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Full text of "The Kaskaskia Indians: A Tentative Hypothesis"

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Plate 1. Location of Indian Tribes in 1623. 



THE KASKASKIA INDIANS. 



A Tentative Hypothesis. 
Dr. J. F. Snyder. 

In absence of any prior record, the written history of 
Illinois commences in June, 1673; no white man, so far as 
is known, having before then seen, or set foot upon, its soil. 
When at that date, Marquette and Joliet set out upon 
their exploration of the Mississippi river, all tribes of the 
Algonkin Indians known to them were unaccountably 
huddled together in the cold, bleak latitude of central and 
northern Wisconsin (Plate 1). The Potawatomis occupied 
the narrow peninsula separating Green Bay from Lake 
Michigan. Just south of them were the Winnebagos. On 
the south side of Lake Winnebago and of Fox river, were 
the Kickapoos, Mascoutins and Miamis, and on the north 
side were located the Sacs, Menomines, Outagamis or Foxes, 
and Ojibwas. A remnant of the once powerful Hurons, with 
the Ottawas, were between Lakes Huron and Superior, the 
Sioux to the west of Lake Superior, and the Knisteneaus 
north of it. For the spiritual welfare of those Indians, the 
Mission of St. Francois Xavier was established on Green 
Bay in 1670, by Fathers AUouez and Dabblon.^ From 
that point, on the tenth day of June, 1673, in two birch 
bark canoes, with five Canadian canoemen, Marquette 
and Joliet started on their long and hazardous voyage. 
Proceeding up Fox river, they made the portage of their 
canoes and equipments, a distance of 2,700 paces, to the 
Wisconsin river, and floating down to its mouth glided into 
the Mississippi on June 17. 

After parting with their two Miami guides at the portage, 
not another Indian did they see until they had descended 
the great river to '^latitude 40 degrees and some minutes.*' 

1 Jesuit Relations, 1671.— 43. 

*' 231 



232 

There, on June 25th, having occasion to land on the west 
bank, they perceived "footprints of men by the waterside, 
and a beaten path entering a beautiftil prairie/' Leaving 
the canoes in charge of their men, the two explorers cau- 
tiously followed the path inland six miles, where they 
came upon an Indian village on the bank of a river (prob- 
ably the Des Moines), which proved to be an encampment 
of the Peorias on their annual hunt. On the bluffs, half a 
league farther, were two other villages, of the Moingwena, 
evidently an allied tribe. Making their presence known 
by loud calls, the Peorias deputed four of their old men to 
advance and meet them. Two of these carrying highly 
ornamented calumets, in solemn silence * lifted their pipes 
toward the sun, as if offering them to him to smoke.*' 

These were not the first white men those Indians had 
seen. They had repeatedly been to the Mission and 
trading post on Green Bay, and by the '*Black Gown," or 
priest (Father Marquette), they recognized their visitors 
as Frenchmen probably from that Mission. And the 
Frenchmen, noticing the Indians were partly clothed with 
European fabrics,^ judged them to be friendly allies. Mar- 
quette spoke first, asking them who they were. They 
answered, **We are Illinois," and presented their calumet 
in token of friendship. 

This part of Marquette's narrative is provokingly brief 
and unsatisfactory. He was a well educated Frenchman, 
but a fanatical Jesuit wholly devoted to the conversion of 
savages to the Catholic faith. He had not penetrated the 
inhospitable wilds of America to study the ethnology or 
etymology of its indigenous tribes, but solely to effect 
the salvation of their souls. His companion, Louis Joliet 
(spelled JoUyet by Marquette), a native of Quebec, was 
not a priest but a merchant and educated business man of 
that city. As commander of the expedition, his object 
was not ecclesiastical. He was sent by the Comte de 
Frontenac, Governor of Canada, for the discovery and 
acquisition of new territory for the King of France. What 

1 " Couvertz d^estoffe." Marquette's Narrative, Sec. IV. 



233 

fuller or more exact information he may have given the 
world will never be known, as all his papers were unfor- 
tunately lost, when returning, by the capsizing of his canoe 
in the St. Lawrence river almost in sight of Montreal. 

