Inoca (Ilimouec, Illinois, Illini, Peoria) Ethnohistory Project:
Eye Witness Descriptions of the Contact Generation,
1667 - 1700

An Endeavor By:

Lenville J. Stelle
Parkland College Anthropology Students

Center for Social Research
Parkland College
Champaign, Illinois

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Glossary of Ethnographic
and Archaeological Terms
An Easy Way to Cite the Project

(Just Click on the Chapter Heading)
Introduction I. Contact II. First Visual Images III. The Calumet
IV. Maps V. Cultural Descriptions VI. Language VII. Links to Other Images of the Inoca Culture

Keywords: Inoca, Inoka, Ilimouec, Illinois, Illini, Ilimouec Indians, Alimouek, Illini Indians, Illini tribe, Illini confederacy, Illinois indians, Illinois tribe, Illinois confederacy, Peoria indians, Peoria tribe, Kaskaskia, Mitchigamea, Moingwena, Coiracoentanon, Tamaroa, Tapouara, Cahokia, Chepoussa, Maroa, Chinkoa, Ispeminkias, Amonokoa, ethnohistory, Illinois ethnohistory, Illinois archaeology, Midwest Archaeology, Illinois history, French colonial period, Zimmerman, 11LS13, Hagerman, Dablon, Claude Allouez, Pere Jacques Marquette, Louis Nicolas, Codex Canadiensis, Alexander de Batz, Louis Hennepin, la Hontan, Jean Baptiste Franquelin, Guillaume Delisle, Henri Joutel, Pierre de Liette, De Gannes Memoir, Père Rasles, Gabriel Marest, Jolliet, Meskwaki.


The Inoca Ethnohistory Project (Inoca or In8ca to the people, Illinois to the French, occassionaly Illini to the Anglo-Americans, and generally Peoria to contemporary Native Americans) was an outgrowth of the need to inform my students about the Inoca as they existed at the Grand Village of the Illinois (11LS13) during the last half of the seventeenth century. In the 1990's, Parkland's Archaeology Program and its 100 or so students spent several years working on the archaeology of the Grand Village. It was rather problematic for students to easily access the primary historical literature. The Internet represented a medium that could easily solve this issue. Some students recovered copies of the documents while others transcribed or copied them. What you find here is the product of their effort. In the current iteration of the Project, I have added some new material, updated imagery to exploit new developments in web technology, and reorganized it for a wider audience. Perhaps in this, the State of Illinois, there will be others who will find their work to be of interest.

An Interpretive Note: Ethnohistorical sources can be both quite stimulating and quite frustrating. As you encounter the following images, both graphic and verbal, keep in mind that each will be a product of the cultural contexts within which it was created and the personal or idiosyncratic elements of the observer. Always the snapshots will be incomplete and subjective. Anti-Native American (sauvages to the French) racism permeates every account without exception. I think that you will discover the perspectives of the French authors to be as "alien" or "foreign" to early twenty-first century social scientific understandings as the culture of the Inoca was to them. As a student of the Contact Period, try to see beyond the biases and strive for insights that transcend the inherent limitations of the sources.

One of the unique elements of our regional history is that we can observe and study its inception (I here mean history as a written description of an event of the past). As I was fond of observing to my students, the history of Illinois begins with the manuscript describing the voyage of Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet. That the narrative was penned by someone other than these two (did Dablon actually do the writing or was it one of his secretaries?), constructed subsequent to Marquette's death, based on documents unknown and witnesses unidentified, seems typical of a history's beginning. Or what of the "De Ganne Memoir?" The name is otherwise historically transparent. Was Pierre de Liette the actual author of this most complete description of the Inoca life way? I, of course, find such puzzlements to be of enduring curiosity.

Is it possible to learn of the past in lieu of documents? Of course it is. The community of historians refers to this phenomenon as an oral history. In the present situation the oral history that would be of greatest use and interest would be that of the Inoca themselves. It is a major shortcoming of our Project that we have none to offer. To say that we here provide a one-sided perspective of the past is understatement. If I were a living descendent of the Inoca, perhaps a card carrying member of the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Okalahoma, and had a name like "William Yellow-Feather Tamaroa," would I find the offerings of the Project fulfilling and useful? I believe the answer is a resounding "No." Let me use an analogy for you the non-Native American reader: think of Soviet descriptions of Americans and their culture in 1955 or the "rantings" of Islamic fundamentalists today. Our inability to include the voice of the Inoca in the reconstruction of their past is a major limitation of our work. We hope to someday be able to provide a solution to this problem.

Lastly let me observe that my view of what constitutes good archaeological research and, indeed, good science in general has clearly impacted the direction and flavor of the Project. Good archaeology involves lots of data and minimal interpretation. What a colleague refers to as thick texts, thinly written. My goal here is to make accessible a large primary literature, provide limited contextualization, and allow you the reader an opportunity for creative interpretation. Other students of history take quite different approaches.

