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Kickapoo Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Kickapoos for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Kickapoo website for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Kickapoo images and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




    The Kickapoo Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Kickapoo"? What does it mean?
Kickapoo is pronounced "KICK-a-poo." It comes from a Shawnee word for "wanderer." In Mexico the tribal name is spelled Kikapu, which is the Spanish way of representing the same pronunciation. Sometimes it is also spelled Kikapoo.

Where do the Kickapoos live?
The Kickapoo Indians originally lived in the Michigan and Ohio area. They fled south and west to get away from British and American aggression, settling briefly in Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin. Eventually the Americans forced some Kickapoos onto Kansas and Oklahoma reservations. Others escaped, and their descendants now live in Texas and northern Mexico. Few Kickapoos still live in their original homeland. Here is a map showing Kickapoo and other Indian migrations.

How is the Kickapoo Indian nation organized?
There are four Kickapoo tribes today, located in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Mexico. In the United States, the Kickapoos live on reservations or trust land. An Indian reservation is land that belongs to the tribe and is under their control. Each Kickapoo reservation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. In Mexico, Kickapoo Indians live in two villages with no special status. The Mexican Kickapoos p reserve close relations with the American Kickapoo bands, but have their own tribal leadership.

What language do the Kickapoo Indians speak?
In Mexico and Oklahoma, many Kickapoos still speak their traditional Kickapoo language. In fact, the Kickapoo tribes need this language to communicate with each other, because most Mexican Kickapoos do not speak English. Very few Kickapoo Indians in Kansas or Texas still speak their native language, but some young people are working to learn it.

Kickapoo is a tone language, like Chinese. That means the pitch of a vowel can change a Kickapoo word's meaning. Because of this, Kickapoo can sound very musical when it is spoken. If you'd like to know some easy Kickapoo words, "ho" (pronounced like the English word "hoe") is a friendly greeting and "kepiihcihi" (pronounced keh-pee-chih-hih) means "thank you." You can see a Kickapoo picture glossary here.

What was Kickapoo culture like in the past? What is it like now?
None of the Kickapoo tribes has an online home page, but here is a link to the Kickapoo page on the Texas Indians website. They have information on the culture and history of the Texas Kickapoos, with two photographs.

How do Kickapoo Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Kickapoo children like to go hunting and fishing or camp outdoors. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have toys and games, and Kickapoo women made cornhusk dolls for their daughters. Like many Native Americans, Kickapoo mothers traditionally carried their babies in cradleboards on their backs. Here is a website with Indian cradle board pictures.

What were men and women's roles in the Kickapoo tribe?
Kickapoo Indian men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Kickapoo women were farmers and did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Kickapoo homes like?
The Kickapoos didn't live in tepees. They lived in small dome-shaped houses called wickiups. Here is a photograph of a Kickapoo wickiup and some more information about wickiups and other Indian brush shelters. Kickapoo Indians in Mexico still live in traditonal homes like these today, but most American Kickapoos live in modern houses and apartment buildings now.

What was Kickapoo clothing like? Did the Kickapoos wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Because the Kickapoo tribe moved so many times, their style of dress changed frequently. Originally, Kickapoo men wore breechcloth and leggings and Kickapoo women wore wraparound skirts. Shirts were not necessary in the Kickapoo culture, but both men and women did wear deerskin mantles in cool weather. The Kickapoos also wore moccasins on their feet and fur caps or a beaded head band on their heads. Sometimes Kickapoo warriors wore a porcupine roach instead. (These roaches are made of porcupine hair, not their sharp quills!)

Later, the Kickapoo Indians adapted clothing from other tribes they met during their travels, including feather headdresses, fringed deerskin dresses and shirts, bandoliers, and silver jewelry. Also, though the Kickapoos ignored many European-American customs, they did start using cloth for clothing, particularly calico blouses and tiered skirts. Those styles are still popular among Kickapoo women. Men dress even more traditionally, especially in Mexico. Some Mexican Kickapoo men still wear soft leather breechcloths and leggings. Here is a link to our page on Native American clothes in general, where you can find photos and more links about these traditional clothing styles.

What was Kickapoo transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Not usually. The Kickapoo Indians were farming people, and when they needed to travel, they usually walked overland. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe, but the Kickapoos adapted to the new animals quickly, and became known as excellent riders. Most of the Kickapoo tribe's long migrations were on horseback.

What was Kickapoo food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Kickapoo tribe's staple food was corn. Kickapoo women raised corn and baked cornbread called pugna. They also planted squash and beans. Kickapoo men hunted deer and small game, and sometimes went fishing in the river. Here is a website with more information about American Indian food traditions.

What were Kickapoo weapons and tools like in the past?
Kickapoo hunters and warriors used bows and arrows, spears, and clubs. Here is a website with pictures and information about Native weapons.

What are Kickapoo arts and crafts like?
Kickapoo artists were known for their Indian pottery, quillwork, and woodcarving. Like other eastern American Indians, the Kickapoos also crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads. Wampum beads were traded as a kind of currency, but they were more culturally important as an art material. The designs and pictures on wampum belts often told the story of an important incident or represented a person's family. After moving south, some of these traditional crafts disappeared in favor of arts like beadwork and silverwork.

What other Native Americans did the Kickapoo Indian tribe interact with?
Originally, the Kickapoos were allies of the Ojibway, Ottawa, and Sauk and Fox tribes. Together these tribes fought against the Illini and the British. After they were forced to leave their home land, the Kickapoo Indians traveled across the country, picking up customs from many different tribes along the way. The Kickapoos in Oklahoma have been especially good friends with the Potawatomi, and the Kickapoos in Texas were trading partners of the Comanches and wore some Comanche-style jewelry and clothing.

What kinds of stories do the Kickapoo Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional Kickapoo legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Kickapoo Indian culture. Here is a story about Wisaka, the Trickster.

What about Kickapoo religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Kickapoo traditions or this site about Native American religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
There's a nice photo-essay on the Kickapoo Indians called The Texas Kickapoo, Keepers of Tradition. You can learn a lot about the Kickapoo tribe from this beautiful book. If you want to know more about Kickapoo culture and history, two interesting sources are The Mexican Kickapoo Indians and Kickapoos: Lords of the Middle Border. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Indian books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013.

Thanks for your interest in the Kickapoo Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Kickapoos

Kickapoo Indian Tribe
An overview of the Kickapoo people, their language and history.

Kickapoo Indian Language
Kickapoo language lessons, articles, and indexed links.

Kickapoo Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Kickapoo tribe past and present.



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