“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
West Alton in St. Charles County, Missouri — The American Midwest (Upper Plains)

American Indian Nations of Missouri

Before, During and After Lewis and Clark

American Indian Nations of Missouri Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Jason Voigt, July 1, 2022
1. American Indian Nations of Missouri Marker
Inscription.  Many American Indian nations have lived in what is now Missouri. Little is known about the early cultures - the Woodland and Mississippian, which gave way to more familiar tribes that the first Europeans met. Indian residence in the state has most often been a complicated story of migration into the area and forced removal later. In the end, all the tribes left the borders of Missouri against their will for reservations in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

The Lewis and Clark Expedition had little contact with Indians while in Missouri in 1804 and 1806. The expedition had a friendly meeting with some Kickapoo, and encountered an Indian woman traveling with fur traders. One expedition member hunted with six unknown Indians. The expedition's highway, the Missouri River, may have been a no-man's-land, a boundary between rival tribes like the Osage and Sauk Fox.


The Quapaw moved to the Mississippi River after leaving the Ohio River valley, eventually settling in four villages where the Arkansas River meets the Mississippi. To the Illinois Indians, these people were the "Akansa," which was the origin
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of "Arkansas." Because of population loss from smallpox, much of early Quapaw oral history was lost. Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet were the first Europeans to meet the Quapaw, from whom they learned that the Mississippi flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. In 1818, the Quapaw gave up lands in southern Arkansas, Oklahoma and Louisiana, and their remaining Arkansas land in 1824. They now live in Oklahoma.

Sauk & Fox

The affiliated Sauk and Fox tribes expanded into Missouri from Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois. Pictographs on Missouri River bluffs may have been painted by the Sauk and Fox. On June 3 and 5, 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition found signs that Capt. William Clark thought indicated parties of "Saukees" crossing the Missouri River to fight the Osage, their bitterest rivals. During the War of 1812, a band of Sauk - led by Black Hawk and allied with the British - fought against Americans in retaliation for the loss of their territory. The Sauk and Fox now live in Kansas and Nebraska.


The Peoria were the largest tribe of the Illiniwek (or Illinois) Confederacy; about 8,000 lived on the Des Moines River in northeast Missouri when they first met Europeans. Illiniwek Village State Historic Site, discovered in 1984, is the best-preserved Peoria village site. Historians believe French explorers Jacques Marquette
American Indian Nations of Missouri Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Jason Voigt, July 1, 2022
2. American Indian Nations of Missouri Marker
Marker is located at the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers (seen in the background), at Edward "Ted" and Pat Jones Confluence Point State Park.
and Louis Joliet visited it on their 1673 expedition down the Mississippi River. Like many Midwest Indian societies, the Peoria farmed corn, beans and squash, and hunted bison, deer and bear. They returned to the Illinois River valley well before the time of Lewis and Clark. The Illiniwek lost lands in Illinois and Kansas by treaties, finally moving to Oklahoma.


A hilltop in today's Van Meter State Park is the earliest known home of the Missouri Indians. For three centuries, they got food, building materials and tools from the river, wetlands, woodlands and prairie. The Missouri also farmed creek bottoms. The French called them "Oumessourit," and their name lives on in the river and state. In 1804, Capt. William Clark wrote that war with the Sauk "was so hot & both nations become so reduced that…the rest of the Missouries went and took protection under the Otteaus [Otos] on Platt river." The expedition met the Missouri and Oto upriver, and the combined tribes now live in Oklahoma.


Almost 1,400 Shawnee came to Missouri starting around 1790 (the "Absentee Shawnee"). About 800 remained in Ohio. In 1826, some Ohio Shawnee left for a new reservation in Kansas, and in the next decade the rest followed. The various post-Ohio migrations of Shawnee created some friction among the groups. A federal treaty shrank
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the Kansas reservation to one-tenth its size, and most of the remainder was sold to white settlers and given as compensation to Civil War veterans. Forced into Oklahoma, the Kansas Shawnee joined the Cherokee for more than a hundred years until regaining separate federal recognition in 2000.


In St. Charles, Capt. William Clark met a group of Kickapoo who arranged to supply the expedition. Several Kickapoo brought four deer to the expedition [unreadable] May 22, 1804, camp. The Kickapoo odyssey of migration, conflict and trade was similar to many other tribes. Under attack from the Iroquois around Lake Erie, the Kickapoo moved to Wisconsin, where they traded furs with the French. Iroquois and Sioux pressure forced them south. In Illinois and Indiana, they encountered American settlers in the early 1800s, and relations turned violent. The U.S. government relocated them to Kansas, then Oklahoma and Texas; one group settled in Mexico.


The Delaware, originally from present-day Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York, were forced westward early because they were among the first tribes to meet Europeans. They migrated over the Appalachians, and one band, the "Absentee Delaware," was invited to move from Ohio along with a group of Shawnee to today's Missouri around 1790 by Louis Lorimier, Spanish agent at Cape Girardeau. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark encountered Delaware and Shawnee together along the Mississippi River in November 1803. Two recognized Delaware tribes now live in Oklahoma.


