickapoo tribes are in the United States: the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, and the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. The Oklahoma and Texas bands are politically associated with each other. The Kickapoo in Kansas came from a relocation from southern Missouri in 1832 as a land exchange from their reserve there.[1] Around 3,000 people are enrolled tribal members.

Another band, the Tribu Kikapú, resides in Múzquiz Municipality in the northern Mexican state of Coahuila. Smaller bands live in Sonora, to the west, and Durango, to the southwest.

Name and etymology

According to some sources, the name "Kickapoo" (Giiwigaabaw in the Anishinaabe language and its Kickapoo cognate Kiwikapawa) means "stands here and there," which may have referred to the tribe's migratory patterns. The name can also mean "wanderer". This interpretation is contested and generally believed to be a folk etymology.[citation needed]



Babe Shkit, Kickapoo chief and delegate from Indian Territory, c. 1900

The Kickapoo are an Algonquian-language people who likely migrated to or developed as a people in a large territory along the southern Wabash River in the area of modern Terre Haute, Indiana, where they were located at the time of first contact with Europeans in the 1600s. They were confederated with the larger Wabash Confederacy, which included the Piankeshaw and the Wea to their north, and the powerful Miami Tribe, to their east. A subgroup occupied the Upper Iowa River region in what was later known as northeast Iowa and the Root River region in southeast Minnesota in the late 1600s and early 1700s. This group was probably known by the clan name "Mahouea", derived from the Illinoian word for wolf, m'hwea.[2]

The earliest European contact with the Kickapoo tribe occurred during the La Salle Expeditions into Illinois Country in the late 17th century. The French colonists set up remote fur trading posts throughout the region, including on the Wabash River. They typically set up posts at or near Native American villages. Terre Haute was founded as an associated French village. The Kickapoo had to contend with a changing cast of Europeans; the British defeated the French in the Seven Years' War and took over nominal rule of former French territory east of the Mississippi River after 1763. They increased their own trading with the Kickapoo.

1800s to present

The United States acquired the territory east of the Mississippi River and north of the Ohio River after it gained independence from the United Kingdom. As white settlers moved into the region from the United States' eastern areas, beginning in the early 19th century, the Kickapoo were under pressure. They negotiated with the United States over their territory in several treaties, including the Treaty of Vincennes, the Treaty of Grouseland, and the Treaty of Fort Wayne. They sold most of their lands to the United States and moved north to settle among the Wea.

Rising tensions between the regional tribes and the United States led to Tecumseh's War in 1811. The Kickapoo were among the closest allies of Shawnee leader Tecumseh. Many Kickapoo warriors participated in the Battle of Tippecanoe and the subsequent War of 1812 on the side of the British, hoping to expel the white American settlers from the region.

The 1819 treaty of Edwardsville saw the Kickapoo cede the entirety of their holdings in Illinois comprising nearly one-half area of the state, in exchange for a smaller tract on the Osage river in Missouri and $3,000 worth of goods.[3] The Kickapoo were not eager to move, partly as their assigned tract in Missouri was made of rugged hills and already occupied by the Osage, who were their hereditary enemies. Instead, half of the population traveled south and crossed onto the Spanish side of the Red river in modern day Texas. The US government quickly mobilized to prevent this emigration and force their removal to Missouri. This remnant of Kickapoo remained in Illinois under the guidance of Kennekuk, a prominent, nonviolent spiritual leader among the Kickapoo. He led his followers during the Indian Removal in the 1830s to their current tribal lands in Kansas. He died there of smallpox in 1852.[4]

The close of the war led to a change of federal Indian policy in the Indiana Territory, and later the state of Indiana. White American leaders began to advocate the removal of tribes to lands west of the Mississippi River, to extinguish their claims to lands wanted by white American settlers. The Kickapoo were among the first tribes to leave Indiana under this program. They accepted land in Kansas and an annual subsidy in exchange for leaving the state.


Kickapoo people building a Winter House in the town of Nacimiento Coahuila, México, 2008

Kickapoo is dialect of the Fox language closely related to dialects spoken by the Sauk people and Meskwaki people. They are classified with the Central Algonquian languages, and are also related to the Illinois Confederation.

In 1985, the Kickapoo Nation's School in Horton, Kansas, began a language-immersion program for elementary school grades to revive teaching and use of the Kickapoo language in kindergarten through grade 6.[5] Efforts in language education continue at most Kickapoo sites.

