Early history examines the archaeological record that tells the story of the first inhabitants of Illinois. Learn about the prehistory and culture of the first early inhabitants, and what lessons it might teach us about the early history of Illinois.
The names of the Illinois tribes included the Illinois tribe (Illini), Iroquois, Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Kaskaskia, Miami, Shawnee, Sauk and Fox tribes.
Indians hunted in Illinois as far back as 5000 BC and today you can still view the remains of their civilization at places such as Chahokia Mounds - North America's largest and most valuable prehistoric earthwork relic. The earliest inhabitants of Illinois were the prehistoric Mound Builders. Dickson Mounds Indian Museum near Lewiston features special exhibits which chronicle the Indian's valuable place in Illinois history.
These groups of Native Americans left behind more than 10,000 temple and burial mounds throughout the state. Monk's Mound, near present-day Cahokia,
is the largest prehistoric earthen structure in the United States.
Before white men entered the region, it was occupied by a group of six united tribes known as the Illiniwek or Illini, a native word meaning "superior men."The Illinois confederacy of Algonquian tribes who inhabited parts of Wisconsin, consisted of a group of six united tribes called the Illinois, Iowa and Missouri, Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michigamea, Moingwena, Peoria, and Tamaroa. They were all part of the Algonquian family. The word 'Illini' meant "superior men." The enemies of the Illinois Confederacy were the Illinois were almost constantly harassed by the Sioux, Fox, and other northern tribes.
Some of the other tribes that played a part in the state's early history were the Chippewa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Winnebago, Kickapoo, and Shawnee. In 1680, the Iroquois entered the region to attack the Illinois tribes. Many were killed in the conflict. By 1800 few Natives remained.