Tribes of the Region at First Contact (1673)

At the very end of prehistory at the time of discovery by Marquette and  Jolliet, St. Louis area  was occupied predominantly by Indians of the Illini Confederacy, although the Missouri and Osage tribes hunted here and probably had an earlier claim to the vicinity. The Illini originated along Lake Michigan and migrated southwest perhaps in the hundred years before European contact.

Map showing early locations of local tribes of the present State of Missouri and Illinois. Map taken from "The Indian Tribes of North America", Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145 by John R. Swanton; United States Printing Office, Washington DC; 1953.





Illini Confederacy (Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michigamea, Moingwena, Tamaroa)

At the time the first French explorers (1673, Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet) visited the area, tribes of the Illini Confederacy occupied the St. Louis area. This loosely organized Confederacy included the following tribes: Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Michigamea, Moingwena, Peoria and Tamaroa. They spoke a common language and were all related by blood. They referred to their nation as "Iliniwek", which means essentially, "Man". Their language is classified by anthropologist as belonging to the Algonquian group which includes other tribal nations (Chippewa, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Miami, ect.). Although all these Algonquian languages were related, they generally were not intelligible to one another (exception: The Miami of Ohio were very closely related to the Illini and their language was close enough to be understood by one other). Unfortunately because American Indians had no writing, very little is known of Illini settlements before the arrival of Europeans. At the time of first contact by the French, they were already in possession of some French trade goods (received from tribes like the Ottawa in trade).

[Picture at left: Kee-mo-ra-ni-a "No English", a Peoria by Catlin]

