The Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas were originally an offshoot of the Shawnee tribe (“Kickapoo” is thought to be a corruption of a Shawnee word for “wanderers,”) but their language and customs have more in common with the neighboring Fox and Sauk.
Official Tribal Name: Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas
Address: 303 Aim St, Eagle Pass, TX 78852
Phone: (830) 773-3720
Official Website: www.ktttribe.org
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
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Formerly known as the Texas Band of Traditional Kickapoo
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The Kickapoos were originalyl residents of what is now Wisconsin and the upper Michigan peninsula, but they fled further and further south to escape from European and American aggression. Fiercely resistant to European cultures, the Kickapoo tribe never assimilated, preferring to continue relocating further southward from their original Michigan-Illinois homeland. Some were captured and forced onto Kansas and Oklahoma reservations. Others escaped, and their descendants now live in Illinois, Texas, and northern Mexico.
The Kickapoo participated in several treaties, including the Treaty of Vincennes, the Treaty of Grouseland, and the Treaty of Fort Wayne. They sold most of their lands to the United States and moved north to settle among the Wea.
Reservation: Kickapoo Reservation (TX)
The Kickapoo were forced to move many times by the government. Eventually, some of them settled in Oklahoma on a reservation. Others obtained land from the President of Mexico and lived there. After many years of hardship from droughts hurting their crops and poor hunting, the Mexican Kickapoo were forced to work as migrant workers in the United States.
They finally applied for US citizenship and were federally recognized as the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas in 1983. The Kickapoo were given land just south of Eagle Pass, Texas. The Kickapoo still spend a lot of time on their traditional land in Mexico. It is in Mexico that they are able to maintain their traditional way of life. They perform all their important ceremonies there and their houses are set up according to tribal custom.
Kickapoo Indian Reservation of Texas
Land Area: 0.4799 square kilometres (118.6 acres)
Tribal Headquarters: Rosita South, Texas, just south of the city of Eagle Pass on the Rio Grande on the US-Mexico border, in western Maverick County.
Reservation Population: 420 as of 2000
Time Zone: Central
There are undetermined numbers of other Kickapoo in Maverick County, Texas, who constitute the “South Texas Subgroup of the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma.” That band owns 917.79 acres (3.7142 km2) of non-reservation land in Maverick County, primarily to the north of Eagle Pass. It has an office in that city.
Population at Contact:
Original numbers of the Kickapoo have been placed at around 4,000. In 1684 French traders estimated that there were about 2,000 Kickapoos.
Registered Population Today:
Today, about 3,000 Kickapoo people live in three groups in the US (Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas) and one in Mexico (Coahuila).
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
Charter: The Texas Indian Commission officially recognized the tribe in 1977. They finally applied for US citizenship and were federally recognized as the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas in 1983.
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Kickapoo is an Algonquian language closely related to Mesquakie-Sauk (some linguists even consider it a dialect of Mesquakie-Sauk). Unlike Mesquakie-Sauk, however, Kickapoo is a tone language–the pitch of a vowel can change the meaning of a Kickapoo word. Kickapoo is closely related to the language of the Sauk and Fox. They were classified with the Central Algonquians, and were also related to the Illiniwek.
In the past, Kickapoo Indians also used a unique linguistic code called “whistle speech” to convey simple utterances, but today it is a lost art in the US. It is still used to some extent by the Kickapoos in Mexico.
Number of fluent Speakers:
Kickapoo is spoken in three distinct language areas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and northern Mexico, by a combined 800 people. There are no known fluent Kickapoo speakers in Texas.
The language is most vigorous in Mexico, where some children are still learning it at home; in the United States Kickapoo is in strong danger of dying out, though revitalization efforts are ongoing.
Bands, Gens, and Clans
Today there are two other federally recognized Kickapoo tribes in the United States: Kickapoo Tribe of Indians of the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas, and the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma and Texas bands are politically associated with each other. Another band resides in the area of Múzquiz, in the Mexican state of Coahuila.
Shawnee – The Kickapoo were one of Tecumseh’s closest allies. Many Kickapoo warriors participated in Tecumseh’s War in 1811, the Battle of Tippecanoe and the subsequent War of 1812.
Wea – The Kickapoo joined the Wea people after they sold the bulk of their lands to the United States.