Editorial Note: We have tried to remain true to the original text with two exceptions. We have replaced the f character with the modern s where appropriate and material contained within [brackets] are our additions.

Lenville J. Stelle
Parkland College

I. Contact

Contact is a term used by anthropologists to describe the first documented physical interactions between members of two different societies. In the situation of the Inoca, Jesuit Fathers Allouez, Dablon, and Marquette are the men associated with this event.

However, in a broader sense, contact between European culture and the Inoca had been initiated many generations earlier. For instance, the three years (1539 - 1542) Hernando De Soto's entrada spent ravaging the American south would have resulted in the diffusion of descriptions and artifacts of the European people and Spanish culture. At a later point in time, the establishment of colonies by the French, English, and Dutch along the eastern North American seaboard would have had similar results. The devastating warfare waged by the Iroquois against the Inoca in the seventeenth century would have resulted in the dissemination of European material culture to the Inoca. Lastly, it seems likely that undocumented coureurs de bois had made their way into the Illinois and Mississippi River valleys before 1667 and for the first time the Inoca could see Frenchmen, and hear Frenchmen, and smell Frenchmen. The Inoca had been exposed to many aspects of European culture long before "Contact."

A growing knowledge of Europeans, their exploitive desires, their religious zealousness, and their powerful, magical artifacts existed among the Inoca generations before the French experiences of Allouez and Marquette. What was missing for them was direct access to the French material culture and control over its distribution. When this circumstance finally began to occur during what I am calling the Contact Generation, Inoca culture underwent fundamental transformations.

Let me offer as an illustration a type of circumstance that is both tragic from my admittedly ethnocentric perspective and yet frequently encountered in the ethnographic records of traditional peoples the world over. For the Midwestern archaeologist, ceramics are the debris category most useful in the identification of Late Prehistoric societies. During the generation after contact, however, Inoca women stopped producing their distinctive ceramics (Figure 1.), apparently adopting brass trade kettles as soon as they became available. Brass kettles were not only an item of high prestige but afforded a number of utilitarian enhancements over the "clay baskets" - they would better contain liquids, not break when dropped, could be repaired, and could be readily transported. However, the importance of the gender specific technological knowledge of the "clay basket" was very critical to the broader social status of women in Algonquin societies like the Inoca. It represented skills and information both unique to women and important to the life of the community. Nonetheless, "clay baskets" were quickly abandoned. I would argue that because this knowledge was no longer significant the prestige of women was diminished. Moreover this ancient knowledge and skill was replaced by a yet more primordial knowledge and skill set, that of controlling and granting sexual access. French traders, far from home and lonely, could rather easily be sexually manipulated and access to the new artifacts could be achieved. Such access could be achieved either wantonly or through proper channels of courtship and mate selection (see the De Gannes Memoir, pages 328-338, for our lengthiest discussion of Inocan marital and sexual customs, albeit from the perspective of a both sympathetic yet male, 30-ish, French, bachelor, adventurer). Regardless of whether she took the path of the "loose" girl or the "good" girl: (1) her personal material wealth was increased; (2) as she now controlled the distribution of these goods, within for instance her family, her power was vastly increased; and (3) at least among the increasingly powerful French component of the Inoca's social existence, her social honor was increased. While there were undoubtedly Inoca women and families who resisted this circumstance, two facts remain. Native ceramics were quickly abandoned and the old ways were gone forever.

Indeed, given the cultural sanctification of such practices as sororal polygyny, it is clear that the idealized notions of romantic love and sexual exclusivity that were only to emerge a century later in European and Anglo-American culture, were also not elements of 1680s Inocan culture. My impression is that in many ways Inocan women had more control over their bodies and their sexuality than is the case with contemporary American women (our reader's ethnocentrism may make "seeing" this difficult). Nonetheless, several of the narratives remark on the willingness of the women to so exploit themselves or be so exploited. The French clerics, failing to understand the underlying cultural dynamics and arguably consumed by their commitment to celibacy and opposition to all forms of sexual expression, railed long and hard against such relationships, at times refusing to sanctify marriages or baptize offspring. Clearly the structural situation of Inoca women had been modified in a fundamental way.

Figure 1. Inoca ceramics. Click on images for larger views.

The ceramics of the Inoca women from the two villages visited by Father Marquette. The ceramics are known to archaeologists as the Danner Series. The illustrations are courtesy of Duane E. Esarey. Illiniwek Village sherds provided by Lawrence Conrad, Western Illinois University.

References to those who would later be known as the Illinois or Illini occasionally appear in French reports from circa 1640. So far as is known, the first Frenchman to make direct contact with the Inoca was the Jesuit Father Claude Allouez. His initial meeting was with an Inoca party (at least 80 in number) visiting Chegoimegon (on Lake Superior near Bayfield, Wisconsin) and his mission station of St. Esprit in 1667. He met a second group at the Mascouten village in southern Wisconsin in 1670. However, it was not until March or April of 1677 that he finally arrived in the Illinois Country. He would remain there, primarily with the Tamaroa Mission, for the next eleven years.