The Illini were continually fighting off raids by various tribes that lived hundreds of miles away. For example, the Iroquois were one of the worst enemies of the Illini. The Iroquois lived hundreds a miles away in Pennsylvania or New York State. The Iroquois were getting pressured out of their traditional hunting grounds by the European settlements. So the Iroquois hunters began going as far as Illinois to hunt fur bearing creatures like the beaver. But this was Illini territory and the Illini would kill Iroquois hunters when they found them.
To retaliate on the Illini for killing their hunters, the Iroquois began sending war parties on raids in the mid 1600's. These raids were very effective in terrorizing the Illini villages. Unlike the Illini, Iroquois warriors were well equipped with muskets. Since the Illini only had a few muskets, they relied more on the traditional bow and arrow. Although they were very good archers, the Iroquois armed with shields and muskets combined with their very warlike nature, often defeated the Illini in battle.
Once the Illini controlled much of the coastline of Lake Michigan but due to continual attacks by the Iroquois, the Illini had to abandon their lands on the Great Lakes. But the relocation to the Mississippi valley did not prevent Iroquois attacks.  The only safe location from the Iroquois was west of the Mississippi. Many but not all the Illini relocated to Iowa or Missouri, especially during the winter months when the Iroquois were more likely to strike. This was safer but it did expose them to Sioux or Osage war parties. Father Marquette on June 25, 1673 found a Peoria village of 8,000 people, west of the Mississippi in present day Iowa. The Sioux were not happy with the Illini for occupying what they considered part of their winter hunting ground.
On April 11, 1680 Father Louis Hennepin while paddling up the Mississippi, north of its mouth with the Illinois River, encountered a thirty-three canoe war party of  Sioux warriors looking for the Tamaroa and Miami. At this time the main Tamaroa village was located about 15 miles up the Illinois River from its mouth on the Mississippi. It is not known if this Sioux war party ever found them. Soon a temporary peace was made with the Sioux which gave them some security from the West. But those Illini living in west of the Mississippi yearned to reclaim their part of the Illinois heartland. 
The cost in reclaiming their Illinois hunting grounds was going to be horrendous. The Illini killed over 40 Iroquois hunters over the years. The Iroquois were intent on getting revenge and exterminating the Illini from the land they wished to hunt. This was warfare in its most savage form. No bloodless "counting coup" as sometimes depicted in history class, but merciless slaughter  even so far as torture of captives: men, women, and children.  
The Illini were not necessarily idle innocents in these wars with other tribes. They made numerous raids themselves, even as far away Lake Huron against the Iroquois. They also made counter-raids whenever they were attacked. Most of this warfare was based on getting revenge for some wrong done to them.
In the Spring of 1680, the French under La Salle built Ft. Crevecoeur in central Illinois near a  Peoria village located on Lake Peoria. Henri de Tonti was put in charge of the small garrison. [Tonti was a highly capable French officer who was noted for having a iron-hand (as a prosthesis). He lost his hand in battle with the Spanish while serving in the French Navy. ] Ft. Crevecoeur suffering from shortages and desertion was soon abandoned. LaSalle ordered Tonti to relocate on the rocky promontory of Starved Rock, overlooking the Illinois River. At this time (Sept., 1680) Tonti only had five men (two were priests) and no construction had begun at this location.
On September 18, 1680, the Iroquois made their approach on the Illini at their village near Starved Rock, Illinois. Their war party consisted of 500-600 Iroquois and 100 Shawnee warriors. Most if not all of these were armed with flintlock muskets. The "grand Kaskaskia village" at Starved Rock had approximately 500 warriors but only 100 had muskets and the rest bows and arrows. Another 500 warriors from the village were away on a hunt.
    Henri de Tonti attempted to negotiate, but it was reported that he was stabbed and nearly killed. Another source says Tonti was able to suspend hostilities for one day. In either case, all the Illini warriors could do was to cover the retreat so their women and children could flee down the Illinois river, eventually making it to near its mouth on the Mississippi (just above present day St. Louis, Mo.)  After slaughtering many Illini warriors, the Iroquois burned the village, the crops of corn and even desecrated the burial grounds. Then the Iroquois pursued the Illini to the mouth of the Illinois river where the non-combatants had fled. Here tribes of the Illini congregated for mutual defense. The Iroquois cleverly waited for the Illini tribes to disperse. It is reported that the Peoria tribe crossed over into Missouri. The Kaskaskia and Cahokia went up the Mississippi. The Moingwena went downstream on the Mississippi. But the Tamaroa stayed in the area. It was on the Tamaroa that the Iroquois attacked without mercy. 700 women and children were captured. About 350 of these were slow roasted at the stake, while another 350 were taken as slaves. In all, approximately 1,200 Illini were killed or taken captive. The Iroquois casualties were very light perhaps as few as 30 warriors killed but no reliable estimate is known.
At the abandoned Ft. Crevecoeur, the French found burnt heads and bodies of Illini stuck on skewers (The remains of captives roasted alive by the Iroquois.)
 Months later in Feb. 1681, a war party of 100 Kaskaskia warriors attempted to intercept these Iroquois on their return back home. This was in the Wabash valley, of Ohio. They made several valiant attacks, the Iroquois sustaining heavy causalities, but each time they were beaten off. 
The Iroquois** were not the only enemies of the Illini. Besides the Iroquois, the Illini were often at war with the Sioux, Sauk, Fox (Renard), Missouri, Osage, Shawnees, and the Chickasaws. For instance in 1698, the Cahokia tribe (residing at present day Cahokia, Illinois) were attacked by Chickasaws and Shawnees that lived as far South away as Kentucky. At times of need, like during the Iroquois conflict and against the Renards (Fox), the Illini were allied with the Osage, Missouri and Ottawa tribes. In the 1690's the Osage and Missouris regularly traded with the Illini.  In 1712 the Illini formed an alliance with the Osage in fighting their common enemy, the Fox. These alliances with neighboring tribes could and would often shift from year to year. (**As late as 1714-1715, the Illini at Kaskaskia were subjected to Iroquois raids.)
The French were determined to build a strong alliance of tribes to counter the attacks by the Iroquois. In Dec., 1682 they  began building a fort at the summit of Starved Rock (near the former location of the "Grand Kaskaskia village" that was destroyed in 1681). They named this fort, Fort St. Louis des Illinois [not to be confused with the village of St. Louis on the Mississippi, founded by Pierre Laclede in 1764 OR a later fort (Ft. St. Louis, II) constructed at 1691] LaSalle was even successful in getting 200 lodges of Shawnee to not only make peace with the Illini, but to reside at the environs of Ft. St. Louis. The closely related Miami tribe accepted the invitation as well. The new "La Salle Confederacy" consisted of 3,880 warriors (about 20,000 people altogether counting men, women, and children). The break out of warriors of the various groups were: 1,200 Illini; 200 Shawnee; 1,300 Miami (on the Vermilion River) ; 500  Wea (a subtribe of the Miami); 150 Piankaswaw (another subtribe of Miami); and 530 warriors of the Pepikokia, Kilatica, and Ouabona tribes (probably subtribes of the Miami). The success of forming this new Confederacy of tribes not only goes to LaSalle but also to Henri de Tonti who personally traveled to each of these groups and convinced each of them the common need for protection.
On March 30, 1684, the Iroquois attacked Ft. St. Louis des Illinois after completely surrounding it. The siege lasted for a week but the Iroquois were unable to penetrate its defenses.
April 27, 1687, Tonti leads a combined Illini, Shawnee, French forces (Tonti's western contingent consisted of 423 Indian warriors, and 376 French) journey to Niagara Falls to take part in a grand 2,132 man French attack on the Iroquois. The campaign which burned two Seneca villages had mixed results. Tonti forces fought exceptionally well and lost only eight men.
From 1685 to 1689 the "La Salle Confederacy" gradually disintegrates as the tribes move away from Starved Rock.
1691 At Peoria, Fort St. Louis, II is built not far from the former Ft. Creveceour. By 1693 both the Kaskaskia and Peoria tribes are living in villages at Lake Peoria.
Father Gabriel Marest, a French Jesuit Priest who mastered the Algonquin dialect of the Illini, in 1700 organized a combined Indian-European settlement at the mouth of the River Des Peres in what is now St. Louis, Missouri. This included Illini from the Kaskaskia and Tamaroa tribes. The settlement included cabins, a chapel, a crude fort and native structures. Because of fear of an attack by the Sioux, traditional enemies of the Illini, the Indians of the Des Peres settlement in 1703 moved to the east side of the Mississippi near the mouth of the Kaskaskia River.
In August of 1766, Capt. Henry Gordon recorded there was a village of 200 warriors belonging to the Peoria tribe situated two miles below Laclede's newly founded village of St. Louis. It is known that a Peoria village abandoned its village near St. Louis in the Spring of 1777 after being attacked by a Sauk war party.  These Peorias relocated to Cahokia, Illinois.

