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Kaskaskia: Wikis


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The Kaskaskia were one of the several cognate tribes that made up the Illiniwek Confederation. Their first contact with Europeans reportedly occurred near present-day Green Bay, Wisconsin in 1667 at a Jesuit mission station. The Illiniwek are reported to have asked the French to send a missionary to them in their home country.



In 1673, Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette and French-Canadian explorer Louis Jolliet undertook the journey. The record of their trip is our earliest, best record of contact between Europeans and the Illiniwek. Marquette and Jolliet, with five other men, left the mission of St. Ignace at Michilimackinac in two bark canoes on May 17. They travelled to the Mississippi River across Lake Michigan into Green Bay, up the Fox River and down the Wisconsin River. Descending the Mississippi, in June, they met the Peoria and Moingwena bands of Illiniwek at the Haas/Hagerman Site near the mouth of the Des Moines River in Clark County, northeastern Missouri. They met another Illiniwek band, the Michigamea, when they reached present-day Arkansas. They began their return trip from this Michigamea village about July 17, following the Illinois River eastward to Lake Michigan rather than taking the more northern route along the Wisconsin River. Near modern Utica in LaSalle County, Illinois, across from Starved Rock, they met the Kaskaskia at the Grand Village of the Illinois (now a State Historic Site, also known as the Zimmerman Site). The land controlled by the allied Illinewek groups extended north from modern Arkansas, through Eastern Missouri and most of Illinois, and west into Iowa, where Des Moines was named after the Moingwena.

The fate of the Kaskaskia, and the rest of the Illiniwek/Illinois, was irrevocably tied up with that of France. Until their dissolution in France, French Jesuits built missions and ministered to the Kaskaskia. When the Seven Years' War (called the French and Indian War in North America) ended, the Kaskaskia and other Illiniwek tribes were greatly in decline. The original population estimate reported by early French explorers varied from 6,000 to more than 20,000. By the conclusion of the French and Indian War, the number was a fraction of the original. Contemporary historians believe the greatest fatalities were due to infectious diseases to which the Native Americans had no immunity.

The causes of decline are many and varied (See the work of Emily Blasingham, M.A. Indiana University, published in Ethnohistory journal). The Illiniwek made war with their French allies against the most formidable native nations: to the east, the Iroquois; to the northwest, the Sioux and the Fox; to the south, the Chickasaw and Cherokee; to the west, the Osage Nation. Add to combat losses the great losses to epidemics of European diseases. In 1769, a Peoria warrior killed Pontiac, which brought down upon the Kaskaskia and other Illinois tribes, the wrath of the Great Lakes tribes. (This legendary retaliation may not have happened in fact; see the article on Pontiac.) The Ottawa, Sauk, Fox, Miami, Kickapoo and Potawatomi devastated the Illiniwek and occupied their old tribal range along the Illinois River.

The descendants of the Kaskaskia live in Oklahoma under the banner of the Confederated Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma.

The British arrived in 1766 and build Fort Gage.

On July 4, 1778 George Rogers Clark captured the town and Fort Gage[1].

In popular culture

The term "Kaskaskia" lives on in Illinois. The Kaskaskia River, whose headwaters are near Champaign in central Illinois, and whose mouth is near Ellis Grove, Illinois, still carries the name of this native nation who once settled throughout its estuarial plain. Kaskaskia College is located near Centralia, Illinois, in rural Clinton County. The city of DuQuoin, Illinois, carries the name of Jean Baptiste DuQuoin (sometimes DuQuoigne), a notable Kaskaskia chieftain of their later history. Kaskaskia, Illinois was the first capital of Illinois. Also the Kaskaskia Baptist Association located in Patoka, Illinois carries this name. The USS Kaskaskia (AO-27) also carries the name.


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