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Morris Library

Native American Heritage: Readings and Resources

Members of the Peoria Nation dancing in full ceremonial costume at the annual pow wow.

SIU System Land Acknowledgement Statement

The Southern Illinois University System respectfully acknowledges the Indigenous peoples and lands on which our colleges reside. We exist on and serve regions that includes the traditional homelands and territories of The Illinois Confederacy, including the Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michigamea, Peoria, and Tamaroa; and the Kiikaapoi (Treaty of Edwardsville, 1819), Myaamia, Aakiiwaki (Sauk), Meskwaki (Fox), Ho-Chunk (Winnebago), Kaw, Missouria, Quapaw, Ponca, Omaha, Osage, Onödowáʼga (Seneca), O-ga-xpa Ma-zhoⁿ, Očhéthi Šakówiŋ, and others. We are honored and grateful to reside on Native land. We are committed in word and deed to enhancing relationships, equity, and the rights of Indigenous communities. We are resolved to strengthen their sovereignty and self-determination to protect and preserve their language, culture, spiritual traditions, and relationships with land and people.

Readings and Resources

Caution: Some of the materials presented and linked below may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions and/or use outdated, biased, offensive, or otherwise harmful language. In addition, some of the materials may relate to violent or graphic events.


When European settlers encountered the Cahokia, a nation of the Illiniwek Confederation, in the late 1600s, their religious groups built multiple Christian missions, implying a sizable population. By 1752, disease, settler aggression, and an attack on their primary settlement by British soldiers and allied neighboring nations, the small number of surviving Cahokia joined the Michigamea. By the turn of the 19th century, the Cahokia had further dwindled and joined the Kaskaskia, and finally the Peoria. When the Peoria were forcefully removed to a reservation in present-day Oklahoma, their number, including all of the nations which joined them, was 157 individuals.

The Cahokia people who lived in Illinois at the time of European arrival are not the same group who built the famous Cahokia mounds (which had long been abandoned at that point), but lived in that area. The mounds are named for the Cahokia people, not the other way around.


The Kaskasia dominated what would become north-central Illinois from their main village across from Starved Rock near the present-day town which bears their name. That Grand Village was the perhaps the largest settlement in the Americas north of Mexico and is now am important archaeological site. The Kaskaskia, like the other nations of the Illiniwek Confederation, lost members and land to colonial aggression, disease, and warfare until the remnant joined the Peoria in the 1800s and were forcibly removed to Oklahoma with them.


The Michigamea lived in a single village near modern Prairie du Rocher when European colonists and missionaries arrived in what would be southern Illinois. The location of their village is now an important archaeological site. That village was destroyed by a coalition of Native enemies and the surviving Michigamea built a new village a few miles away. As with all the nations of the Illiniwek Confederation, the Michigamea were decimated by disease, warfare, and colonial aggression, eventually dwindling in number and joining the Peoria nation before they were forcibly removed to Oklahoma.


The Peoria, who gave their name to the Illinois city which stands on their traditional land, were pushed westward in stages as colonial aggression, disease, and warfare eroded their number. Over time, they joined with a number of other nations of the Illiniwek Confederation—including the Kaskaskia, Piankeshaw, Wea, Cahokia, Moingwena, Michigamea, Tamaroa, and Pepikokia—as the Confederated Peoria. There were 3,713 enrolled members of the Peoria nation in 2012. Their language, a dialect of Miami-Illinois, was nearly extinct before a 2022 effort to revitalize it.


An estimated 3,000 Tamaroa lived near the mouths of the Illinois and Missouri rivers at the time European settlers and missionaries arrived in the area circa 1680. The Tamaroa no longer exist as a distinct polity, having been decimated by the aggression of European settlers, disease, and warfare with the Chickasaw and Shawnee peoples. The surviving Tamaroa united with the Kaskaskia in 1703 and then the Peoria in the 1830s. With the Peoria, they were relocated to a reservation in present-day Ottawa County, Oklahoma, in 1889. At the time, the Peoria, including the descendants of the Tamaroa and Kaskaskia, numbered 157 individuals.


The Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo) are traditionally associated with a large area along the southern Wabash River near modern Terre Haute, Indiana, and were considered part of the Wabash Confederacy along with the neighboring Piankeshaw, Wea, Myaamia, and Mascouten nations. Like other Native peoples in what would become Illinois, they allied with the English in the United States' Revolutionary War in hopes to expelling white colonists from their lands. The combined effort failed and the Kiikaapoi were forced to cede the lands they controlled--over half of present Illinois--to the United States. The Kiikaapoi were first forcibly removed to Missouri, then to Kansas. Today there are about 3,000 enrolled members of the Kiikaapoi nation.


First encountered by Europeans in Wisconsin, the Myaamia (Miami) moved steady south and west, displacing other Native nations as they were pushed out by colonizers. By the mid-1800s, their numbers had dwindled due to disease, warfare, and colonial aggression. The remaining Myaamiaki were forcibly removed to first Kansas, then Oklahoma. As of 2011, there were about 4,000 enrolled members of the Myaamia nation.


Often called the Sauk or Sac, the Aakiiwaki were strongly associated with Saginaw Bay in what is now Michigan, their long-time homeland. Pressures from other Native nations and European colonizers pushed the Aakiiwaki and the closely related and allied Meskwaki into present-day Illinois, where they and other allies fought and eventually crushed the nations of the Illiniwek Confederacy and claimed their lands for themselves. Even so, they were forcibly removed to Oklahoma by 1869 where they shared a reservation with the Meskwaki. Today, there are about 4,000 enrolled members of the Sac and Fox Nation.


The Meskawi (Fox) have been historically located in the St. Lawrence River Valley along the Canadian border, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. In the 1700s, they allied with the related Aakiiwaki (Sac or Sauk) to fight European colonizers and other Native nations pushing them to the southwest. The Meskwaki and Aakiiwaki were forcibly removed to Kansas in 1845, but through legal action and re-purchases the Meskwaki have reclaimed over 8,000 acres in Iowa and their population has increased to more than 1,450 enrolled members.


The Ho-Chunk ranged across modern Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois, moving first south under pressure from other Native nations, then returning north as colonial aggression weakened those neighbors. Eventually, European colonists drove them south again, bringing the Ho-Chunk into direct conflict with the nations of the Illiniwek Confederacy. War erupted and the Ho-Chunk were nearly destroyed. Disease and continuing colonial aggression further lowered their numbers. The Ho-Chunk were forcibly removed—repeatedly—to Nebraska, but resisted by returning to their Wisconsin homeland so often the United State government was forced to concede and recognize the land acquired and occupied by the Ho-Chunk as an official sovereign reservation. A number of Ho-Chunk, the Winnebago of Nebraska, remained in Nebraska. In 1990, there were about 7,000 enrolled members of the Ho-Chunk nation.


The Kaw, sometimes called Kansa or Kanza, lived along the Missouri River in what is now northwestern Missouri and northeastern Kansas. The Kaw often came into conflict with neighbors in this fairly crowded region and were already weakened by warfare when European colonizers arrived. Disease and aggression from the colonists decimated the Kaw and they were forcibly removed to Oklahoma in 1873. There the Kaw dwindled to less than 200 people before a slow recovery brought them to the current population of about 4,000.


The ancestors of the Missouria (Niúachi) moved from north of the Great Lakes to settle near the mouths of the Grand and Missouri riivers in what would become the state which bears their name. In the colonial era, they were frequently attacked by the Aakiwaki and Meskwaki and suffered heavily from diseases brought by European colonists. By the time they were forcibly removed to Oklahoma, fewer than 100 survived and they joined with the related Otoe nation. Today, there are about 1,000 enrolled members of the Otoe-Missouria.