At the time the French first encountered the Illini, their numbers were estimated at 3,800-4,000 warriors and were regarded as the "masters of the Mississippi". By 1787 there was only about 50 Illini surviving in Illinois. In 1794, around 100 Peorias were living ten miles south of Ste. Genevieve at a place known as Bois Brule. This group had perhaps 40 warriors. Even at this late date, they were still being continually attacked by Chickasaws from the South. As late as 1803, a number of  Peoria lived inside Ste. Genevieve, Missouri which provided some protection from raids.

The U.S. Government on Aug 13, 1803 convinced a handful of Illini to sign away their tribal land in Illinois in exchange for two smaller tracts of land on reservations (also in Illinois). The Kaskaskia were given 350 acres of land where their old village stood near the town of Kaskaskia. In addition to this tract, they were allowed to select up to 1,280 acres of anywhere within Illinois for another reservation. They selected a 640 acres in the Sand Ridge township of Jackson Co., Illinois. On October 27, 1832 the remaining Illini signed another treaty giving away their Sand Ridge township reservation. The 350 acre track near Kaskaskia was deeded over to Ellen Ducoign, a daughter of a Kaskaskia chief. [Image at left: Kee-mon-saw, "Little Chief", a Kaskaskia, by Catlin]
On Sept. 25, 1818, the Peoria tribe signed away their lands in Illinois in exchange for a 640 acre reservation on the Blackwater River in Missouri Territory. This is where the Peorias have been living since the 1790's.
In the course of time most surviving Illini moved to a reservation in Kansas. In 1865, they numbered only 220 persons. The Peorias were given a reservation in northeastern Oklahoma. In the 1950's the Peorias numbered 466.