The Iowa (or Ioway) lived in present-day Iowa and northern Missouri at the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. At winter camp in April 1804, Capt. William Clark prepared a (unreadable) to the Sioux & Ioway Indians." The expedition passed several former Iowa villages that summer on the Missouri River. The Iowa are a Siouan group related to the Missouri, Oto and Winnebago. They were relocated to Kansas under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, and treaties in 1854 and 1861 further reduced Iowa lands. Today, the 12,000-acre Iowa reservation straddles the Kansas-Nebraska border and has about 3,000 members.

Absentee Shawnee

Shawnee and Delaware Indians from Ohio were invited to the Cape Girardeau district in southeast Missouri around 1790 by Spain's district commandant Louis Lorimer, who had traded with them in Ohio. Spain, which governed the Louisiana Territory then, believed the "Absentee Shawnee" would be a buffer against the Osage and against British and American ambitions to expand their borders. Lewis and Clark met a group of Shawnee and Delaware near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, and saw Shawnee huts and tents along the Mississippi near today's Trail of Tears State Park. Today, the Absentee Shawnee live in Oklahoma.


In June, the Lewis and Clark Expedition heard from traders that the "Kansas Nation…are now persueing the Buffalow in the Plains." When the expedition arrived at the Kansas River on June 26, 1804, it met no Kansa or Kaw). Capt. William Clark's maps told him the Kansa lived 60 and 120 miles up the Kansas River. A week later, the expedition camped opposite an abandoned Kansa village. Occupied in the early 1700s, it is the earliest known Kansa site. The Kansa may have migrated west from the Ohio River, then split from their relatives, the Omaha, Osage, Quapaw and Ponca. The Kansa now live in Oklahoma.


The Osage were the most powerful of Missouri's Indian nations, with a large population and European weapons. They controlled about half the fur trade on the lower Missouri River, and Lewis and Clark wanted friendly relations with them. In May 1804, the expedition met a trading party returning with news that an Osage chief had burned a letter announcing the United States - thanks to the Louisiana Purchase - now controlled Osage land. After the expedition, Meriwether Lewis, the new territorial governor, and William Clark, superintendent of Indian (unreadable), negotiated with the Osage. The Osage saw their lands shrink treaty by treaty, then were moved to a reservation in Indian Territory (today's Oklahoma).


Trade Goods with the Lewis and Clark Expedition

The Lewis and Clark Expedition carried Indian trade items for gifts and bartering. As directed by President Thomas Jefferson, Lewis and Clark's mission was to befriend tribes , make peace among them and announce that with the purchase of Louisiana Territory, the American president was their new leader. All this was intended to lay a foundation for trade in furs. To the right is a list of some of these goods.

Blue beads • Brass buttons • Axes • Tomahawks • Moccasin • Awls • Scissors • Red-handled knives • Rings with glass stones • Ruffled shirts • Calico shirts • Red flannel • Ivory combs • Mirrors • Wampum • Tobacco • Vermilion face paint • Red leggings • Dress coats - Blue blankets • Flags • Medals • Hawk bells • Thimbles • Two corn grinders • Eight brass kettles • 500 broaches • 2,800 fishhooks • 4,600 sewing needles
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: ExplorationNative AmericansWaterways & Vessels. A significant historical month for this entry is April 1804.
Location. 38° 48.987′ N, 90° 7.182′ W. Marker is in West Alton, Missouri, in St. Charles County. Marker is on Trail to confluence south of Riverlands Way. For information on how to access this marker, see "Regarding". Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1000 Trail to confluence, West Alton MO 63386, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Lewis and Clark at the Confluence Point (here, next to this marker); Lewis and Clark (approx. 0.4 miles away); Lewis and Clark Expedition (approx. 0.8 miles away in Illinois); The Journey Begins Here (approx. 0.9 miles away in Illinois); "fixed on a place to build huts" (approx. 1.4 miles away in Illinois); The Lewis & Clark Expedition (approx. 1.4 miles away in Illinois); The Lewis and Clark Expedition in Illinois: A Bicentennial Tribute (approx. 1.4 miles away in Illinois); The Village of Hartford (approx. 1.6 miles away in Illinois).
Regarding American Indian Nations of Missouri. Accessing the marker: From U.S. 67, turn at the gas station (last one before leaving Missouri) and keep driving on Riverlands Way. Be sure to follow signs as Riverlands Way will make a sharp right before going into Maple Island Access point. Riverlands Way will become a rock-gravel road, and keep following it for 4.3 miles until you get to the parking lot. The lot will have restrooms and a shelter/kiosk with markers. Follow the trail (part of it is a sidewalk) which will lead you to the Mississippi/Missouri rivers confluence point for .3 miles.

Please keep in mind that access to this area is limited at times. It is usually closed during the Winter and on times when high waters arise. Throughout most of 2020 and 2021 this was not open to the public because of the pandemic. Sometimes after heavy storms they do not open the roads that lead to the park. It is best to check the website (see link below) before making a visit to the park.
Also see . . .  Edward "Ted" and Pat Jones Confluence Point State Park. Opened in 2004, the park was named for Edward Jones, who was the son of the founder of Edward Jones Investments (a St. Louis company). (Submitted on July 27, 2022, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on July 27, 2022. It was originally submitted on July 27, 2022, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois. This page has been viewed 188 times since then and 41 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on July 27, 2022, by Jason Voigt of Glen Carbon, Illinois.

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May. 19, 2024