In 2010, the Head Start Program at the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas reservation, which teaches the Kickapoo language, became "the first Native American school to earn Texas School Ready! (TSR) Project certification."[6]

Also in 2010, Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia participated in the elaboration of a Kickapoo alphabet.[7] The Kickapoo in Mexico are known for their whistled speech.

Texts,[8] recordings,[9] and a vocabulary[10] of the language are available.

The Kickapoo language and members of the Kickapoo tribe were featured in the movie The Only Good Indian (2009), directed by Greg Wilmott and starring Wes Studi. This was a fictionalized account of Native American children forced to attend an Indian boarding school, where they were forced to speak English and give up their cultural practices.[11]

Writing system

A Kickapoo alphabet was developed by Paul Voorhis in 1974 and was revised in 1981.[citation needed] A new orthography is used by the Kickapoo Language Development Program in Oklahoma.[12]

Kickapoo alphabet (Kickapoo Language Development Program)[12]
Letter a aa ch e ee h i ii k m n o oo p s t th w y
Pronunciation ə ɑ e æ h ɪ i k m n o ɔ p s t θ w j



Eleven consonant phonemes are used in Kickapoo:

Labial Dental Alveolar Postalveolar/
Velar Glottal
Stop p t k
Fricative θ s h
Nasal m n
Approximant j w
  • The voiceless sounds can sometimes be voiced as [b, d, dʒ, ɡ, ð, z].
  • /p/ in word-initial position can also be aspirated as [pʰ].
  • // can also be pronounced as [ts].[13]


  • The eight vowel sounds in Kickapoo are: short /a, ɛ, i, o/ and long /aː, ɛː, iː, oː/.
  • Sounds /a, ɛ, i, o/, can be phonetically heard as allophones [ə, ɛ~e, ɪ, ʊ~o] and /aː, ɛː, iː, oː/ can be heard as [äː, æː, iː, ɔː].[14]

Tribes and communities

Three federally recognized Kickapoo communities are in the United States in Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. The Mexican Kickapoo are closely tied to the Texas and Oklahoma communities. These groups migrate annually among the three locations to maintain connections. Indeed, the Texas and Mexican branches are the same cross-border nation, called the Kickapoo of Coahuila/Texas.[15]

Kickapoo Indian Reservation of Kansas

The tribe in Kansas was home to prophet Kenekuk, who was known for his astute leadership that allowed the small group to maintain their reservation. Kenekuk wanted to keep order among the tribe he was in, while living in Kansas. He also wanted to focus on keeping the identity of the Kickapoo people, because of all the relocations they had done.[16]

The basis of Kenekuk's leadership began in the religious revivals of the 1820s and 1830s, with a blend of Protestantism and Catholicism. Kenekuk taught his tribesmen and white audiences to obey God's commands, for sinners were damned to the pits of hell.[16] Once the Kickapoo people got relocated to Kansas they resisted the ideas of Protestantism and Catholicism and started focusing more on farming, so they could provide food for the rest of the tribe. After this had happened they remained together and claimed some of the original land that they had before it was taken by Americans.

The Kickapoo Indian Reservation of Kansas is located at 39°40′51″N 95°36′41″W / 39.68083°N 95.61139°W / 39.68083; -95.61139 in the northeastern part of the state in parts of three counties: Brown, Jackson, and Atchison. It has a land area of 612.203 square kilometres (236.373 sq mi) and a resident population of 4,419 as of the 2000 census. The largest community on the reservation is the city of Horton. The other communities are:

Kickapoo Indian Reservation of Texas

The Kickapoo Indian Reservation of Texas is located at 28°36′37″N 100°26′19″W / 28.61028°N 100.43861°W / 28.61028; -100.43861 on the Rio Grande on the U.S.-Mexico border in western Maverick County, just south of the city of Ciudad Acuña, as part of the community of Rosita South. It has a land area of 0.4799 square kilometres (118.6 acres) and a 2000 census population of 420 persons. The Texas Indian Commission officially recognized the tribe in 1977.[17]

Other Kickapoo in Maverick County, Texas, constitute the "South Texas Subgroup of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma". That tribe formerly owned 917.79 acres (3.7142 km2) of non-reservation land in Maverick County, primarily to the north of Eagle Pass, but has sold most of it to a developer. It has an office in that city.[18]

Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma

A Kickapoo wickiup, Sac and Fox Agency, Oklahoma, c. 1880

After being expelled from the Republic of Texas, many Kickapoo moved south to Mexico, but the population of two villages settled in Indian Territory. One village settled within the Chickasaw Nation and the other within the Muscogee Creek Nation. These Kickapoo were granted their own reservation in 1883 and became recognized as the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma.

