Sample History Essay Paper on Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma


Kickapoo tribe first lived in southwestern Wisconsin in the mid-17th Century. The Europeans contacted the tribe in the woodland areas of Wisconsin and by 18th Century, this Indian tribe had already split into two communities; one living along Illinois’s Sangamon River while another settling at the eastern side of the Wabash River in Indiana. Each of the communities signed a treaty with the United States in 1819 in order to secede some of the Illinois lands (Kuhlmann 276). Most of these Kickapoo tribal members failed to adhere to the signed agreement, leading to the forceful eviction. They later moved to Kansas after signing another treaty. The Kansas settlement was a twelve square mile reserved for the community. However, after the Civil War, some of the railway promoters took the opportunity to swindle land from the Kickapoo tribe. Many of the Kickapoo tribal members migrated to Mexico because of the ancestral land frustration.

The political connections by the federal leaders led to the allotment of the tribal lands. Most of the members of the tribe were opposed to the allotment because they were used to the communal ownership of land. Allotment meant that the head of families had a specific allocation of land. Frustration arose from the tribal members because the remaining part of the land that was reserved, for the settlement of the members who came back from Mexico, was allotted for people. With time, many of the tribal members lost their allotments while others decided to live in their small reserved lands. Kickapoo tribe migrated to different areas, including Mexico when the Attorney general gave an authority to sell the allotted land. However, the tribal members came back to the US from the 1920s, settling in Oklahoma and Kansas. Today, more than 2,000 Kickapoo tribal members live in Oklahoma.


Culture and the related traditional rituals are the central formations of the Kickapoo tribe. More than eighty percent of the present tribesmen are fluent in their tribal language better than other (Gibson 120). They prefer to preserve their cultural ways of life to the modern American life. the Kickapoo moved from place to place because of wars and evictions. They had to adapt to each of the environment on which they settled. The communal lifestyle has enabled them to maintain their identity as a community. Through legislation like The Indian Removal Act of 1830 ensured that the tribe had to settle at the reservation lands in Oklahoma.

Kickapoo tribe was excellent farmers who grew corn, beans, and squash for food. They settled along the rivers because of the agricultural suitability. Traditionally, the tribe was also known to be hunters. They were the first people to be seen riding horses on buffalo hunting trips. Concerning the food, Kickapoo’s diet depends on what is available at the environment. They take advantage of the natural resources in order to feed themselves. Other types of food are fish, dear, squirrel, among others. Wild fruits and vegetables were some of the diet supplements for the tribe. Kickapoo tribe has patrilineal clans that help identify family relations. For instance, a person can identify their family lineage through the father. Therefore, the father determines the lineage of an individual. When children grow up, brothers and sisters of the mother have roles to play in the upbringing of children (Williams 404).

The fight toward preserving the traditional practices and culture was never easy. The tribe has been known by their stubbornness to the cultural assimilation from other tribes. Most of the eastern tribes gave up the fight to preserve their culture and practices; however, Kickapoo managed to avoid the acculturation for longer. They did not trust the Europeans but favored the French; however, they were rarely allowed into the tribal territory. Rather than surrendering to the white settlers, they opted to escape to Mexico. At present, the majority are back to the U.S. and living in different parts of the country like Oklahoma. Kickapoo fought with people who could influence them into abandoning their traditional ways of life. They used bows and arrows to fight their enemies. They also used clubs, hatchet axes, and knives. The coming of white settlers helped them access rifles for use during the fights (Wetzel 290).

Means of transport was a major traditional component of the tribe’s survival. In the early years, they settled along the water bodies. For that reason, the tribe preferred to use birch bark canoes in the rivers for transportation. The reason for the raw material was the lightness of the weight. A man could easily carry a birch bark canoe on his back while walking. On the same note, their clothing depended on the environmental climate. They put on breechcloths during the summer while they wore fringed tunics and leggings during the cold seasons. Women wore wraparound skirts and other warm clothes that could protect them from cold or heavy rains. The above was the traditional types of clothing (Healy 73). However, Kickapoo embraced the white settler clothes from the trading activities between them.  

The members who came back to the country did not convert to Christianity and other religions, although a few did. The Drum religion is the traditional religion for the majority of Kickapoo tribe. Others also attend Native American Church and the Kanakuk. They are the most traditional tribe in the U.S. and the majority can speak their native language better than other languages.  

Ceremonies and Beliefs

Ceremonies have helped the tribe maintain their traditional ways of life. According to their beliefs, the onset of the thunderstorms and lightning during the month of February marks the beginning of festivities for the community. Therefore, February marks the beginning of their year. During the ceremonies and rituals, the whole community must participate to enhance integration. Special ceremonial foods are cooked during this period and the community shares them with joy.

Music and Art

As noted above, Kickapoo works towards maintaining some of the traditional practices. The tribal members participated in all traditional music and art activities. Their traditional lifestyle made the produce some of the best artworks. For instance, baskets, mats, and ladles are some of the renowned artwork from the traditional Kickapoo tribe (Kuhlmann 277).

Contemporary Issues Affecting the tribe

Lifestyle has changed, affecting the traditional setting of the tribe. The modern ways of life and the related demands have affected the natural setting of the Kickapoo tribe. As much as it is one of the strongest Native American tribe, environmental changes have made it difficult for tribal members to sustain their lives through their traditional means. Therefore, a few get education to participate in the conventional labor industry. The majority are not educated, meaning that they cannot get formal employment. They resort to working in the agricultural farms of the whites. The balance between maintaining their cultural identity versus keeping up with the modern demands is a challenge to their tribe. 

Works Cited

Gibson, Arrell. The Kickapoos: Lords of the Middle Border. Norman [Okla.]: University of

Oklahoma Press, 2006.

Healy, Donald. Kickapoo of Oklahoma, A Journal of Vexillology, 3, (1996); 72-73.

Kuhlmann, Annette. Collaborative Research among the Kickapoo Tribe of Oklahoma, Human

Organization, 51(3), (2015); 274-283.

Wetzel, Christopher. Intra-tribal Contention Concerning Indian Gaming, American Behavioral

Scientist, 50(3), (2006); 283-295.

Williams, David. A People’s History of the Civil War Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom,

New York: The New Press, 2012.