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Peoria Indians

A principal tribe of the confederated Illinois Indians

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Peoria Indiana, a principal tribe of the confederated Illinois Indians (q.v.) having their chief residence, in the seventeenth century, on Illinois river, upon the lake, and about the site of the modern city that bears their name. The first white man ever known to the Illinois was probably the Jesuit Claude Allouez, who met some of them as visitors at his mission on Lake Superior at La Pointe (Bayfield), Wisconsin, in 1667. Six years later Marquette passed through their country, where he soon established a temporary mission. In 1680 the French commander, La Salle, built Fort Crèvecoeur on Peoria lake, near the village of the tribe, about the present Rockfort. It was abandoned, but reoccupied in 1684, when a regular mission was begun among the Peoria by Fr. Allouez. His successor in 1687 was Fr. Jacques Gravier, to whom we owe the great manuscript “Dictionary of the Peoria Language”, now at Harvard University, the principal literary monument of the extinct Illinois. The Peoria, however, proved obstinate in their old beliefs, and in 1705, at the instigation of the medicine men, Gravier was attacked and dangerously wounded. He narrowly escaped with his life, but died from the effects on February 12, 1708, near Mobile, after having vainly sought a cure in France. The mission continued under other workers, but so late as 1721 the tribe was still almost entirely heathen, although the majority of the Illinois were then Christian. The Peoria shared in the vicissitudes and rapid decline of the Illinois, and in 1832 the remnant of the confederated tribes, hardly 300 souls in all, sold all their claims in Illinois and Missouri and removed to a small reservation on the Osage River, Kansas. In 1854 the remnant of the Wea and Piankishaw of Indiana were consolidated with them, and in 1868 the entire body removed to a tract in northeast Oklahoma, where they now reside, being officially designated as “Peoria and confederated tribes”, and numbering altogether only about 200 souls, all mixed-bloods, and divided between Catholic and Methodist. (See also Miami Indians.)


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