A Missouri warrior, by Karl Bodmer.

The Missouris belong to the Chiwere Sioux group of tribes. They called themselves the "Niutachi". The name "Missouri" was a name the Illini gave them, meaning, "the people with dugout canoes". In this group are three other tribes: the Iowa; the Oto; and the Winnebago. They were originally one tribe that eventually separated as the tribe migrated West. Their early prehistoric homeland probably was in northern Ohio, along the Great Lakes. The Winnebago was the first to have separated and the other three separated after crossing the Mississippi River in late prehistoric times. They all speak an understandable dialect of the same language. 

Following was taken from "Villages of the Algonquian, Siouan, and Caddoan Tribes West of the Mississippi", Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 77, by David I. Bushnell, Jr. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC; 1922:

"While living east of the Mississippi in a region of lakes and streams surrounded by vast forests, their habitations were undoubtedly the bark and mat covered structures, but when some moved far west and came in contact with tribes beyond the Missouri [River] they evidently learned the art of constructing the earth-covered lodge which they soon began to occupy.  Likewise when and where the skin tipi first became known to them is not possible to determine, but probably not until they had reached the valley of the Missouri and were nearing the banks of that stream north of the Kansas."

In the narrative of Lewis and Clark expedition appears this record: "June 13, 1804. We passed...a bend of the river, Missouri and two creeks on the north, called the Round Bend creeks. Between these two creeks is the prairie, in which once stood the ancient village of the Missouris.  Of this village there remains no vestige, nor is there any thing to recall this great and numerous nation, except a feeble remnant of about thirty families.  They were driven from their original seats by the invasions of the Sauks and other Indians from the Mississippi, who destroyed at this village two hundred of them in one contest." (Lewis and Clark, (1), I, p. 13.) About 5 miles beyond they reached the mouth of Grand River which flows from the northwest, serves as the boundary between Carroll at some point in the latter county.  It was probably composed of a number of mat and bark covered lodges resembling the village of the Osage which stood a few miles farther up the river.  Two days later, June 15, the party identified the site or remains of the former village of the Little Osage, and, so the narrative continues: "About three miles above them, in view of our camp is the situation of the old village of the Missouris after they fled from the Sauks." (Op. cit., p. 15) From this village the few Missouri Indians appear to have sought refuge among the Oto, then living on the banks of the Platte.



Left, Osage Woman, "Mohongo"  with Baby. By Karl Bodmer. Right, Osage Warriors: Ko-ha-tunka (Big Crow), Nah-com-e-shee (Man of the Bed), Mun-ne-pus-ke (He Who Is Not Afraid),  by George Catlin.

The Osage were members of the Dhegiha Sioux group of tribes. This group also included the following tribes: Omaha, Ponca, Quapaw, and Kansa. They all were once one tribe with their early prehistoric ancestral land being "in the central and upper Ohio valleys". The effigy earthworks of southern Ohio are believed to be works of these people. The tribes coming west in late prehistory (perhaps 1400-1500). The Quapaw tribe are believed to have separated first, crossing the Mississippi and going South into Arkansas. The remainder, known as the "Omaha group" migrated west to the mouth of the Missouri River (at St. Louis). As the Omaha group went of the Missouri, the group splintered off where resources and protection were deemed sufficient to reside. The Osage tribe planted itself at the mouth of the Osage River. The rest of the Omaha group continued west to the Kansas City region where the Kansa tribe decided to settle.  The Ponca and Omaha tribes remained united the longest going as far as Iowa and Minnesota before separating.