Father Allouez's 1667 Report

Father Pere Jacques Marquette was assigned to Father Allouez's Mission of Saint Esprit (Holy Ghost). Arriving in 1669 he provides the following relation of its condition. Of note is the presence of an Inoca trade village, his discussions with the Inoca, and his promise to visit them in their country the following year. It would be another four years before this plan would come to fruition. During the wait he concerned himself with preparations and learning the Inoca language. The Ottawa had "given" him a young man that was fluent in Inocan and from whom he was committed to learn the rudiments of the language. His discussions with villagers revealed the presence of the great river Mississippi, the prospect of thousands of souls to save from the "Wolf," and the fact that European trade goods, likely Spanish, were already finding their way into the country of the Inoca.

Father Marquette's Relation of 1669

The narrative is written by Father Claud Dablon and describes he and Father Allouez's journey through central and southern Wisconsin in 1670 - 1671. Dablon apparently assigns the name "Ilinois" to all the Nations to the south. In this narrative he treats the Miami as a division of the Inoca. I think that one could legitimately raise the question of whether the Miami were not more patently related to the Inoca at this time and later drifted to a more distinctive separateness? Dablon is apparently talking to Miami but involving them with a territory on the west bank of the Mississippi. By the end of the narrative he allows as how he is by then interacting with true Inoca.

As we continue to struggle with the issue of "what did they look like," Dablon's observation regarding male hair style is informative: generally short but with four long "moustaches," one on each side of each ear. Among the Omaha, such styles signified clan affiliation.

Dablon describes the Mississippi River as flowing to the south and to either the Sea of Florida (Gulf of Mexico) or the Vermillion Sea (Gulf of California). Also the Inoca tell him that when you get down to the mouth of the Mississippi you encounter Europeans. The Inoca already had knowledge of the Spaniards. However, the French were dumping cheap manufactures on the Upper Country and the Spanish were either unwilling or unable to commercially exploit the Mississippi River as a conduit for trade. Inoca attention was resultantly focused on the French. The infusion of material culture from the English and Dutch was even more problematic because of distance, difficult terrain, and the social barrier of the Iroquois.

Father Dablon's Descriptions of 1671

It is the voyage of Father Pere Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet in 1673 that first documents the Inoca homeland and culture. While their primary mission was a reconnaissance of the Mississippi River, its land and peoples, much of the Jesuit Father's journal is given over to descriptions of the Inoca. We have included the entire introduction, translation, and footnotes by Thwaites found in the Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Vol. LIX (1899).

The story of the manuscript and its associated map is curious and more fully discussed below in the section on maps. Marquette apparently was the person assigned the task of keeping the log of the journey as well as producing the chart. Unfortunately, the manuscript was lost when Jolliet's canoe capsized hardly a day from journey's end. Immediately grasping the gravity of the loss, the Jesuit Superior, Father Claude Dablon, scrambled to replace the missing documents. Fortunately, Dablon was able to contact Marquette and enlist his assistance prior to Marquette's departure on his second and final, fateful voyage to the Inoca.

Father Marquette's journal does not employ a technique of daily entries but is rather a narrative authored after the event. It is Dablon's voice that we hear in the opening three paragraphs and thereafter Marquette's.

Father Marquette's First Journey of 1673

II. First Visual Images

The two images that we offer are the earliest ones that we have been able to identify. The first involves a man likely of the Contact generation. The second image dates to a time three or four generations after French contact. We feel that they are quite illuminating.

Figure 2. Inoca War Chief in 1701. Click on image for larger view (1.5m file).

Jesuit Father Louis Nicolas is credited with creating this ink sketch circa 1701. The caption reads, "Captain of the Nation of the Illinois, armed with a pipe and a dart." Nicolas' illustration is the earliest known image of the Inoca. (Codex Canadiensis, Gilcrease Museum, © Public Domain. Courtesy of the Gilcrease Museum of Tulsa, Oklahoma.)

Comments by Stelle on the historical context: The illustration is from Les Raretés des Indes, commonly referred to as the Codex Canadiensis. The Jesuit Father Louis Nicolas is currently thought to be the creator of this earliest illustration of an Inoca person (visit Library and Archives Canada for an interesting discussion of the document's origin). Jesuit records indicate that Nicolas was in New France between 1664 and 1675. His journeys to the Upper Country appear not to have extended beyond Lake Superior and the French outpost of Chegoimegon. Indeed the encounter seems likely to have occurred in the same context as that which we previously described for Father Allouez and as part of their work at the Mission of St. Esprit.

