Illinois (American Indians Ready Reference)
When they first encountered Europeans in the 1670's, the Illinois Indians occupied an area roughly equivalent to the present state of Illinois, though there is evidence that they had previously lived in present-day Michigan. They were among the largest tribes in the region, with an estimated population of thirteen thousand in the 1650's. The size of the tribe may explain its division into at least six subtribes: the Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michigamea, Moingwena, Peoria, and Tamaroa. Though each of the subtribes had its own chief, all spoke the same language and acknowledged a single chief for the whole tribe.
The traditional economy of the tribe followed a yearly cycle of agriculture, hunting, and gathering. Crops were planted around summer villages; then whole villages would embark on hunting expeditions before returning for the harvest. In winter, smaller groups would scatter to winter villages where hunting continued on a reduced scale.
The Illinois were often involved in warfare with other tribes, a pattern that continued after European contact. Several major wars were fought with the Iroquois in the seventeenth century, at times causing the Illinois to move west of the Mississippi River. The Sioux were also frequent enemies.
The decisive event in the Illinois's history came in 1673 when they established contact with the French. They subsequently became an independent ally of the French and heavily involved in the fur trade. The...
(The entire section is 467 words.)
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