Quapaw / O-ga-xpa Ma-zhoⁿ / O-ga-xpa

The ancestors of the Quapaw, also known as the O-ga-xpa or O-ga-xpa Ma-zhoⁿ, came from the lower Ohio River valley along with the ancestors of the Omaha, Ponca, Osage, and Kaw, eventually settling in the area of the confluence of the Arkansas and Mississippi rivers by the mid-17th century. European missionaries and traders report four or five villages of Quapaw in the region housing about 5,000 people. Smallpox outbreaks quickly claimed the inhabitants of two of those villages shortly after colonization began in earnest. The remaining Quapaw were steadily pushed west by colonial aggression and eventually forcibly removed to northeastern Oklahoma in 1834. At that time, there were about 500 Quapaw remaining, including those of mixed Quapaw ancestry. Today, there are 3,240 enrolled members of the Quapaw.


When Europeans arrived in the central part of North America, the Ponca lived around the mouth of the Niobrara River in northern Nebraska, having moved there from the Ohio River valley in the late 1400s. More agrarian than their neighbors, the Ponca were especially hard-hit by disease. Their leadership was destroyed by hostile Lakota (part of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ) in 1824 and the remaining Ponca were forcibly removed to Oklahoma in 1876. In a famous civil rights case, Ponca chief Standing Bear won recognition that Native Americans are "persons within the meaning of the law" in the United States. This was the first such admission by the government of the United States and came in 1879. Today, there are well over 6,000 enrolled members of the Ponca nation.


The Omaha (Umoⁿhoⁿ) nation grew out of a larger group from the area of the Ohio and Wabash rivers, which also branched into the Ponca and Quapaw peoples. The Omaha moved west under pressure from European settlers and other Native nations, eventually settling near the Missouri River in what would be northwestern Iowa and Nebraska. They were early adopters of horse culture and formed an extensive network of semi-nomadic bison hunters and fur traders. Despite a reputation for never taking up arms against white colonizers and settlers, the Omaha were pushed out of their lands and their numbers decreased by disease and colonial aggression. They were confined to a reservation in Nebraska in about 1856. Beginning in the 1960s, the Omaha have fought a number of legal battles to regain additional land, with some success. Today, there are about 6,000 enrolled members of the Omaha nation.


The Osage (Ni Okašką or Wazhazhe) moved west from the Ohio River valley after pressure from eastern nations pushed out by European colonizers. They settled near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers and rapidly became one of the dominant forces in the region. This was no protection against disease and colonial aggression, however, and the nomadic, bison-hunting Osage were forced westward into Kansas and then removed to Oklahoma by the mid-1800s. For a short time in the early twentieth century, members of the Osage attained immense wealth by leasing the oil and mineral rights for their allotted land. A series of murders, frauds, and manipulations by unscrupulous businessmen brought an end to the riches. Today, there are nearly 50,000 enrolled members of the Osage nation.


The Onödowáʼga arrived in the lower Ohio River valley around the time of the United States' Revolutionary War, driven out of what would become western New York by aggression from European colonizers . The migration brought about 100 years of relative stability before the Onödowáʼga were forcibly removed to Oklahoma in the 1830s and assigned land already promised to and occupied by the Cherokee. Today, there are over 5,000 enrolled members of the Seneca-Cayuga Nation, the descendants of the Onödowáʼga removed from the Ohio River region. The Onödowáʼga language is considered critically endangered, but revitalization efforts are underway.

Očhéthi Šakówiŋ

Commonly called the Sioux, the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ controlled large portions of what is now Wisconsin, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Iowa, and Nebraska as European colonists pushed into their territory. The Očhéthi Šakówiŋ also expanded westward, using their adoption of horse culture to transition from a farming and gathering culture to one centered on the bison hunt. Even so, the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ were forced onto reservations and their people killed by European disease and aggression. Notably, the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ have fought long legal battles with the government of the United States over ownership of the tribe's traditional lands. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ over the Black Hills in South Dakota and Wyoming, saying the U.S. owed the tribe $100 million for the land. The Očhéthi Šakówiŋ have refused to accept the monetary settlement, demanding instead the return of the land. There were over 170,000 enrolled members of the Očhéthi Šakówiŋ tribes as of the 2010 census.

General Resources