Kickapoo History

The Story

Originally the Kickapoo villages were semi-permanent encampments typically near agricultural areas and always associated with large tracts of agricultural lands. The Kickapoo tribes were believed to occupy these surrounding lands from the 1700s to 1832.  After crops were planted, a few residents, usually elderly, remained to care for them while most of the population set out on communal hunts. In winter, the village residents broke into smaller band units and established temporary hunting camps. The semi-permanent villages were commonly used for dancing and games. The Grand Village of the Kickapoo is located just to the north of our village in Le Roy, Illinois. The Grand Village represents a tribe of Native Americans that once spread over a million acres of land here in Illinois. The park was created in 1998 and is now being restored to include a summer house, a long house, traditional gardens, a Spirit Fire, an educational center, a veteran memorial, and the dance circle. Various educational programs are run at the park and an annual powwow is held the first weekend in June. The park is privately owned but always open to the public. This is just one of many sites throughout Illinois that holds a deep history of the Kickapoo Indians and is listed as a archeological site on the National Historic Register.

The word “Kickapoo” translates into several different meanings, one of which is “semi-permanent homes at agricultural lands”.  So, with the documented history of the Grand Villages of the Kickapoo in and around Bethalto and the surrounding areas we felt that Kickapoo Village was an appropriate name for the community and a good place to call home.

This photograph of a traditional bark-and-pole Kickapoo house dates to Milo Custer’s 1906 visit to the Kickapoo in Brown County, Kansas. Those at the Grand Village of the Kickapoo in McLean County nearly a century earlier would’ve looked much the same. It is believed that the first white people of McLean County were more than likely being held as prisoners of the Kickapoo Tribe.

By 1809, more settlers, many of them Dutch and German farmers, arrived in the area which was commonly referred to as Rattan’s Prairie. An abundance of Native Americans were also found living in the area, so numerous at one time along Indian Creek that there were Kickapoo villages. The creek was named after the Indians and many tribal relics have been found in that vicinity.  Bethalto’s prosperity has always been achieved through the actions and interactions of its people, who embrace volunteerism and cooperation and strive to bring about a better quality of life for all residents. We here at Kickapoo Village believe in exactly that and we will continue to work diligently to help provide a better quality of life to our residents at Kickapoo Village.