Marquette had been associated with the Algonquin 
Indians of the Lake region long enough to learn their lan- 
guage. Of the Indians he met on the Des Moines he says: 
''They are divided into several villages (tribes), some of 
which are quite distant from that of which I speak, and 
which is called Peouarea (Peoria). This produces a 
diversity in their language which in general has a great 
affinity to the Algonquin, so that we easily understood one 
another.'* And upon that linguistic affinity — and no 
other evidence whatever — the Illinois Indians are asserted 
by all ethnologists to have been of the Algonkin stock. 
As Marquette and the Peorias * 'easily understood one 
another,*' their answer to his question, "who are you?" 
must surely have been more comprehensive than the brief; 
"we are Illinois,'* that he reports.^ The context of his 
narrative proves that it was. They told him, further, that 
they were Peorias, one of several allied tribes. He no- 
where in his narrative intimates that he tmderstood the 
term "Illinois" to be a tribal designation. Confirmatory of 
this he says (Sec. vi), "To say Illinois, is in their language, 
to say 'the men,* as if other Indians compared to them 
were beasts. And it must be admitted that they have an 
air of humanity that we had not remarked in other nations 
that we had seen on the way.'* The true significance of 
their answer therefore was, "We are stalwart men, of a 
race superior to the other Indians arotmd us." 

Invited to their village, the Frenchmen were there 
treated with the utmost hospitality and friendship. They 
were received at the door of the first wigwam by an old 
man standing erect with upturned face, and arms out- 
stretched to the sun in adoration, who thus addressed 

*"Je leur parlay done le premier et je leur demanday, qui ils estoient, 
ils me responcfirent qu'ils estoient Illinois." Marquette's Narrative, Sec. IV. 



234 

them: **How beautiful is the sun, Oh, Frenchmen, when 
thou comest to visit us! All our town awaits thee, and 
thou shall enter all our cabins in peace!*' 

There was at no time a distinct tribe of Indians named 
Illinois.^ But that name assumed as a title of distinction, 
by a league of several confederated tribes dwelling in the 
unknown country south of Wisconsin, had often been 
heard by the French; and some of those Indians had visited 
the Mission at La Pointe, on Lake Superior, as early as 
1668.2 When then the stately Peorias answered, **We are 
Illinois,'* the name, signifying superior excellence, seems to 
have so fascinated the Frenchmen that they at once ap- 
plied it to all the region between the Wabash and Missouri 
rivers, and collectively to all the Indians within that terri- 
tory; also to Lake Michigan, and to the stream coursing 
from that lake southwest to the Mississippi, still known as 
the Illinois river. 

Returning in September from their farthest point 
south, near the mouth of the Arkansas, the explorers on 
reaching the Illinois river ascended that stream, having 
been told by the Peorias that it was the shortest and best 
route to Green Bay. From the Des Moines river down to 
the lower Chickasaw bluffs, and from there back to the 
upper Illinois river, the voyagers saw no Indians at all. 
Arriving where the city of Peoria now stands, they there 
found the Peoria tribe they had met on the Des Moines, 
recently returned to their own country from their hunt in 
the Des Moines valley. Continuing their course up stream, 
they soon came to the village of the Cas-cas-quia^ — written 

*La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West. By Francis Parkman, 
Boston, 1879, pp. 156-207. 

*See Marquette's letter to Father Francis Le Mercier, written from the 
La Pointe Mission. Quoted in Shea's "Life of Father Marquette." P. 
zlviii et seq. 

•In 1760 the Delaware Indians had a village on Big Beaver River, in Law- 
rence Cotmty, Pennsylvania, named Kuskuskies, sometimes written Cascaski, 
Coscosky, and Kishkuska. The word Kaskaskies means probably "at the 
falls." In this case the Falls of the Big Beaver were meant. — The Wilderness 
Trail. By Chas. A. Hanna, N. Y., 191 1. Vol. 1, p. 343. 



235 

Kaskaskia by Marquette — situated at, or near, the present 
site of Utica in La Salle county. 

