Kickapoo Indian Reservation

Published on December 29, 2012 by Amy

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Kickapoo Indian Reservation
Kickapoo Indian Reservation

The Kickapoo (Kickapoo: Kiikaapoa or Kiikaapoi) are an Algonquian-speaking Native American tribe. According to the Anishinaabeg, the name “Kickapoo” (Giiwigaabaw in the Anishinaabe language and its Kickapoo cognate Kiwikapawa) means “Stands here and there”. It may have referred to the tribe’s migratory patterns. The name can also mean “wanderer”. This interpretation is contested and generally believed to be a folk etymology.

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Today there are three federally recognized Kickapoo tribes in the United States: Kickapoo Tribe of Indians of the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas, the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, and the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas. The former two groups are politically associated with the Texas band. Others live in small groups throughout the western United States. Around 3,000 people claim to be tribal members. There is also a small community in Douglas, Arizona. Another band resides in area of Múzquiz, in the Mexican state of Coahuila.


The earliest European contact with the Kickapoo tribe occurred during the La Salle Expeditions into the Illinois Country in the late 17th century, as the French set up remote fur trading posts throughout the region, including on Wabash River. The Kickapoo at that time inhabited a large territory along the Wabash in the area of modern Terre Haute, Indiana. They were confederated with the larger Wabash Confederacy, that included the Piankeshaw to their south, the Wea to their north, and the powerful Miami Tribe, to their east. A subgroup occupied the Upper Iowa River region in northeast Iowa and the Root River region in southeast Minnesota in the late 1600s and early 1700s; this group was probably known by the clan name “Mahouea”, derived from the Illinoian word for wolf, m’hwea.

As white settlers moved into the region beginning in the early 19th century, 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. Rising tensions between the regional tribes and the United States led to Tecumseh’s War in 1811. The Kickapoo were one of Tecumseh’s closest allies. Many Kickapoo warriors participated in the Battle of Tippecanoe and the subsequent War of 1812. A prominent, nonviolent spiritual leader among the Kickapoo was Kennekuk, who led his followers to their current tribal lands in Kansas, where he died in 1852.

The close of the war led to a change of Indian policy in the Indiana Territory, and later the state of Indiana. American leaders began to advocate the removal of the tribes to land west of the Mississippi River. The Kickapoo were among the first tribes to leave Indiana. They accepted land in Kansas and an annual subsidy in exchange for leaving the state.


Kickapoo speak an Algonquian language closely related to that of the Sauk and Fox. They were classified with the Central Algonquians, and were also related to the Illiniwek.

As of 2001, the Kickapoo Nation’s School in Horton, Kansas had been teaching the Kickapoo language in grades K-6 for 15 years. In 2010, the Head Start Program at the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas (KTTT) reservation, which teaches the Kickapoo language, became “the first Native American school to earn Texas School Ready! (TSR) Project certification.” Also in 2010, Mexico’s “National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) participates in the elaboration of a Kickapoo alphabet that may be used by more than 700 members of the group that dwells Mexico and the United States, in the area of Coahuila and Texas. There is no Kickapoo alphabet in Mexico; although there is a syllabic writing system it has no element ordination, organization or classification method.” The Kickapoo in Mexico are known for their whistled speech.

The Kickapoo language and members of the Kickapoo tribe were featured in the movie The Only Good Indian, a fictionalized story of Native American children forced to attend a boarding school.

Texts, recordings, and a vocabulary of the language are available.

Kickapoo tribes and communities

There are three federally recognized Kickapoo communities in the United States: one in Kansas, one in Texas, and the third in Oklahoma.

Kickapoo Indian Reservation of Kansas

The Kickapoo Indian Reservation is located at 39°40′51″N 95°36′41″W in the northeastern part of the state in parts of three counties, Brown, Jackson, and Atchison. It has a land area of 612.203 square kilometres (236.373 sq mi) and a resident population of 4,419 as of the 2000 census. The largest community on the reservation is the city of Horton. The other communities are:

  • Muscotah
  • Netawaka
  • Powhattan
  • Whiting
  • Willis
  • Kickapoo Indian Reservation of Texas

    The Kickapoo Indian Reservation of Texas is located at 28°36′37″N 100°26′19″W on the Rio Grande River on the U.S.-Mexico border in western Maverick County, just south of the city of Eagle Pass, as part of the community of Rosita South. It has a land area of 0.4799 square kilometres (118.6 acres) and a 2000 census population of 420 persons. The Texas Indian Commission officially recognized the tribe in 1977.

    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.

    Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma

    After being expelled from the Republic of Texas, many Kickapoo moved south to Mexico, but the population of two villages settled in Indian Territory. One village settled within the Chickasaw Nation and the other within the Muscogee Creek Nation. These Kickapoo were granted their own reservation in 1883.

    The reservation was short-lived, because in 1893 their communal tribal lands were broken up and assigned to separate households in allotments under the Dawes Act. The tribe’s government was dismantled by the Curtis Act of 1898, which encouraged assimilation by Native Americans. Tribal members struggled under these conditions.

    In 1936, the tribe reorganized as the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act.

    Today the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma is headquartered in McLoud, Oklahoma. Their tribal jurisdictional area is in Oklahoma, Pottawatomie, and Lincoln Counties. They have 2,719 enrolled tribal members.

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