Kickapoo (kĭkˈəpō) [key], Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Algonquian branch of the Algonquian-Wakashan linguistic stock (see Native American languages) and who in the late 17th cent. occupied SW Wisconsin. They were closely related to the Sac and Fox. The culture of the Kickapoo was essentially that of the Eastern Woodlands area, but they also hunted buffalo, one of the few traits that the Kickapoo adopted from their neighbors in the Plains area. After the allied Kickapoo, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, and Sac and Fox tribes massacred (c.1769) the Illinois, they partitioned the Illinois territory. The Kickapoo, numbering about 3,000, moved south to central Illinois. Later they split in two; the Vermilion group settled on the Vermilion River, a tributary of the Wabash, and the Prairie group on the Sangamon River. The Kickapoo, a power in the region, sided with the British in the American Revolution and in the War of 1812, when they aided the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. By the Treaty of Edwardsville (1819) the Kickapoo ceded all their lands in Illinois to the United States. They were prevented from entering Missouri, which had been set aside for them, because that region was occupied by the hostile Osage. Kanakuk, a prophet, exhorted the Kickapoo to remain where they were, promising that if they avoided liquor and infractions of the white man's law, they would inherit a land of plenty. His pleas were futile, and the Kickapoo, after aiding the Sac and Fox in the Black Hawk War, were forced to leave Illinois. The Kickapoo moved first to Missouri and then to Kansas. A large group, dissatisfied with conditions on the reservation, went (c.1852) first to Texas and then to Mexico, where they became known as the Mexican Kickapoo. After the U.S. Civil War, the Mexican Kickapoo proved so constant an annoyance to border settlements that the United States made efforts to induce them to return. The negotiations were successful, and a number returned to settle (1873–74) on reservations in Texas and Oklahoma. The remaining Mexican Kickapoo are settled on a reservation in Chihuahua, Mexico. There is also a Kickapoo reservation in Kansas. In 1990 there were 3,500 Kickapoo in the United States.
See R. E. Ritzenthaler, The Mexican Kickapoo Indians (1956, repr. 1970); A. M. Gibson, The Kickapoos (1963).