Within the newly-discovered territory between the Wa- 
bash and Missouri rivers roamed seven or eight tribes, 
designated by the French as the Illinois Indians, that were 
loosely banded together in a nominal confederacy for mu- 
tual protection. Another bond uniting them was probably 
their common southern origin and ancestral kinship. 
The Peorias were situated on the expansion of the Illinois 
river, still known as Peoria Lake. The Cahokias and 
Tamaroas had their villages below the mouth of the Illi- 
nois river. The Moingwena, and one or two other allied 
tribes, ranged on Rock river and the Des Moines, and 
moving farther to the westward of the Mississippi became 
segregated from the others, and finally disappeared there. 
The Michigamies, the latest to arrive from the south,^ were 
located near the southern extremity of Lake Michigan. 
It has been claimed that that lake, known before to the 
French as Lake Illinois, gained its present name from that 
tribe of Indians; but it is more probable that the name 
Michigan was derived from the Algonkin word Mishiga- 
maWy meaning *' great water.'* 

The village of the Kaskaskias, when Marquette arrived 
in 1673, comprised but 74 lodges. When he returned in 
1674, it contained over a hundred. AUouez, the next 
missionary following Marquette, in 1677, found there 351 
lodges; and when La Salle visited it in 1680, there were over 
400, each lodge constructed to domicile from two to four 
families. The aggregate strength of the Illinois confeder- 
acy — of which the Kaskaskias were the dominant tribe — 
when discovered by the Jesuits, is not certainly known. 
Their several villages were reported to Marquette, before 
he saw any of them, to contain *'more than eight or nine 

i"We have now descended to near 33 degrees north, having always gone 
south, when on the water's edge we perceived a village called Michigamea .... 
and heard from afar the Indians exciting one another to the combat by con- 
tinuous yells They were a warlike tribe living on a lake of the same 

name near the river," — the St. Francis river in Arkansas. Marquette's 
Journal, Section vii. 



236 

thousand souls/* doubtless an exaggeration.^ But Father 
Zenobius Membre, writing in his Narrative of La Salle, 
says: ''He arrived on the Uth of March (1680) at the 
great Illinois village, where I then was, being composed of 
seven or eight thousand souls." 

The Jesuit missionaries who earliest came in contact 
with the Illinois Indians all agree in having observed that 
they possessed marked characteristics and traits distin- 
guishing them from the other nomadic denizens of the north 
west. Marquette says, in Sec. VI of his narrative: 'The 
Illinois live by game, which is very abundant in this 
country, and on Indian corn, of which they always gather 
a good crop, so that they never suffer with famine. They 
also sow beans and melons, which are excellent, especially 
those with a red seed. Their squashes are not of the best ; 
they dry them in the sun, to eat in winter and spring." 
Further, he states that *'the Illinois adored the sun and 
thunder, but are well enough disposed to receive Chris- 
tianity. They sow maize which they have in great plenty ; 
they have pumpkins as large as those of France, and plenty 
of roots and fruits. The chase is very abundant in wild 
cattle (buffalo), bears, stags, turkeys, ducks, bustard 
(prairie chickens), wild pigeons and cranes. They leave 
their towns at certain times every year to go to the hunting 
grounds together, so as to be better able to resist if at- 
tacked They are warriors; they make many 

slaves whom they sell to the Ottawas for guns, powder, 
kettles, axes and knives. They were formerly at war with 
the Nadouessi (Sioux), but made peace some years since." 

In a letter written by Father Marest, Nov. 9th, 1712, 
to Father Germon, he says: **The Illinois are much less bar- 
barous than the other Indians The Poutea- 

utamies and the Illinois live in terms of friendship, and 
visit each other from time to time. Their manners, how- 
ever, are very different; those (the Potawatomis) are 

^Marguette's letter to Father Francis Le Merder, written from the La- 
pointe mission in 1670. 



237 

brutal and gross, while these (the Illinois), on the contrary, 
are mild and affable/'^ 

The various accounts of the Illinois Indians, by Mar- 
quette, AUouez, Membre, Hennepin, Douay, Joutel, Tonty, 
Rasle and Marest, are remarkably alike. They all agree in 
describing them as ''tall of stature, strong and robust, 
and good archers," more intelligent, and less fierce and 
brutal than the Algonkins, but yet morally debased. Apart 
from their apparently reminiscent veneration of the sun, 
they entertained no ideas of religion higher than the Totem 
and Manitou cult in common with all American Indians. 
They were not mound builders when discovered by the 
French. * 'Their custom," says Father Sebastian Rasles, 
*4s not to bury their dead, but they wrap them in skins and 
attach them by the head and feet to the tops of trees. "^ 