Even more historical issues are as yet unresolved. Date of creation pointers contained within the Codex suggest that it was completed circa 1701 (Hoffman 1961: 382-383). Although no formal historical evidence has yet been identified, some argue that Nicolas died in 1682. More confusing is the prospect that the Codex and its 180 or so illustrations were not actually created by Nicolas but rather by someone "…very familiar with his work," whatever that might mean.

A final precaution is that an examination of the animal illustrations, as well as other elements, contained in the Codex Canadiensis reveals that some are oddly whimsical and inaccurate. One set of implications is that Nicolas was illustrating subjects that he had not actually observed, or that they were being drawn from a distant memory, or that such sketches as survived his possible 1682 demise were being creatively interpreted and embellished by some unknown artist. Whether this condition also obtains to his images of First Nation's peoples is unknown. Unfortunately, while archaeology might offer potential interpretive support and corroboration, what sets the images of the various Nations apart are things that do not preserve well in the archaeological record, for instance, hair styles, skin art, and clothing. Of the items that do preserve well, in this case the pipe bowl and spear point, Nicolas seems wrong.

It is interesting to me that of all the Native American groups traveling to the mission, Nicolas chose this "Illinois" man for his first, full page portrait.

In conclusion and setting aside the ongoing issues of historical investigation, we are confronted with a unique image of an Inoca person based on an encounter likely made between 1664 and 1675. Taken at face value, we are looking at a socially important man of the Contact generation.

Comments by Stelle on the image: There are several elements of the sketch that are of ethnographic interest. First is the title Nicolas employs for the illustrated man. Nicolas identifies him as a "Capitaine." Of the 27 men and women appearing in the Codex only one other is labeled a "Capitaine." The military quality of the appellation certainly suggests a war chief. Given the temporary, situational, and often amorphous quality of the social position of war chief, it is impossible to infer whether the man was serving in that capacity at present or simply had at some point in the past. Note that war chiefs were individuals who volunteered themselves as leaders and organizers of inter-tribal conflict. Their tenure was specific to the action. In convincing other men to participate, they encumbered a variety of obligations to the participants and their families. From the perspective of the Inoca, the head of an expedition to Chegoimegon would need physical courage, combat skills, and the social and economic wherewithal to cover any deaths or losses. Leadership of a group of Inoca explorers, adventures, and traders through 400 miles of enemy territory would have been an extremely dangerous and difficult task. Undoubtedly, to successfully negotiate this 800 mile circuit one would certainly want to be armed with both a pipe and a dart.

Second, an examination of the other images in the Codex reveals Nicolas' interest in a "peace and war" motif. Many of his sketches include pipes, weaponry, and images of war. The Captain's pipe may or may not be the "pipe of peace" or calumet. The calumet pipe is almost always described as being ornamented with feathers and this one clearly is not. Furthermore I have always found it odd that the bowl and associated flame assume the form of the French fleur-de-lys, a symbol of French nobility and royal authority. Nicolas also took some liberties with the "dart." Darts were in fact sometimes still employed by the Inoca although their primary hunting and fighting tool seems to have been the bow and arrow. Mayhap either the Captain or Nicolas was wishing to project a more traditional or perhaps even "manly" image. A problem, however, with the sketch is that the Inoca did not have dart tips of this morphology or material (this one seems to be rendered of metal, perhaps iron) and the tip is excessively large and presumably too heavy to be employed on a dart (a dart being a javelin-like tool that was intended to be thrown). In fact what seems to be illustrated is a spear form familiar to a French audience (a spear being a hand held thrusting tool with a large tip and a long handle). Of interest is that both the shaft of the dart and the stem of the pipe are decorated.

Third is the issue of posture. The pose of the Captain with flexed left knee and pointed foot seems right out of a familiar seventeenth century French artistic genre and is not what might have been expected from the subject. I say unexpected because it renders the man off-balance and therefore expressing a passivity, vulnerability, and weakness.

Fourthly, the Captain is accoutered in a robe, either of finely dressed hide or perhaps a trade blanket. Fletcher and La Flesche's ethnographic descriptions of the Omaha (curiously, La Salle lists the Omouahoas [Omaha] as a tribus [tribe] of the Illinois in 1680 [Anderson 1901:214-215]) include what they labeled the "Language of the Robe" (Fletcher and La Flesche 1990:360-362). For the Omaha, robes were a common garment for both males and females. It was employed in a dynamic fashion dictated by the emotion and action of the circumstance. While the position of the arms fails to correspond, the Captain's robe suggests their illustration of "…a young man about to run (1990:360)." While the direct application of Omaha styles of dress from the beginning of the twentieth century to the interpretation of the meaning of Inoca costume in 1701 is obviously questionable, what is important is that the technique of the robe was undoubtedly intended to make a statement about who and what he was and must be understood as a central dramaturgical property in the Captain's presentation of self.

