By Laurie Kingery
For my November blog piece I'd like to explore another one of the lesser-known Indian tribes of Texas, the Kickapoos. Be sure and read to the end to find out about my giveaway this month!
The name always seemed like a made-up up, cartoonish name for a tribe to me, and was associated in my mind with the potent moonshine, "Kickapoo Joy Juice," of the Li'l Abner comic strip and the non-alcoholic soda pop by that name. But the real Kickapoos were a large Indian tribe in Texas, a rival to the Comanches and Lipan Apaches. They lived in wickiups, made of a rough frame covered by reed mats, grass or brushwood.
The Kickapoo tribe is an Algonquinian tribe originally encountered by the LaSalle expedition around present-day Terre Haute, Indiana. The tribal name means "Stands here and there" or "Wanderer" which probably refers to the migratory pattern of the tribe. But as white settlers came to the area in the early 1800's, tensions rose between Indians and whites. The Kickapoos allied themselves with tribal leader Tecumseh and participated in the battle of Tippecanoe and in the War of 1812. Some of them accepted land in Kansas and left Indiana. Another division went to Oklahoma. Still others had gone earlier to Texas when it belonged to Mexico, and were given land by the Mexican government in the state of Coahuila. The Mexicans hoped to use them as a buffer against American expansion, allying themselves with the Mexican military and to keep the other Indian tribes in check.
During the Civil War, when most of the Texas men were away fighting Yankees, the Indian tribes took full advantage of their absence and spread terror among the settlers. The remaining Texas state troops did their best to contain them. When the Oklahoma Kickapoos decided to join their brothers in northern Mexico, they crossed Texas and ran into McCord's regiment, who mistook them for a Comanche-Kiowa band and attacked them where Dove Creek joins the Concho River in present-day Tom Greene County. The battle of Dove Creek was the largest battle against the Indians in the Civil War, and the Kickapoos won. Further Kickapoo attacks followed, with the Indians attacking southern Texas, then easily escaping across the Rio Grande.
An interesting sidelight I found in my research on this topic was the fact that the Kickapoos have a secret language along with their regular one. It's a whistling speech mainly used in Texas and Mexico in courtship during the evenings as a cultural tradition. It's produced by cupping the hands to form a chamber. Sounds can be varied by lifting their fingers from the back of the chamber. The pitch and length of vowels and vowel clusters are represented while vowel qualities and consonants aren't. These sounds can be transmitted over long distances.
In the present, Kickapoos have a settlement near Piedras Negras near the International Bridge that leads to Eagle Pass, Texas, and have a 125-acre reservation in El Indio, Texas, where they are known as the Texas Band of the Oklahoma Kickapoos and operate the Lucky Eagle Casino.
In researching this article I am indebted to the book CAMP VERDE—TEXAS FRONTIER DEFENSE, by Joseph Luther. The pictures used are in the public domain unless noted otherwise.
And last but not least, leave a comment to be eligible for my giveaway of my latest book in my "Brides of Simpson Creek" series for Love Inspired Historicals, HILL COUNTRY CATTLEMAN! As before, if you have already read this book, you can check my website for a book of mine that you haven't read, either in this series or one of my two earlier non-series LIH books.
Blessings, Laurie Kingery