Following was taken from "Villages of the Algonquian, Siouan, and Caddoan Tribes West of the Mississippi", Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 77, by David I. Bushnell, Jr. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington DC; 1922:

"While living in the heavily timbered valleys reaching to the Ohio the several tribes now being considered unquestionably occupied villages consisting of groups of mat-covered lodges of the type erected by the Osage and Quapaw until the present time. But with the Omaha, Ponca, and Kansa it was different, and when they reached the intermediate region, where forest and prairie joined, they were compelled to adopt a new form of structure, one suited to the natural lodge, and the conical skin tipi, with certain variations in form..."

From the earliest historical times the habitat of the Osage was among the hills and valleys of the Ozarks, south of the Missouri, in the present State of Missouri, and here they continued to dwell until their removal during the early part of the last century.

When Pere Marquette passed down the Mississippi, late in the month of June, 1673, he learned of the Osage, and on his map, prepared soon afterwards, indicated the villages of that tribe near a stream which was evidently the river bearing their tribal name.  They continued to occupy rather permanent villages until the beginning of the nineteenth century.

The tribe included three bands, two of which may be rather old; the third more recently created.  These are: (1) Pahatsi or Great Osage, (2) Utsehta or Little Osage, (3) Santsukhdhi or Arkansas band.  The latter dates from the 1802 or thereabouts, when a large part of the Great Osage, under the leadership of the chief Big Track, removed to the vicinity of the Arkansas.

The Osage, unlike certain other members of the Siouan group to which they belong, continued to erect and occupy the mat or bark covered habitations so characteristic of the forest tribes.  Their villages which stood among the Ozarks were probably similar in appearance to the ancient settlements of their ancestors which once occupied a part of the upper valley of Ohio, whence they migrated to the region beyond the Mississippi.  But the country which served as their new home was one well suited to the wants and requirements of the tribe.  Game was plentiful, the streams teemed with fish, and wild fruits were to be had in vast quantities.  Thus food was easily obtained.

The expedition under the command of Captains Lewis and Clark began ascending the Missouri May 14, 1804, and just one month later, on June 15, arrived at the site of an earlier settlement of the Little Osage.  In the journal the entry for that day states that: "We passed several islands and one creek on the south side, and encamped on the north opposite a beautiful plain, which extends as far back as the Osage river, and some miles up the Missouri. In front of our encampment are the remains of an old village of the Little Osage, situated at some distance from the river, and at the foot of a small hill.  About  three miles above them, in view of our camp is the situation of the old village of the Missouris after they fled from the Sauks.  The inroads of the same tribe compelled the Little Osage to retire from the Missouri a few years ago, and establish themselves near the Great Osages."  And two days later, at a place about 20 miles above their camp, on the 15th, they reached "the crossing place for the Sauks.  Ayauways, and Sioux, in their excursions against the Osage." (Lewis and Clark, (1), I, p. 15.)

The ruined or deserted village of the Little Osage seen by the party stood on the right or south bank of the Missouri, in the western part of the present Saline County, Missouri, not far from the village of Malta.  The structures which had stood at this old site were probably similar to those later erected by the people in their new village near the town of the Great Osage, both of which were visited two years later.  They were situated far south of the Missouri, in the northern part of the present Vernon County, in the valley of the Little Osage River.