The Captain's only other piece of apparel is the curious item covering his left shin. It seems tied with garter-like devices and has some minimal decoration. Its name, function, and significance remain topics of ongoing research, although many of Nicolas' illustrated men display the accessory. Lastly, observe that the Captain is barefoot.

At another level, the costume has always been something of a puzzlement to me. From Father Marquette's journal describing first contact with the Peoria Inoca along the Des Moines River in southeastern Iowa, his party was received by a village elder who was "...stark naked (see page 117 of Father Marquette's First Journey of 1673)." I have speculated that the Captain may in reality have preferred that style of presentation as well. In many ways, I think that more important than costume to the Inoca was the skin with its tattooing and scarification. The designs and locations of these devices would have told the observer much about the character, life history, and life station of the subject (see the De Gannes Memoir below, page 328 regarding males and page 329 regarding females). It would have been important to reveal this information rather than hide it. While the permanent skin art would seem to cover much of the Captain's hands, arms, stomach, and lower legs, the cosmetic devices of the face remain unresolved. Whether the patterns we see on his face are tattoo or paint is not revealed by the brown ink sketch. I can only add that the use of color (commonly red, black, and white) on the head and neck was common. The meaning of these colors and the images created (like the spear, arrow, or lightning image we see on the Captain's left cheek) remain unknown. I think that it is fair to say that they had significant symbolic meaning for the Captain and were anything but fanciful.

Lastly we come to hair and head covering. The hair style seems to be quite short and lacks a scalp lock. The bravado expressed by the scalp lock may not yet have come into vogue with the Inoca (see de Batz's image below). The head covering appears as a feathered roach although it may simply be spiked locks of hair arrayed as a roach. If it is feathers, then bird species or feather type were undoubtedly important issues for the Captain. They likely signified either clan affiliation, life station, or what the French referred to as a personal manitou. Father Dablon's comment (see Father Dablon's Descriptions of 1671, page 215) on hair style may be useful:

Let us add one word more on these Ilinois, concerning their manners and customs. All Savages in general pride themselves especially on their fine head-gear; and, above all, on wearing their hair either long or short, as may be their National mode. These people [Inoca] seem to have united both fashions, having what the Outaouacs [Odawa] regard as handsome in their short and erect hair, and also what pleases others in their long locks; for, clipping the greater part of the head, as do the above-named people, they leave four great mustaches, one on each side of each ear, arranging them in such order as to avoid inconvenience from them. (1671:215)


Anderson, Melville B.
1901 Relation of the Discoveries and Voyages of Cavelier de La Salle from 1679 to 1681: The Official Narrative. The Caxton Club, Chicago.

Fletcher, Alice and Francis La Flesche.
1992 The Omaha Tribe, Vol. 1 and 2. Reprinted. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. Originally published in 1911, Twenty-Seventh Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Washington, D.C.

Hoffman, Bernard G.
1961 The Codex Canadensis: An Important Document for Great Lakes Ethnography. Ethnohistory 8(4):382-400.

Figure 3. Inoca in 1735. Click image for close-up of the Inoca (366K file).

It would be another generation and a half before a second image of the Inoca would be created. In 1735 a French artist, Alexander de Batz (1685 - 1737), created this water color. The caption reads, "Indians of several Nations bound for New Orleans 1735." The seated female is labeled "Fox [Meskwaki Nation] female Indian captive." De Batz actually employs the word esclave rather than captive but understand that the Inoca notion of slavery was quite different than that of the Spanish, French, English, or later, Americans. The woman had most likely been taken as a captive and subsequently adopted by an Inoca family as part of one of the interesting ritual acts of the people of this region of North America. Note the presence of the "Negro" (African) child (this is the earliest depiction of an African associated with the Pays des Illinois). The adult male to the right of the African child is labeled "Atakapas" (a native society from the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and Texas). All others in the image are "Illinois." The man standing to the left is labeled "Chief" while the crouching male is labeled "Dancer." (Peabody Museum, Harvard)

Comments by Stelle: The scene suggests a trade group on its way to New Orleans with a stack of folded sundried or smoked buffalo flank meat, sometimes salted1 (plat-cote), two kegs of tallow (suifs), and a container of oil (huilier) of the she-bear (d'ourse). The Meskwaki woman is significant. She is a slave busy working on the trade goods and sitting at the feet of the Inoca Chief. It is in fact possible, if in no sense demonstrable, that she had been taken as a slave at the conclusion of the siege of the Meskwaki (Fox) Fort (11ML6, Arrowsmith, Illinois, 1730). French accounts indicate that upwards of 300 women and children were slaved. The African child is also interesting. Judging from the breechclout, it is likely a boy. Whether he is slave or other is not revealed. He sports an interesting and enigmatic head piece that one of our readers suggests is a European style "pudding cap."

