The Kaskaskias Indian Tribe

By the 6th of December, 1679, the expedition was afloat on the Kankakee. For many miles the country was so marshy that scarcely a camping place could be found, but soon its members emerged into an open region of the country with tall grass and then they knew they were in the Illinois country. They suffered from lack of food, having killed only two deer, one buffalo, two geese, and a few swans. As they journeyed on they passed the mouths of the Iroquois, the Des Plaines, and the Fox. They passed the present site of Ottawa and a few miles below they came to the Kaskaskia village where Marquette had planted the mission of the Immaculate Conception in the summer of 1675. Father Allouez had succeeded Marquette and had spent some time at the Kaskaskia village in 1676, and in 1677 he returned. But on the approach of La Salle, Allouez had departed, for it was understood that almost all of the Jesuit priests -were opposed to La Salle’s plans of commercializing the interior of North America. The Kaskaskia Indians were themselves absent from the village on an expedition to the south-land, as was their winter custom.

This Kaskaskia village of four hundred lodges was uninhabited. The huts were built by covering a long arbor-like frame work with mats of woven rushes. In each lodge there was room for as many as ten families. In their hiding places, the Indians had secreted large quantities of corn for the spring planting and for sustenance until another crop could be raised. La Salle’s party was so sorely in need of this corn that he decided to appropriate as much as they needed. This he did, taking 30 minots. On January 1, 1680, after mass by Father Hennepin, they departed down the Illinois River. On the morning of the 5th they had arrived at the outlet of what we call Peoria Lake. Here they saw large numbers of boats and on the banks wigwams and large numbers of Indians. The Indians were much disconcerted upon seeing La Salle’s party land, and many fled while a few held communication with the new comers. La Salle held a consultation with the chiefs and told them of his taking their corn. He offered to pay for the corn and said that if he were compelled to give up the corn he would take his blacksmith and his tools to the next tribe, the Osages, whereupon the Indians gladly accepted pay for the corn taken and offered more.

La Salle told them he wished to be on friendly terms with them, but that they must not expect him to engage in conflicts with the Iroquois whom his king regarded as his children. But if they would allow him to build a fort near, that he would defend them, the Kaskaskias, against the Iroquois if they were attacked. He also told them he wished to know whether he could navigate a large boat from that point to the mouth of the Mississippi River, since it was very difficult as well as dangerous to bring such European goods as the Indians would like to have from New France by way of the Great Lakes, and that it could not well be done by coming across the Iroquois country as they would object, since the Illinois Indians and the Iroquois were enemies. The Kaskaskia chiefs told La Salle that the mouth of the Mississippi was only twenty days’ travel away and that there were no obstructions to navigation. Certain Indian slaves taken in battle said that they had been at the mouth of the river and that they had seen ships at sea that made noises like thunder. This made La Salle the more anxious to reach the mouth of the river and take possession of the country. The chiefs gave consent to the construction of the fort and La Salle had a bright vision before him. This vision was sadly clouded on the morrow when an Indian revealed to him the visit to the chiefs, on the night before, of a Miami chief by the name of Monso who tried to undermine the influence of La Salle. He said La Salle was deceiving them. In a council that day he revealed his knowledge of the visit of Monso and by great diplomacy won the Kaskaskia chief to his cause the second time. It was supposed this chief Monso was sent at the suggestion of Father Allouez. Four of La Salle’s men deserted him and returned to the region of Lake Michigan.

Illinois Genealogy

Source: A Standard History of Champaign County, Illinois, by J. R. Stewart, published by The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago And New York, 1918.

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