The reservation was short-lived. In 1893 under the Dawes Act, their communal tribal lands were broken up[19] and assigned to separate member households by allotments. The tribe's government was dismantled by the Curtis Act of 1898, which encouraged assimilation by Native Americans to the majority culture. Tribal members struggled under these conditions.

In the 1930s the federal and state governments encouraged tribes to reorganize their governments. This one formed the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma in 1936, under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act.[20]

Today the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma is headquartered in McLoud, Oklahoma. Their tribal jurisdictional area is in Oklahoma, Pottawatomie, and Lincoln counties. They have 2,719 enrolled tribal members.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Kickapoo History
  2. ^ Colin M., Betts. "Rediscovering the Mahouea". Journal of the Iowa Archeological Society 58:23-33. Archived from the original on November 19, 2012. Retrieved January 9, 2012.
  3. ^ "Ratified Indian Treaty 107: Kickapoo - Edwardsville, Illinois, July 30, 1819". National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved 2021-11-04.
  4. ^ Mooney, James (August 15, 2012) [First published 1896]. The Ghost-Dance Religion and Wounded Knee (reprint, revised ed.). Courier Corporation. ISBN 9780486143330.
  5. ^ Reaves, Michell Reaves (2001-08-11). "Canku Ota - Aug. 11, 2001 - Indians Value Their Language". Canku Ota (Many Paths), an Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America, Medill News Service (42). Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  6. ^ "Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas First Native American Tribe to Achieve Texas School Ready! Certification". Newswise, University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  7. ^ "Kickapoo Language Prepared to be Written". Art Daily. 2010-04-12. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  8. ^ "OLAC resources in and about the Kickapoo language". Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  9. ^ "Recordings for study of the Shawnee, Kickapoo, Ojibwa, and Sauk-and-Fox :: American Philosophical Society". Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  10. ^ "OLAC Record: Kickapoo vocabulary". 1988. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  11. ^ "Kickapoo Language, Culture to be Featured in Film". Hiawatha World Online. 2007-09-12. Archived from the original on 2012-08-10. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  12. ^ a b Bluecloud 2020, p. 17-24.
  13. ^ Voorhis, Paul H. (1974). Introduction to the Kickapoo Language. Indiana University Publications.
  14. ^ Bluecloud, Mosiah Salazar (2020). A Sketch Grammar of the Kickapoo Language. The University of Arizona.
  15. ^ Mager, Elisabeth (2011). "The Kickapoo Of Coahuila/Texas Cultural Implications Of Being A Cross-Border Nation" (PDF). Voices of Mexico (90): 36–40.
  16. ^ a b Herring, Joseph B. (Summer 1985). "Kenekuk, the Kickapoo Prophet: Acculturation without Assimilation". American Indian Quarterly. 9 (3): 295–307. doi:10.2307/1183831. JSTOR 1183831.
  17. ^ Miller, Tom. On the Border: Portraits of America's Southwestern Frontier, pp. 67.
  18. ^ Maverick County Appraisal District property tax appraisals, 2007
  19. ^ Withington, W.R. (1952). "Kickapoo Titles in Oklahoma". 23 Oklahoma Bar Association Journal 1751. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
  20. ^ Annette Kuhlman, "Kickapoo" Archived 2014-12-30 at the Wayback Machine, Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009 (accessed 21 February 2009)
  21. ^ Oklahoma Indian Affairs. Oklahoma Indian Nations Pocket Pictorial Directory. Archived 2009-02-11 at the Wayback Machine, 2008:21

Further reading

  • 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
  • Arrell M. Gibson, The Kickapoo: Lords of the Middle Border, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1963
  • Mager Elisabeth (2017) Ethnic Consciousness in Cultural Survival: The Morongo Band of Mission Indians and the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas . American Indian Culture and Research Journal: 2017, Vol. 41, No. 1, pp. 47–72.
  • M. Christopher Nunley, "Kickapoo Indians," in The New Handbook of Texas, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1996.
  • Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986
  • Joseph B. Herring, Kennekuk: The Kickapoo Prophet, Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1988

External links