Their insolent boasts of superiority drew upon the 
Illinois Indians the enmity of many surrounding tribes; 
And this, with their predatory excursions, sometimes to 
great distances, involved them in almost continual warfare 
that seriously depleted the number of their warriors. 
AUouez says: "At times they travel as much as 400 leagues 
in the dead of winter to attack their enemies and carry off 
slaves." "We were still at Fort Frontenac," says Father 
Membre, "the year before the Sieur de La Salle learned that 
his enemies had, to baffle his designs, excited the Iroquois 
to resume their former hostilities against the Illinois, which 
had been relinquished several years." The culmination 
of that savage feud came in September, 1680, w^hen the 
Illinois were overwhelmed by a large force of Iroquois 

* Discovery and Exploration ^ etc. By John Gilmary Shea, p. 25. 

^ Kip's Early Jesuit Missions, Vol. 1, p. Z^. 

If the Indian mounds of the United States are anywhere mentioned in the 
seventy-three volumes of Jesuit Relations it has escaped my notice. That 
they are not there mentioned must be accepted as proof that the Indians had 
ceased the custom of mound-building before the first Jesuit missionaries com- 
menced their labors among them, in 1610. But though the Indians at that 
time may have lost all knowledge of the origin and purposes of the mounds, 
it seems strange that their evident artificial structure — particularly those 
of such abnormal forms as were seen in Wisconsin and Illinois — should not 
have attracted the attention and interest of intelligent and educated scholars 
as some of those priests certainly were. — ^J. F. S. 



238 

(from northern New York) and a band of Miamis, well 
equipped with fire arms. The Illinois were routed, with 
fearful loss, from their Kaskaskia village near Starved 
Rock, and pursued beyond the Mississippi. The victor- 
ious Iroquois returned in triumph to their own country, and 
the haughty Illinois, now broken in spirit and shattered in 
strength, never recovered from that disastrous defeat. 

For some years longer they bravely held their ground, 
but too weak to successfully resist the aggressive encroach- 
ments of the northern Algonkins, they finally concluded 
to abandon the splendid domain over which they had so 
long held absolute sway, and return to the south from 
whence they originally came. The Cahokias, Tamaroas, 
with most of the Michigamies, were the first to leave. 
In the spring of 1698, accompanied by their missionary, 
Father Jacques Pinet, they launched their fleet of canoes 
upon the current of the Illinois river, and floated with it 
down past the village of the Peorias, and on into the 
Mississippi. Reluctant, however, to part forever with 
their beloved old hunting ground, they halted on the east 
bank of the great river, nine leagues below the mouth 
of the Missouri, and the cluster of wigwams they there put 
up was the beginning of historic old Cahokia which has 
survived the vicissitudes of the two past centuries. The 
Kaskaskias remained about their old town near Starved 
Rock until the summer of 1700, when they resolved to go 
back to their people on the lower Mississippi from whom 
they had long been separated. On their way they called 
on their allies, the Cahokias and Tamaroas, whom they 
found pleasantly and peacefully situated at Cahokia, and 
well contented with their new home. This, with the in- 
fluence of Father Gravier, their spiritual guide, induced 
them to stop 15 leagues farther down, and there found a 
new Kaskaskia on a small river (which still bears that 
name) a few miles above its junction with the Mississippi.^ 

The Peorias, with a few Michigamies, a pitiful remnant 

^Handbook of American Indians. Bureau of American Ethnology. 
Washington, 1907. Vol. 1, p. 662. 




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239 

of the once powerful and domineering Illinois confederacy, 
were all then remaining in their old realm. And they were 
beset on all sides by their enemies, who had poured in from 
the north and taken possession of the vacated territory. 
The Foxes, Sauks, and Winnebagos had appropriated the 
Rock river region. Between them and the Kankakee were 
the Potawatomis. The Miamis and Mascoutins were on 
the upper branches of the Wabash; the Kickapoos in the 
prairies flanking the Sangamon, and the Shawnees ranged 
from the lower Wabash to the Cumberland. For several 
years comparative peace was maintained in that heterogen- 
eous roving horde by the genius of the great Ottawa chief, 
Pontiac. But when, in 1766, he was assassinated at Ca- 
hokia by a Cahokia Indian, the vengeance of the Algon- 
kins could no longer be restrained, and they determined 
upon the extermination of the few Illinois still in their 
midst. The cowering Peorias were set upon by the 
Potawatomis and their allies, and driven from one shelter 
to another until in desperation they took refuge on the 
summit of the great isolated rock on the left bank of the 
Illinois river, since known as Starved Rock. There they 
were closely besieged on all sides by their vigilant foes until 
reduced to the last extremity by starvation. 

'*The time came when the unfortunate remnant could 
hold out no longer. They awaited but a favorable oppor- 
tunity to attempt their escape. This was at last afforded 
by a dark and stormy night, when, led by their few remain- 
ing warriors, they stole, in profound silence, down the steep 
and narrow declivity, to be met by a solid wall of the ene- 
mies surrounding the point where alone a sortie could be 
made, and which had been confidently expected. The 
horrid scene that ensued can be better imagined than 
described. No quarter was asked or given. For a time, 
the bowlings of the tempest were drowned by the yells of 
the combatants and shrieks of the victims.**^ AH the 
Peorias perished there but eleven of the stoutest warriors, 

^ The Last of the Illinois. By John Dean Caton, LL. D., Chicago. Fer- 
gus Printing Co., 1876, p. 14. 



240 

who broke through the besiegers* lines, and, seizing canoes 
they knew were moored at the river bank, swiftly paddled 
down stream. They were hotly pursued by the blood-thirsty 
demons, but reaching St. Louis first were there protected 
and fed. Resting there a few days they re-entered their 
canoes, and without halting at either Cahokia or Kaskas- 
kia, continued their flight down to the St. Francis river in 
Arkansas.^ 

The confederacy, known collectively as the Kaskaskias 
or Illinois, were undoubtedly regarded by the Algonkins, 
Iroquois, and other northern Indians as an alien intrusive 
people; and were fought successively by all until their ex- 
pulsion was finally accomplished. They were apparently 
of southern lineage, but to what stock of Aborigines they 
actually belonged is by no means clear. About the first 
day of May, 1541, DeSoto and his cavaliers, the first Euro- 
pean discoverers of the Mississippi, caught their first glimpse 
of that great river on their arrival at the lower Chickasaw 
bluffs. Following up the river bank until they found an 
open prairie bottom, they halted there twenty days to 
build boats for crossing the stream. **0n the opposite 
bank a great multitude of Indians were assembled, well 
armed, and with a fleet of canoes to defend the passage. 
The morning after he (DeSoto) had encamped, some of the 
natives visited him. Advancing without speaking a word, 
and turning their faces to the east, they made a profound 
genuflection to the sun, then facing the west, they made 
the same obeisance to the moon, and concluded with a simi- 
lar, but less humble reverence to De Soto.^ Having crossed 
the Mississippi, the Spaniards resumed their march north- 
ward, * through a wilderness of morasses,' and on the fifth 

^This, however, was not, as Judge Caton intimates, "the last of the Illi- 
nois'* in the present limits of this State. In 1832 there were still a number of 
Kaskaskias, Cahokias, Tamaroas, and Michigamis, in some of the southern 
counties. By a treaty made with them at Castor Hill, Mo., on Oct. 27, 1832, 
they ceded to the U. S. all their lands east of the Mississippi, and most of 
them then left to join those who before had gone to Indian territory. Gov. 
Koeraer says (in his Memoirs ^ Vol. 1, p. 394), there was near Kaskaskia a 
small village of ICaskaskia Indians when he first visited that place in 1835. 

'Anonjrmous Narrative of the Portuguese Gentleman of Elvas. 




I 












i i 



241 

day, *from the summit of a high ridge (Crowley's Ridge), 
they descried a large village containing about 400 dwellings. 
It was seated on the banks of a river (the St. Francis) the 
borders of which, as far as the eye could reach, were covered 
with luxuriant fields of maize, interspersed with groves of 
fruit trees.* That town *bore the name of Casquin, or 
Casqui, as did the whole province and its Casique.' '' Here 
the author appends this explanatory footnote: *' Supposed 
to be the same as the Kaskaskia Indians who at that time, 
peopled a province southwest of Missioiui.*' De Soto 
*4n two days came to the chief town, where the Cacique re- 
sided. It was seated on the same side of the river about 
seven leagues above, and in a very fertile and populous 
country. Here they were all received by the Cacique, 
who made him a present of mantles, skins, and fish; and 
invited De Soto to lodge in his habitation. It stood on a 
high artificial hill on one side of the village, and consisted 
of twelve or thirteen large houses for the accommodation 
of his numerous family and attendants.*'^ 

On a war footing this barbarian chief had '*three thous- 
and Indians laden with supplies, and with the baggage of 
the army, who were all armed with bows and arrows. 
But beside these, he had five thousand of his choicest 
warriors, well armed, fiercely painted and decorated with 
war plumes.'* The **high artificial hill" on which the 
Cacique resided is still there, a pyramidal earthen mound 
with projecting terrace, of the type represented in Plates 
2, 3 and 5. The accounts given by the De Soto historians, 
of the Casqui, or Kaskaskia, Indians, and of the opulence 
and grandeur of their province on the St. Francis river 371 
years ago, requires but little aid of the imagination for 
vividly reproducing the scenes of Indian life — perhaps 
that of their ancestors — when in full occupancy of the 
mounds they erected here in the American Bottom. In 
the mind's eye can be discerned the houses of the Cacique, 
and his retinue of attendants, oh the great Cahokia mound, 
and the vast level plain below, **a very fertile and populous 

I Conquest of Florida, By Theodore Irving, M. A., New York, 1851, p. 316. 



242 

country, as far as the eye could reach, covered with luxur- 
iant fields of maize, interspersed with groves of fruit trees. ''^ 
When De Soto again took up his line of march north- 
ward, he was accompanied by the Chief of the Casquias 
with his army of 8,000 warriors. Not, however, merely 
as a guard of honor, but, with the added prestige of the 
Spaniards, to attack the Capahas, a powerful tribe farther 
up on the Mississippi, with whom he had long been at war. 
The Capahas, known later as the Quapaws, were of the 
Siouxan family of aborigines, as their language indicated, 
having come to that locality from the north, in the remote 
past. According to their ancestral tradition, **they de- 
scended the Mississippi in one body to the entrance of a 
large and muddy river (the Missouri), and there divided, 
one party continuing down the Mississippi, and the other 
going up the muddy river. The descending band were 
checked in their progress by the Kaskaskias (of the Amer- 
ican Bottom), whose opposition they at length subdued. 
In their further descent, they were harassed by the Chicka- 
saws and Choctaws, and waged war with them for some 
considerable time, but at length overcoming all opposition, 
they settled there, and since remained, where De Soto 
saw them.'*2 

As a rule, Indian traditions are unreliable, and utterly 
valueless as elements of history, excepting when supported 
by corroborative evidence. There are no positively known 
facts to sustain that tradition of the Quapaws beyond the 
remarkable similarity of their language to that of the 
Sioux; but certain inferences from known facts impart to it 
a high degree of plausibility. At the time of De Soto's 
arrival there, the Casquias seemed aiBBliated with, or were 
a part of, a large tribe, or nation, of Indians inhabiting the 
the country between the St. Francis and Arkansas rivers — 
possibly the progenitors of the Akamsea of Marquette. 
Their remains in eastern Arkansas present undoubted evi- 

* Persimmons, Plums, and Crabapples. 

^Nuttall's Journal of Travels, Thwaite's reprints, 1905. Vol. XIII. 
p. 122. 




i 

< % 

gco 



o ^ 



243 

dence of an ancient state of aboriginal society there far 
above the best social conditions of the pre-Columbian 
tribes of the northern and northeastern lake region. They 
had attained a degree of culture represented by the finest 
expressions of prehistoric art. They were mound-builders 
of the most advanced order. Their domiciliary mounds 
with projecting terraces (Plates 2, 3, and 5) display a type 
of architecture peculiarly their own, and erected by no 
others. They were sun worshipers, maintaining on their 
temple mounds perpetual fires. In the ceramic art they 
had reached the highest perfection of the stone age. A 
pottery vase taken from an Indian grave by C. W. Riggs a 
few years ago in or near a large mound on the St. Francis 
river has modeled on one side a human face, **so marked 
and well executed that one is astonished at its life-like 
appearance.'*^ 

**The vessels of pottery made by the natives of Arkan- 
sas in 1541,'* says the Gentleman of Elvas, the Portuguese 
historian of the De Soto expedition, **equaled the standard 
ware of Spain; little differing from that of Estremoz or 
Montemor.'*2 Very creditable images both carved in 
stone and modeled with clay, found there, attest their 
progress in art; and their implements and ornaments of 
stone, shell, bone and copper were not excelled by those of 
any of their contemporaries north of the Gulf of Mexico. 

