American Indians left an unforgettable mark

When Father Jacques Marquette, Louis Jolliet and other French explorers first ventured into the territory we know as Illinois, they were met and often warmly greeted by tribes of native peoples.

In time, these natives were driven out of their own lands. Nonetheless, they left their mark on our state in many ways, including an assortment of place names.

Illinois. This name was given to our state, the river that slices through it, and even a township in Jersey County. Derived from “Ininiwek,” (often “Illiniwek”), which means “men,” it referred not to a particular people, but to a confederation of six tribes – the Cahokia, Kaskaskia, Moingwena, Michigamea, Peoria, and Tamaroa. Once, this powerful confederation controlled all of Illinois and much of the surrounding lands.

Marquette was the first to write of the word. The Jesuit priest and later Father Louis Hennepin remarked that the Ininiwek used the name in a way to suggest that all other tribes were decidedly inferior. Indeed, the “men” where highly intelligent, resourceful and said to be a handsome race of people. The French transformed Ininiwek into “Illinois.” The word is plural (Illini would be the singular form), a reference to all six tribes of the confederation. &nbsp;&nbsp;<ahref=""><spanstyl... 13px; color: rgb(0, 0, 0);">To view more, please log in or subscribe to the digital edition.</span></a></p>