During the 1650s the Kickapoo were invaded by tribes who had moved into the Great Lakes Region in search of beaver to trade with the French. The most fearsome of these was the Iroquois nation. Their attack forced the Kickapoo to leave their traditional homeland and travel west to the Mississippi River in south western Wisconsin.
Here, however, they were to encounter the even more fearsome Dakota. Tribal fighting erupted along the Mississippi. The Kickapoo also discovered, to their dismay, that their crops would not grow nearly as well in this new place. Hunting was to take precedence as their main source of sustenance. But before long the area was hunted out. The resulting lack of food, coupled with the introduction of European diseases, made this an unhappy time for the Kickapoo.
Despite this misery the Kickapoo had not yet met the white man. Their first encounter with Europeans didn’t happen until 1665 when they were first encountered by French trappers. The Frenchmen found the Kickapoo to be aloof and wary of the strange newcomers. Neither were they interested in the white man’s religion.
One French trader, however, was able to gain the confidence of the Kickapoo. His name was Nicolas Perrot. Perrot was allowed to establish a trading post on the Mississippi, not far from the Kickapoo village. Mainly due to this friendship the Kickapoo joined an intertribal alliance with the French against the Iroquois League of Nations in 1687. This war was to be fought out over the next 14 years, to end in the defeat of the Iroquois.
The alliance with the French was soon broken when the Europeans tried to stop their native allies from attacking their traditional enemies who were also French trading partners. This resulted in the First Fox War, in which the Kickapoo played a prominent part. After three years of bitter fighting the Kickapoo finally agreed to peace terms.
During the mid 1750’s the Kickapoo left the Wisconsin area and headed south to the prairies of Illinois and Indiana. Here they had better buffalo hunting as well as easier access to British traders. The Kickapoo,however, were still extremely wary of all contact with the whites and would generally only trade with them through the intermediary of their neighboring tribes.
During this time the Kickapoo separated into two separate bands. The Prairie Band lived in Northern Illinois and were allied with the Sauk and Fox. To the south the Vermillion band were friendly with the Illinois. The Prairie Band, however, were hostile to the Illinois.
During the American Revolution the Kickapoo tried to remain neutral. By the mid 1870’s, however, they were engaging on an increasing number of raids against the Americans. The Kickapoo were prominent in Little Turtle’s War, which began in 1790. After the capture of many of their women and children in 1792, however, they withdrew from the tribal alliance.
In 1795 they signed the Treaty of Fort Greenville, by which they ceded all of their territory in Ohio. Further treaties in the early 1800s moved the Kickapoo west of the Mississippi, to the territory of Missouri. But they were not moved easily. Lacking cohesion and with no strong leadership, individual groups rebelled, only to feel the force of the American Government.
It took until 1834 for the Army to move all of the Kickapoo to their new home in Missouri. But problems with white squatters arose in Missouri. The Kickapoo were moved on to Kansas, and in the 1880s were allotted some territory in Oklahoma. This is where the majority of Kickapoo live today.
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Art & Crafts:
Kickapoo artists are known for their pottery, quillwork, and woodcarving.
Kickapoos and other eastern American Indians also occasionally crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads to use as regalia, currency, and commemoration of important events. Like European tapestries or Celtic tartans, the designs and pictures on wampum often told a story or represented family affiliations.
Elaborately carved wooden war clubs were used in battle.
Deerskin was used for clothing until the arrival of the white man. Later, calico materials became popular.
The Kickapoos lived in dome-shaped buildings called wickiups, which were usually covered with birch bark when they lived in the north, and woven cattail mats after they moved to Texas. Even today, the Kickapoos in Mexico live in wickiups, but most American Kickapoos live in modern houses and apartment buildings now, just like you.
The Kickapoo were semi-sedentary farmers. The Kickapoo staple food was corn. Women planted and harvested corn as well as squash, beans, potatoes, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. They primarily ground and baked the corn into a bread similar to cornbread, which they called pugna.
Kickapoo men hunted deer, bear and small game and the women also gathered roots, nuts, and berries. However, unlike the Plains tribes, most of their food sources were located in the forests near their homes and they did not have to travel far to gather their supplemental foods.
The wickiups were built by, and owned by the women, along with all household goods and food stored inside them.
Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
Famous Kickapoo Chiefs and Leaders:
Kennekuk – A non-violent spiritual leader who led the Kickapoo to their current tribal lands in Kansas.
In the News: