Kickapoos, a tribe of the great Algonquin family, first found by the French missionaries toward the close of the 17th century on the Wisconsin, not far from the Maskoutens, a kindred tribe, who seem to have ultimately merged in the Kickapoos. They probably lived previously on the Mississippi, above the Wisconsin. They were closely allied to the Miamis, but roved in bands over a large territory. Though professing friendship to the French, they killed a Franciscan, Father Gabriel de la Ribourde, who was attached to La Salle's party. They took part in the general peace of 1700, but in 1712 joined the Foxes to attack Detroit, and were their allies in the long series of hostilities that ensued. By 1718 they were chiefly on the Rock river, Illinois. In 1728 they captured the Jesuit Father Guignas, and held him captive for several months. Peace was finally restored about 1747, when the Kickapoos are said to have been reduced to 80 warriors; but they were still hostile to the Illinois. When the English conquered Canada, in 1763, they found 180 Kickapoos on the Wabash. The tribe joined Pontiac, and in 1765 attacked Croghan on the Ohio, killing and wounding several of his men; but they made peace at Detroit in October. They were soon hostile again to the English, and in 1779 readily supported Col. Clark in his operations against the English. They soon, however, partook of the general hostile feeling against the new government, besides warring on the Chickasaws. In June, 1791, Gen. Scott carried the Kickapoo town on the Wabash, and in August Wilkinson burned another of their villages.
Peace was nominally made in 1792, but they did not really yield till the treaty of Greenville, Aug. 3,1795, after Wayne's great victory. They then ceded part of the land they claimed for $500 a year in useful goods; and they made further cessions in 1802,1803, and 1809. Though warned by Gov. Harrison, they joined Tecumseh, and fought at Tippecanoe in 1811. After that they sought to treat, but Harrison declined. The war with England gave them hopes, and the Kickapoos with others attacked Fort Harrison, where Zachary Taylor defeated them. In October, 1812, Russell surprised a Kickapoo town on the Illinois, killing many; and in November Hopkins destroyed another town on Wildcat creek. They then sued for peace, and Little Otter met Harrison. The treaties of Portage des Sioux (Sept. 2, 1815), Fort Harrison (June 4, 1816), and Edwardsville (July 30, 1819), ceded a large part of the lands which they claimed by descent from their ancestors, by conquest from the Illinois, and by 60 years' possession. Many of the tribe had already gone beyond the Mississippi, and the United States agreed to pay them $2,000 a year for 15 years, and assigned them a large tract on the Osage. In 1822, 1,800 had removed, only 400 remaining in Illinois. About 1830 Kennekuk, or the prophet, a leading chief, set himself up as a teacher, preached with eloquence, and taught the people to pray morning and evening, the form being symbolically cut on maple sticks.
Provision was made for schools by the treaty of Castor Hill, Oct. 24, 1832; but the labors of the Jesuits, followed by the Methodists, Presbyterians, and Friends, failed to convert the tribe or establish education among them. Some few settled down to cultivate; more rambled off to hunt on the grounds of southern tribes, entering even Texas and other Mexican states. This band was very troublesome, plundering on all sides. They were sent out of the Chickasaw country in 1841, but were allowed on the Creek territory for a time. They made constant inroads into Texas, killing and horse stealing. In 1854 they killed an Indian agent of the United States. In 1838 the agency band numbered 725; the next year only 419. In 1845 this band had increased to 516, and they were then in a thriving condition, raising enough vegetables and grain to support themselves, and supply Fort Leavenworth. In 1854 they were removed to a reservation in Atchison co., Kansas, part of their large tract being ceded for $300,000. Soon after the tribe lost greatly by smallpox, Kennekuk the prophet being one of the victims. Though unaffected by the civil war, they steadily declined in numbers, and in 1863 there were only 343 on the reservation, the southern or wild band appearing only when the annuities were to be paid.
At this time the Atchison and Pike's Peak railroad obtained the right to purchase their lands at $1 25 an acre, and steps were taken to give individual members of the tribe separate lands, and make them citizens. Great discontent arose, and Nokohwart led 100 to Santa Rosa, Mexico, where a large number of Kickapoos had settled and were protected by the Mexicans. In 1865, under a new treaty, 30 families took lands in severalty, 160 acres being allotted to each head of a family; 79 families, forming the Prairie band, preferred to have lands in common. The sale of the remaining lands gave a fund of which the United States was to pay $10,000 in 1873 and a similar amount yearly till the whole is accounted for. The tribe has also $5,000 a year for schools. The roving part has given much trouble to the more civilized and to government. They have gathered mainly at Santa Rosa and its vicinity, and, as they defend the Mexicans against the Apaches, and bring in considerable by their raids, are encouraged in their roving habits. In 1871 Miles, the agent of the Kickapoos, went to Mexico to endeavor to induce the whole body there to return to the United States and settle on a reservation.
The Mexican government thwarted his plans, and at once spent $10,000, long previously appropriated, for agricultural implements and other valuable articles for the Kickapoos. The depredations of these Indians across the frontier led to a dash into Mexico by Gen. Mackenzie, in which the Indians were severely punished. These Mexican Kickapoos numbered fully 1,000; but in 1873 300 or 400 returned, and were placed in the Indian territory, west of Arkansas river. In 1873 the Kickapoos on the reservation in N. E. Kansas numbered 274. There were 46 children in their school, and a boarding school was in progress. These Indians have ceased to be or consider themselves warriors. Their annual produce was valued at $12,000, and their stock was worth about $18,000.