Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Starved Rock State Park

Today, we went to Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Illinois.  Admission was free, and parking was free...the best deals we were to see all week!  ;o)

We learned a lot about the area and the people who inhabited it and explored it.

The Illinois Indians

The Illinois people called themselves Inoca.  French explorers and missionaries generally referred to them as Illinois, but also used the terms Iliniouek and Ilinou√©s.  The terms Illini and Illiniwek also have been used to refer to the Illinois, although it is unclear as to their origin.

The Illinois Nation consisted of as many as twelve independent Native American tribes.  These tribes spoke a common language, had similar ways of life, and shared a large territory in the Mississippi River Valley.  The most well-known of the Illinois Nation were the Kaskaskia, Cahokia, Peoria, Tamaroa, and Michigamea tribes.

Men were the primary hunters and warriors, while the women tended to the fields and the home.  Both worked to manufacture objects for trade.

February was the accepted time of year for war and raiding parties.  These were generally small, led by a war leader, and followed strict rules.  Taking captives was considered more honorable than killing the enemy.  Slaves were apparently common, and captured men and women often were adopted into families to replace lost members.

During the summer, the Illinois stayed near their crops and gardens.  Their summer dwellings were longhouses, occupied by five to ten families each.  After the harvest and storage of their crops, the Illinois traveled to hunting villages located farther south and west, where the climate was milder and the game was more plentiful.  During this time of year, they resided in wigwams, occupied by one or two families each.


The Illinois' homes were formed from a framework of two parallel rows of saplings bent together and lashed at the top to form a series of arches.  They were roofed and floored with mats made of rushes.

Inside of wigwam

Inside were cooking fires and storage pits.

Fort St. Louis

Fort St. Louis was built on Starved Rock in 1682.  The fort was named after the then king of France, Louis XIV.

Model of fort, constructed by the
Illinois Math and Science Academy

The Legend of Starved Rock

This is the story of Starved Rock...and how it got its name:

In 1769, an Illinois Indian killed Pontiac, the great chief of the Ottawa.  The Ottawa, with the help of several tribes, sought revenge on the Illinois.  The Ottawa and their allies significantly outnumbered the Illini, so it was not long before the battle reduced the number of Illini to a mere remnant of this once-flourishing tribe.  From this point of the story on, factual events are difficult to confirm.

Legend states that the surviving Illini fled to the protection of Starved Rock.  Trapped on the Rock, the Illini fought back their enemies numerous times.  According to legend, the proud Illini warriors preferred to starve upon the rocky fortress rather than surrender to the enemy. Eventually, a group of the allied enemies ascended the Rock and finished off the last of the hunger-weakened Illini.

A few days later, traders en route to Canada stopped to see why flocks of buzzards were circling the huge rock.  Upon reaching the summit, the traders were sickened with the spectacle of the carnage.  They left and took with them the fantastic Legend of Starved Rock.


France appointed Louis Jolliet, a fur trader, and Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit missionary, to conduct an expedition to the Mississippi River.

Father Jacques Marquette

On their northward journey home, they ascended the modern-day Illinois River.  The explorers stopped at the village of one of the tribes of the Illinois, the Kaskaskias.

The Kaskaskia village was located on the north bank of the Illinois River about a mile east, upriver from Starved Rock.  Marquette's record of this village is the first mention in history of a site closely allied to the story of Starved Rock.

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