The Chief is curious on several levels. First we do not know in what sense he was "Chief:" was he a village chief, a war chief, or simply in charge of or spokesperson for the trading group? While his hair style is consistent with that of the other males, to include the boy, it is substantively different from Nicolas' "Capitaine." Styles change and by now we seem to have a scalp lock. Also he seems to lack the tattoos, scarification, and body painting found on the other three men. Cosmetics of face and head are also absent. What is most curious to me is that he is holding what appears to be the head of a sandhill crane (judging from the size of the bird, the morphology of the beak, and the red patch on the top of the head). The meaning of the bird is unknown, although it may signify that the group is Mitchigamea for whom the sandhill crane was the totemic animal (see the section on language and ethynonyms); his or their clan affiliation; or a personal manitou. Unknown also is the function of the Dancer and the nature of the devices in his hands. Was dance an element of inter-societal trade? It was certainly a common element in a vast number of other social activities. The face paint of the three men appears to be variations on a single style and color theme. Perhaps all three are involved in the "dance." The skin art, while faint, can be observed on their chests, backs, and legs. Costume is limited to the breechclout. Footwear is conspicuously absent. There are two artifacts of significance: the staff and the bow. This is the only indication of the use of the staff by the Inoca. I allow for three interpretations. One, it was a walking-grubbing-reaching stick; two, it was an element of the "dance;" and three, it was the primary shaft of a dart. The illustration is the only reference we have to the design of Inoca bows. They would qualify as long bows and would therefore be capable of considerable power, range, and accuracy. They also display an interesting short recurve. Overall the design speaks of prairie hunters a-foot.

Lastly we come to the woman and child. I interpret them as mother and child although this is pure speculation on my part. It is the first illustration of an Inoca female or child to appear in the historical record. The child seems to be male with hair and clothing the same as the men. The woman is trim, fit, and robust. She is larger than the man standing closest to her. Her clothing consists of the red skirt. Red (vermillion) cloth was a very common trade item for the French. Surprisingly, she appears to be without skin art. I would not have predicted this based on other sources. Perhaps de Batz wished to portray her in a light more acceptable to a European audience. Note his fanciful treatment of her left hand. For cosmetics she displays only what would pass to a French audience as cheek rouge. The hair style is simple, long, and braided. Observe the presence of a knotting device at the end of the braid. It represents the only other element of costuming. It is unknown whether the material, its color, or the type of knot was fanciful or symbolic. Lastly note the relationship between the boy and the woman. He is looking at her, both are smiling, and they are holding hands. Inoca mothers apparently loved their children too.


1. See "Letter from Father du Poisson, Missionary to the Akensas...." Ruben G. Thwaites. Jesuit Relations, Vol. 67. p. 283.
See also the De Gannes Memoir later in this volume, pp. 311-312.

III. The Calumet

The Calumet was a ritual and artifact of much interest to the French as they traveled among the Nations. While for Native American societies it held a variety of functions, the one of greatest interest to the French was its application as their culturally familiar "flag of truce." When performed and displayed, the calumet would allow peaceful initial interactions with unknown and potentially threatening individuals, villages, and tribes.

One of the more interesting and unique items of cultural information that Father Marquette provides is part of the song that accompanied the Calumet ceremony. Ethnomusicology, especially in the context of ethnohistory, is an extremely challenging subfield of anthropology. We have interpreted the song as a rather lyrical, haunting melody. Your browser may require a media plug-in to generate the performance. Be forewarned that the sound file is very large.

Father Marquette's Song of the Calumet

The Recollet Father Louis Hennepin, traveling with the La Salle party to the Pays des Illinois in 1679, offers the following description of the pipe. The pipe carried by La Salle had been conferred upon him by the Potawatomi.

Father Hennepin's Description of the Pipe

Louis Armand de Lom d'Arce, Baron de la Hontan (New Voyages to North America, Vol. A and B. 1703. London: Bonwicke et al..) spent two years in New France. He traveled widely and wrote a two volume series on his adventures. La Hontan typically speaks in trans-cultural generalizations and provides little specific information about the Inoca. Volume B affords a pen and ink illustration (Figure 3.) of the Calumet and some of its social contexts. He accompanies the illustration with a physical description of the pipe.

Figure 4. La Hontan's illustration of the Calumet (New Voyages to North America, Vol. B. 1703. London: Bonwicke, et al.. p. 82b). Click on image for a larger view.

