Illinois Indian Tribes

The Illinois Indian tribes in archaic times had been mainly of the Kentucky Indian Knoll type. They remained there through the slow development of early Woodland and on into middle Woodland times, with few changes. They were probably hunters and fishermen, spending most of the year wandering in small camps; but they had developed some villages, were making pottery, and possibly were learning to grow little crops of maize and vegetables. Then the Mound Builder faith and ceremonial practices came among them and startled them into wakefulness. It was like a revolution.

In Fulton County, on the north side of the Illinois River, the crude and poky little villages in the stream valleys sprang to life, as from a dream. The peoples took up the new Ohio religion. While they did not attempt to build the huge earth-walled enclosures that were the spectacular features of the great Ohio centers, they did begin to bury their dead with all the pomp and ceremony of the new faith. They imported from Ohio, or made among themselves, the necessary ceremonial equipment. Here in Illinois, along with the religious upsurge, came agriculture, to become a definite feature of daily life; and villages increased in size and number. 1 2

In Southern Illinois the Indians were apparently of a somewhat different type from those along the Illinois River. They were originally of the same stock; but they were conservative and their relatives were not with the Ohio Indians, but more often with the people in Kentucky and Tennessee. The Indians in southern Illinois did take up the Mound Builder faith, but they apparently obtained their knowledge of it from the Illinois River people, and they still clung to many of their old ways. 3

The following tribes at one time are recorded in history as having resided within the present state of Illinois. If the tribe name is in bold, then Indiana is the primary location known for this tribe, otherwise we provide the tribes specifics as it pertains to Illinois and then provide a link to the main tribal page.

Chippewa Indians. Representatives of this tribe appear in treaties made in 1795, 1816, 1829, and 1833 relinquishing Illinois land to the Whites.

Delaware Indians. While they were being slowly crowded west by the Whites, the Delaware passed across Illinois, and their connection with the State was transitory in both senses of the term. (See New Jersey Indian Tribes.)

Fox Indians. This tribe, together with the Sauk, drove the Illinois Indians from the northwestern part of the State of Illinois in the latter part of the eighteenth century and took their places, but ceded the territory to the United States Government by a treaty signed November 3, 1804.

Illinois Indians.

Kickapoo Indians. This tribe, after helping destroy the Illinois, settled on Vermilion River and extended its territories to Illinois River. It ceded this land to the United States Government July 30, 1819.

Miami Indians. In very early times the Miami had a town where now stands Chicago, and later their territorial claims covered parts of the eastern sections of the State. (See Indiana.)

Ottawa Indians. Some Ottawa worked down to the northernmost part of the State in the eighteenth century. (See Michigan.)

Potawatomi Indians. This tribe succeeded the Miami in the region of Chicago, and, after the destruction of the Illinois, occupied still more territory in the northeastern part of the State. (See Michigan.)

Sauk Indians. The Sauk assisted their relatives the Foxes in expelling the Illinois tribes from the Rock River region, and they occupied it with them until the lands were ceded to the Whites and they moved farther west.

Shawnee Indians. There were Shawnee for a while in the southern part of Illinois.

Winnebago Indians. Representatives of this tribe were parties to an Illinois land cession in 1829.

Wyandot Indians. Some Wyandot were parties to the Greenville Treaty in 1795 relinquishing land in Illinois to the Whites.


Fulton County IL,

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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  1. Martin Quimby and Collier, Indians Before Columbus, 293-294.[]
  2. Griffin, Archaeology of the Eastern United States, p. 118, 153-154.[]
  3. Hyde, George E. Indians of the Woodlands, From Prehistoric Times to 1725. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press. 1977. p. 39-40.[]

5 thoughts on “Illinois Indian Tribes”

  1. There was a Winnebago tribe, known as the Morah Indians in northwestern Franklin Co. Missouri in the 1820 to 1860 time period. There were a small band of Morah Indians living in the Port Hudson area as late as the 1860’s. In the April 13, 1972 issue of the New Haven Leader it states; “Port Hudson received its name from Dr. Pierce Nugent Butler, a practicing physician who was born in Beaufort, South Carolina, May 25, 1825. He came to Franklin County, Missouri about 1853 where he settled with his family. The young doctor attended to the medical needs of the Morah Indians who lived in the area. . . Can anyone verify this information?

  2. Misty A Middleton

    Hello Lisa,
    My name is Misty Middleton. Elzora Bird of Thebes Il, and Champ Bailey were my Great Great Grandparents on my Mothers side of the family(Henderson).
    How are you related to them?

  3. Dear Bill,
    My Great Great Grandmother was a full blooded Blackfoot Indian named Elzora Bird. Her father’s name was George Washington Bird who was a Chief and whose headdress was on display at the Thebes Illinois Courthouse until it burned to the ground. He and his wife were buried in Thebes and although I have pictures of their tombstones (they were arrowheads), they were washed away in a flood. I am curious to know anything else about my family history in re to the Blackfoot. Surely someone out there knows something about the lives and times of these people. Elzora was rumoured to have been “stolen” away from her tribe by a Champion Calvin Bailey who is my Great Great Grandfather. He was a constable, killed by a prisoner during an escape attempt. After this, Elzora moved to Chaffee, Missouri. This is basically all I know about my maternal relatives. Any information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you so much.

  4. Connie Mae Giffin

    Hello Bill,
    This may not be as far fetched as you believe. Mypaternal great great grandmother, Ellenore Minerva Riley Shehorn is the daughter of Looney and Rachel Riley. They immmigrated from the Eastern Cherokee lands to Oklahoma in November, 1828 ahead of the Trail of Tears. My great great grandmother was 4. She moved to Sugar Creek Missouri at 19, married and had her first child. The family then moved to Jefferson County, Illinois and remained there through present day. My maternal grandfather’s property now part of the Fitzgerald Park of Rend Lake had a burial mound. I am seeking more info on my family’s history and also the mound. I have some artifacts I would like an arceologist to examine.

  5. I have a 2x great grandmother who I believe is an Illinois Indian. I know she was full blooded Indigenous and was told she was Cherokee. This isn’t possible because the family lived in Clark County, Missouri, in the tri state area of Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa, and never strayed from the area and it’s unlikely that Cherokee’s traveled that far north. Her name was Laura Phillips and she married Samuel Morris. They were my x2 great grandparents. Could you help me on this please. Thank you

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