The Kickapoo Tribe is a group of Native Americans who first inhabited northwest Ohio and southern Michigan. Specific origins of the Kickapoo are unknown, but oral traditions of both the Shawnee Indians and the Kickapoo reveal that they were once the same tribe. A separation occurred after an argument about a bear paw. The name Kickapoo is derived from the Shawnee word for “wanderer.”
After fighting with the Iroquois in the late 1600s, the Kickapoo Tribe was forced to the present day area of southern Wisconsin and further spread to northern Illinois in the early 1700s. They continued to flee south and west in response to aggressive settlement by the Europeans. In the late 1800s, the Kickapoo Tribe arrived where they currently reside in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma and Chihuahua, Mexico.
The Kickapoo primarily lived in wickiups, or bark and brush-covered dwellings. Kickapoo women were responsible for farming, cooking and taking care of the children, while men hunted. As many other Algonquin tribes, the Kickapoo tribe was organized into patrilineal clans. Each clan was given the name of an animal.
The Kickapoo Indians frequently migrated before and after their encounters with European settlers. They were adept at growing corn, squash and beans in addition to being buffalo hunters and gatherers. Once the Kickapoo obtained horses from European settlers, they became skilled riders. In addition to using the horses to migrate and fight, they employed them to hunt buffalo on the plains.
Frequent migration led to much diversity in the culture and dress of the Kickapoo Tribe. Resistant to Christianity and almost everything introduced by European settlers, the Kickapoo traded significantly with other tribes during their migrations. At one time men wore loin cloths and women wore wrap skirts, but later altered their dress with clothing from other tribes such as headdresses, silver jewelry, calico blouses and tiered skirts.
Unlike many Native American tribes, the Kickapoo were extremely unfriendly and distrustful of Europeans who settled America. However, the tribe eventually became allies with the French during the 1700s. During the American Revolution, the Kickapoo Indians remained neutral for a great deal of time. In an effort to keep American land, they eventually sided with the British.
During the War of 1812 between America and the British, the Kickapoo Tribe also sided with Britain. They joined forces with famous Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumsah to oppose American expansion to the west. Tecumsah and his supporters were badly defeated at the Battle of Tippecanoe in November of 1811.