La Hontan offers the following physical description:

The Calumet of Peace is made of certain Stones, or of Marble, whether red, black, or white. The Pipe or Stalk is four or five foot long; the body of the Calumet is eight Inches long, and the Mouth or Head in which the Tobacco is lodg'd, is three Inches in length; its figure approaches to that of a hammer. The red Calumets are most esteem'd. The Savages make use of 'em for Negotiations and State Affairs, and especially in Voyages; for when they have a Calumet in their hand, they go where they will in safety. The Calumet is trimm'd with yellow, white, and green Feathers, and has the same effect among the Savages, that the Flag of friendship has amongst us; for to violate the Rights of this venerable Pipe, is among them a flaming crime, that will draw down mischief upon their Nations. (Volume A, p. 36)

IV. Maps

Prior to the Marquette and Jolliet expedition the lands and people south and west of Green Bay, Wisconsin were undocumented. For groups like the Inoca, direct contact and trade with societies of the Gulf coast had likely been lost shortly after the decline of the great Mississippian center at Cahokia. One indicator of the Inoca knowledge of the great river was that Marquette indicates several different Inoca tribes occupying and perhaps controlling a 600 to 700 mile stretch of the river valley. Their villages ranged from the Des Moines River (Peoria and Moingoana) in the north to the mouth of the Arkansas River (Michigamea) in the south.

In the series of maps we present one can observe the growth of French knowledge of the region as well as the decline and disappearance of many Native American groups. The informational aberration of La Salle's "discovery" and "charting" of the Lower Mississippi Valley is clearly revealed.

On the return leg of the Marquette-Jolliet expedition, Marquette, wishing to gain permission to return to the Inoca and found the first Jesuit mission, quit the company at Green Bay (the Mission of St. Francis Xavier on the east side of De Pere rapids). Jolliet continued on with the documents of the exploration. Barely a day from the completion of the journey, a canoe voyage of several thousand miles through unknown country and people, living off the land, surviving unbelievable risks and hardships, Jolliet had the great misfortune or mischief of losing all of the official documents when his canoe capsized (St. Louis Rapids). As the French might say, C'est la vie. Marquette was quickly contacted by the Jesuit authorities for a copy or reconstruction of his narrative and map. He completed this work by late summer 1674. We have already viewed the narrative and now need view the manuscript map. Both this document and the narrative were sent by Father Allouez, subsequent to Marquette's death, to the Jesuit Superior, Father Claude Dablon, in Quebec in 1675.

Marquette had been given the authority to return and found his mission in the fall of 1674. He named it the Mission of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin. It was located in what is officially recognized today as the Grand Village of the Illinois or 11LS13. However, as he traveled, he became increasingly weakened by both the uncommon hardship of the winter (1674-1675) and with the "bloody flux" (dysentery). After serving his Easter Masses to a great gathering of the Inoca (when my students and I were there doing the site's archaeology, I spent many an evening reflecting upon which "…beautiful prairie, close to a village…." he employed for his services) he was forced to abandon his mission and attempt a retreat back to Green Bay. He did not survive the sojourn and died near the River St. Joseph in Southwestern Michigan.

Note that, with the possible exception of names for peripheral regional societies, Marquette's map records only that which he observed. It is a technique which is uncommon for the times and for which I have great respect.

The original of Jacques Marquette's map is preserved in the Jesuit archives in St. Jerome, Quebec. What is provided here is a copy produced from Sara Jones Tucker, Indian Villages of the Illinois Country, Vol. II, Part 1, Atlas, Plate 5, (1942: Illinois State Museum, Springfield.) The definitive statement regarding the creation of the map is provided by Lucien Campeau in his masterful "Regards critiques sur la Narration du P. Jacques Marquette." Les Cahiers des Dix 46 (1991): 21-60. Within a few years at least three creative enhancements of Marquette's chart were being circulated: the Thevenot Map (1681), the Parkman No. 5, and the Manitounie. Several embellishments are common to the three drawings most notable of which were the fabrication of the course of the Lower Mississippi River from the mouth of the Arkansas to the Gulf of Mexico and the insertion of an anthropomorphic "statue" to represent the pictographic rock art described in Marquette's narrative.

Click on image for full view (530 kb).

About 1682 Joannes (Jean Baptiste?) L. Franquelin prepared a manuscript map for the Intendant of New France, Duchesneau. The sketch is titled, "General map of the Artic France, containing the discovery of the Country of the Illinois. Made by Sieur Jolliet." Parkman has argued that Franquelin's illustration of the petroglyphs first described in Marquette's Journal (near present day Alton, Illinois), are most accurately rendered on this chart.

The image is from a facsimile copy in the Collections of the Library of Congress. Click on image for full view (132 kb).

In 1684 the following chart was produced by Jean Baptiste Louis Franquelin. The legend indicates that it was based on the discoveries of De La Salle in 1679, 1680, 1681, and 1682. Either La Salles' information was poorly communicated or he poorly understood his location regarding the course and mouth of the Mississippi. Indeed, the latter may well explain his inability to relocate the mouth of the river from the Gulf of Mexico and his search for it near modern day Corpus Christi, Texas.

The image is from a facsimile copy in the Collections of the Library of Congress. Click on image for full view (1.5 meg).

