Published on May 30, 2012 by Amy
Michigamea (Algonquian: ‘great water,’ from mlchi ‘great,’ ‘much,’ guma ‘water’. Baraga gives the correct form of ‘Michigan’ as Mishigamaw, ‘the big lake’, while Dr Win. Jones says that the Chippewa of the north shore of Lake Superior refer to Lake Michigan by the name Mishawǐgŭma, ‘big, wide, or expansive waste,’ on account of the few or no islands). A tribe of the Illinois confederacy, first visited by Marquette when he descended the Mississippi in 1673.
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Their village was situated at that time on the west side of the Mississippi and near a lake bearing the same name as the tribe, probably Big lake, between the St Francis and Mississippi rivers, Arkansas. This tribe was the most southerly of the confederacy, and its extreme southern situation has led some authors to the conclusion that the people were not Algonquian, but this is an evident error. It must have been shortly previous to the time that the first knowledge of the tribes of this general region was obtained that a group or division of the Illinois confederacy, including the Cahokia, Tamaroa, and possibly the Michigamea, pushed southward to escape the attacks of the Sioux and the Foxes. It is therefore probable that at this period the Michigamea moved on into south Illinois, and thence passed over into south east Missouri. The intimate relation of the ancient remains of these two sections would seem to confirm this opinion. About the end of the 17th century they were driven out by the Quapaw or Chickasaw, crossing over into Illinois and joining the Kaskaskia.
According to Chauvignerie their totem was the crane. He attributed to them 250 warriors, which is evidently an exaggeration, as he estimated the whole Illinois confederacy at only 508 warriors. It is probable that the Michigamea were only a remnant at the time they joined the Kaskaskia. They were never prominent in Indian affairs. In 1803 Gen. W. H. Harrison supposed that there was but one man of the tribe left alive, but as late as 1818 the names of 3 Michigamea appear as signers of a treaty with the Illinois.