The wonderful similarity of prehistoric antiquities found 
in the American Bottom, in Illinois, to those recovered 
from eastern Arkansas, is of important significance in this 
connection. The pottery ware, stone implements, carved 
pipes, stone and terra cotta images, and other artefacts, 
unmistakably of the mound-building era, in both regions 
are identical in design, material and motive. The few 
human crania and other skeletal remains of the same era, 
exhumed from among the mounds on Cahokia creek, 
correspond surprisingly in form, measurement, and physi- 
cal development, with those from the ancient Arkansas 

1 Genl. Thruston's Antiquities of Tennessee. 2nd edition, p. 95. 

2 Buckingham Smith's translation of the De Soto narrative, p. 165. 



244 

cemeteries. Added to these facts the great Cahokia mound 
— the most stately example of the truncated earthen pyra- 
mid in our country — with its broad elevated terrace pro- 
jecting to the south; and Emerald mound, near Lebanon 
and its unfinished terrace looking towards the American 
Bottom, counterparts in peculiar configuration of those 
on, and south of, the St. Francis river, the conclusion is 
irresistible that the same people were the authors of all 
those works. This data, with more specific testimony that 
cannot here be stated for want of space, establishes on a sub- 
stantial basis the theory that the Sun worshipers who left 
us the heritage of their art remains, and vestiges of their 
culture, in the American Bottom, were a colony of the 
Casquias and their congeners, who, in the dim past, came 
up from the south and founded here a new empire, which 
in time they abandoned, and returned from whence they 
came. 

One hundred and thirty-two years after De Soto dis- 
covered, and crossed, the Mississippi at Chickasaw Bluffs, 
Marquette arrived there in his birch bark canoe. In that 
interval of time, great changes had occurred among the 
aboriginal population of that country. The Capahas — 
or Quapaws of modern times — had overrun and extermina- 
ted the Casquias, and driven out their adjacent kinsmen on 
the south, the advanced mound-building race, and sup- 
planted them in possession of their fertile territory. A 
remnant of that then decadent people, known to Mar- 
quette as the Akamsea, still held a foothold near the mouth 
of the Arkansas river; but soon thereafter, as ** Arkansas" 
Indians, they sought refuge higher up that stream into the 
interior and disappeared. Du Pratz, writing in 1758, says: 
**The nation of the Arkansas have given their name to the 
river on which they are situated about four leagues from its 

confluence with the Mississippi They have 

been joined by the Kappas (Casquis?), the Michigamies, 
and a part of the Illinois, who have settled among them. 
Accordingly there is no longer any mention either of the 




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245 

Kappas, or Michigamies, who are now all adopted by the 
Arkansas.'*^ 

When Marquette, in 1673, asked the Peoria Indians on 
the Des Moines river who they were, and they proudly 
answered, **We are Illinois,'* meaning * 'manly men of a 
race superior to surrounding natives," they spoke with 
traditional knowledge of their true lineage, the pronoun 
**we*' including their confederacy of sub-tribes having its 
central village, or capital, called Casqtiia, or Kaskaskia, 
on the Illinois river. The limited accounts we have of 
their history, ethnic condition, and tribal characteristics, 
sustain their declaration; at any rate, so far as relieving 
them of the obloquy of Algonkin derivation. There is now 
but little doubt of their southern origin. And there are 
many reasons to believe that — as did the lost tribes of 
Israel — they wandered away, before the exodus of their 
people from the American Bottom; or, later seceded from 
them when back on the St. Francis river, and returned to 
the prairies of northern Illinois, enticed there by the pro- 
fusion of buffaloes, and abundance of other game. In- 
fluenced there by their new environments, they had, in the 
lapse of time, lost the custom of mound-building, as well as 
some of the more refined arts of their race; but still retained 
a glimmering memory of their ancient sun worship, and 
their pristine knowledge of agriculture, perpetuating the 
com and other field products they brought with them from 
the south. 

All this is not claimed to be positively proved in this 
paper; but is offered as a reasonable tentative hypothesis 
to be verified, or refuted, by further research. 

^History of Louisiana. By M. Page Du Pratz. New Edition, London, 
1774, pp. 318-319.