By the end of the Contact Generation the landscape of New France and Louisiana was much better known. In 1703 Delisle produces the Carte du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France. It contains an amazing amount of detail and is the first map to illustrate the course and mouth of the Mississippi River with some precision. Guillaume de L'Isle (Delisle) (1675-1726) was the most important French cartographer of the early eighteenth century. He was noted for his prolific production (over 100 maps) and exceptional accuracy. He was appointed Premier Geographe du Roi in 1718.

Guillaume Delisle. Atlas. 1700-1704. Paris. No. 26. Click on image for detail of the Illinois Country.

V. Cultural Descriptions of the Contact Generation

Basic to the notion of ethnography is the idea that the reporter need live with the people being described. In addition to the comments of Allouez and Marquette provided above, we offer six more statements by visitors. Taken as a whole they round out what survives of that which the French had to offer regarding the Contact generation.

The Jesuit Father to next be assigned the mission to the Inoca after Father Marquette's second voyage and untimely death was Claude Allouez. In October of 1676 he embarks from Green Bay on the Jesuit's third voyage to the Inoca. His report was filed in 1677 and includes a brief description of the Inoca culture.

Allouez's report of the Jesuit's third voyage to the Inoca

Father Louis Hennepin, a Recollet (Franciscan) priest associated with LaSalle, offers interesting observations of the Inoca in 1680. He is the only author to provide a name, Chessagouasse, for the person he classifies as ..."the most considerable Chief of the Illinois." His narratives first appear in print in 1697, as A New Discovery of a Vast Country in America, Vol. 1 and 2.. Perhaps what is most unique to this work are his descriptions of interactions between the French and Inoca. We would add that Hennepin's work has been the subject of many criticisms including creative fabrication, plagiarism, conceit, and suffocating ethnocentrism.

Hennepin's Descriptions of French and Inoca Interaction in 1680

In August of 1687, a veteran French soldier named Henri Joutel approached the Illinois Country from the south. Joutel had served as one of LaSalle's most trusted officers on the fateful voyage to discover the mouth of the Mississippi. After the mission's failure and LaSalle's assassination, it was Joutel that lead the remnants back to New France. He and his companions traveled up the Illinois River and over-wintered at Fort St. Louis.

Henri Joutel's Narrative

The most expansive narrative describing the Inoca in the late seventeenth century is provided by Pierre Delliette, an adventurer, military officer, trader, and relative (either cousin or nephew) of Henri de Tonti. He is thought to have lived in the Illinois Country from 1687 to 1698, for the first four years near Fort St. Loius (Starved Rock) and the balance near Lake Peoria. In 1705 he wrote an account of the Inoca and his experiences in their country. The document is known as the De Gannes Memoir. We have included the entire 1934 translation by Pease and Calvin.

De Gannes Memoir

Jesuit Father Père Sébastien Rasles was assigned to the Inoca mission between 1692 and 1694. We have here included the first half of a 1723 letter written by Rasles to his brother. Besides a lengthy description of Inoca cultural elements, it provides interesting glimpses into aspects of Abernaki and Ottowa culture.

The Letter of Father Rasles

Jesuit Father Père Gabriel Marest was assigned to the Kaskaskia in 1693 and was responsible for the work of Father Marquette's old Mission of Immaculate Conception. We have included some of his observations regarding the Kaskaskia. In this document we hear him state, "To return to our Illinois; they are very different... from what they formerly were themselves." To Marest, a little more than a quarter of a century of contact with the French had brought about fundamental changes in the culture and being of the Inoca.

Father Marest's Letter

VI. Language

With the death of the last known speaker of Inocan in the 1980s, the language was in danger of becoming extinct. Indeed, it was officially so declared. However, a handful of linguists have determined not to let this happen. I have asked two of my students to provide us with an introduction to what we today know of the language.

Il Parle Ilinois, ‘He speaks in the normal way’: The Language of the Inoca

VII. Links to Other Images of the Inoca Culture

Ethnohistory always involves the creation of images. Our project has focused on the images of the Inoca during the late seventeenth century that were created by French missionaries, military personnel, traders, adventurers, and cartographers. We would be remiss if we failed to include a self-image of the contemporary descendents of the Inoca, namely, the Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma. Two other perspectives that need to be referenced are, first, the ethnographic reconstruction generated by the Illinois State Museum and, second, the less Eurocentric histories of the Inoca people offered by Bob Fester and Lee Sultzman.

Please visit the web site of the Peoria Tribe of Oklahoma. They are the bearers of the culture the French called Illinois.

Peoria Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma

The most complete, on-line summary of the seventeenth and eighteenth century culture of the Inoca is to be found at the Illinois State Museum's WEB site. I can do no more than encourage you to go there and learn.

Ethnographic Overview of the Illinois - Illinois State Museum

Finally, the most extensive treatment of the historic Inoca available on the internet can be found on Bob Fester's web site entitled "The Illini: Lords of the Mississippi Valley."

The Illini: Lords of the Mississippi Valley

Complimenting Fester's work is the ethnohistorical effort of Lee Sultzman.

Illinois History