During the latter part of August, 1806, Pike arrived at the two villages of the Osage, having departed from Fort Bellefontaine a short time before on his journey to the far west. But, unfortunately, his accounts of the native tribes and their villages which he encountered during his travels are neither full nor clear, and so it is with the description of the habitations of the Osage.  To quote from the narrative: "The Osage lodges are generally constructed with upright posts, put firmly in the ground, of about 20 feet in height, with a crotch at the top; they are generally about 12 feet distant from each other; in the crotch of those posts, are put the ridge poles, over which are bent small poles, the ends of which are brought down and fastened to a row of stakes of about 5 feet in height; these stakes are fastened together with three horizontal bars, and form the flank walls of the lodge.  The gable ends are generally broad slabs and rounded off to the ridge pole.  The whole of the building and sides are covered with matting made of rushes, of two or three feet in length, and four feet in width, which are joined together, and entirely exclude the rain.  The doors are in the side of the building, and generally are one on each side.  The fires are made in holes in the centre of the lodge; the smoke ascending through apertures left in the roof for the purpose; at one end of the dwelling is a raised platform, about three feet from the ground, which is covered with bear skins, and generally holds all the little choice furniture of the master, and on which repose his honorable guests...They vary in length from 36 to 100 feet." (Pike, (1), App., pp. 11-12)

Fort Osage, soon to be named Fort Clark, stood on the right bank of the Missouri, a short distance northeast of Independence, in Jackson County, Missouri. During the early years of the last century it was a gathering place for the Osage and neighboring tribes, and several interesting accounts are preserved of the appearance of the Indian lodges clustered about the post.  Both Bradbury and Brackenridge made mention of the fort in their journals.  The former wrote on April 8, 1811, and told of his arrival: "About ten o'clock we came in sight of the fort, about six miles distant.  We had not been long in sight before we saw the flag was hoisted, and at noon we arrived, saluting with a volley as we passed on to the landing place, where we met Mr. Crooks, who had come down from the wintering station at the mouth of the river Naduet to meet us.  There were also collected at the landing place about 200 Indians, men, women, and children, of the Petit Osage nation, whose village was then about 300 yards from the fort."  And continuing: "At evening Dr. Murray proposed that we should walk into the village, and I found it to consist of about one hundred lodges of an oblong form, the frame of timber, and the covering mats, made of the leaves of flag, or Typha palustris. On our return through the town, we called at the lodge belonging to a chief named Waubuschon, with whom Dr. Murray was particularly acquainted.  The floor was covered with mats, on which they sat; but as I was a stranger, I was offered a cushion.  A wooden bowl was now handed round, containing square pieces of cake, in taste resembling ginger-bread.  On enquiry I found it was made of the pulp of the persimon, mixed with pounded corn.  This bread they called staninca." (Bradbury, (1), pp. 35-37.)

Less than three weeks elapsed before Breckinridge reached the fort in the company of Manuel Lisa.  April 25, 1811, "About eleven, came in sight of Fort Osage, situated on a bluff, three miles off, on a commanding eminence...A number of Indians of the Osage nation, of all ages, and sexes, were scattered along the bank, attracted by curiosity, some with buffalo robes thrown over their shoulders, others dressed out in the gayest manner...On landing at the fort, on a very rocky shore, a soldier under arms, who waited for us at the water's side, escorted Mr. Lisa and myself to the fort, where we were politely received by the commanding officer.  While Mr. Lisa was transacting some business, accompanied by Mr. Sibley, the factor, and an interpreter, I went to deliver a pipe to Sans Oreille, (a warrior, and head man of this tribe) sent to him by Gen. Clark...

"The lodges of the Little Osage, are sixty in number, and within gun shot of the fort; but they are about to remove their village to a prairie, three miles off.  Their lodges are of a circular form, not more than ten or fifteen feet in diameter, constructed by placing mats, made of coarse rushes, over forks and poles.

"All three of the Osage bands, together with some Kansas, were lately encamped here for the purpose of trading, to the number of fifteen hundred warriors." (Brackenridge, (1), pp. 216-217.)

It is more than probable the Little Osage were then returning to their distant villages.  Within less than three weeks the group of dwellings in the vicinity of the post had been reduced in number from about 100 to 60, and undoubtedly before the lapse of many days all would have begun their homeward journey.  but the structures as described would have resembled the dwellings in their permanent villages, differing from the more temporary lodges discovered by Schoolcraft a few year later.

