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.


  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.[]

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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