When Schoolcraft traversed the southern part of the State of Missouri a century ago, crossing the Ozarks and following the deep valleys which separated the ridges, he encountered many deserted camps of the Osages and frames of one or more habitations, the mat or bark covers often having been removed, thus allowing the bare frames to remain.  These had been the temporary shelters occupied by small parties hunting away from their home villages.  On November 27, 1818, so he wrote, "night overtook us, and we encamped in an Indian bark tent on the bank of the river, which had not been occupied for one or two years." (Schoolcraft, (1), p. 28.)  The river mentioned was the Great North Fork of the White River, and the latter was soon reached.  Continuing their journey over the rough and rugged hills, through tangled masses of vegetation, often advancing only a few miles each day, and that with the greatest exertion, they arrived December 30, 1818, in the region a short distance east of James River, possibly in the present Christian County, Missouri.  

Here they encountered several deserted camps, of which, fortunately interesting accounts are preserved in the narrative: 

"In pursuing up the valley of Swan Creek, about  nine miles, we fell into the Osage trace, a horse-path beaten by the Osages in their hunting excursions along this river, and passing successively three of their camps, now deserted, all very large, arranged with much order and neatness, and capable of quartering probably 100 men each.  Both the method  of building camps, and the order of encampment observed by this singular nation of savages, are different from any thing of the kind I have noticed among the various tribes of aboriginal Americans, through whose territories I have had occasion to travel. The form of the tent or camp may be compared to an inverted bird's nest, or hemisphere, with a small aperture left in the top, for the escape of smoke; and a similar, but larger one, at one side, for passing in and out.  It is formed by cutting a number of slender flexible green-poles of equal length, sharpened at each end, struck in the ground like a bow, and, crossing at right angles at the top, the points of entrance into the ground forming a circle.  Small twigs are then wove in, mixed with the leaves of cane, moss, and grass, until it is perfectly tight and warm. These tents are arranged in large circles, one within another, according to the number of men intended to be accommodated.  In the centre is a scaffolding for meat, from which all are supplied every morning, under the inspection of a chief, whose tent is conspicuously situated at the head of the encampment, and differs from all the rest, resembling a half cylinder inverted.  Their women and children generally accompany them on these excursions, which often occupy three months."  Schoolcraft soon crossed the ridge separating Swan Creek from Findley's River, the latter "running from the north-east, and tributary to James River, the main northwestern branch of White River." (Op. cit., pp. 52-53.)





St. Louis owed its very success to the flourishing trade with neighboring tribes, especially that with the Osage. The Osage were famous for the quality and quantity of deerskins supplied to St. Louis traders. It has been
estimated as many as 100,000 deerskins were harvested by the tribe in a single year. Deerskins, and other skins of fur-bearers, were big business in St. Louis. Deerskins alone were so important because they could be used to make clothes and moccasins which were the predominant style in early St. Louis. Plus they fetched competitive prices in markets in Montreal and New Orleans. There was so much demand for this commodity in St. Louis' first forty years of existence, deerskins functioned as the unofficial currency for purchasing just about anything in the community. As such, the Osage nation was very important to the early economy of this river community.


NOTE: "Counting Coup": Although in plains Indian tribes this system of battle honors was best recorded, it is known that the Indians of the eastern woodlands had a similar system. Contrary to common myth, the Indian tradition of "counting coup" was not a system of warfare that was without bloodshed. While a brave would be given honor credits (coup) for touching a live enemy and getting away alive, this was not the main objective in battle. Quite the contrary, in battle warriors were expected to kill one another!  Anyone captured alive, especially men, could not expect to live but to be tortured to death or if they were lucky executed. Killing of women and children did not bring battle honors. They were often killed out of revenge, but it was not uncommon for young children to be spared and adopted by the tribe. Often young women were held as slaves or taken as wives. Also captives could be held for ransom but this was not very common unless the other tribe had something they wanted returned.

American Indian History

"History's Time Portal to Old St. Louis"