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Missouri History
© 2005 Rickie Lazzerini
Page 1

Historical Review 1.5   
Native Americans

     The Native American inhabitants of what is now Missouri can be classified into a number of categories ranging from the Paleo-Indians of 12,000 B.C., to the Historic Indians whom Europeans came into contact with during their first explorations.

     The Paleo-Indian period lasted from 12,000 B.C. to 8,000 B.C. These people were big-game hunters. They hunted the mastodon for meat, and the giant ground sloth for fur. The Ice Age was coming to an end during this period causing great floods as the glaciers melted.

     The Hunter-Forager period (8,000 B.C. - 7,000 B.C.) followed the Paleo-Indian period. The disappearance of the large mammals, like the mastodon and the mammoth, was another result of the end of the Ice Age. This caused the people to hunt smaller game and rely more heavily on gathering. These people often lived in caves, such as that currently known as Graham Cave State Park. They crafted tools for hunting, sewing, and cooking. They also made fluted points for hunting, used needles for making clothing and hand-woven nets, and mortars for crushing seeds.

     The Archaic Period followed, and lasted from 7,000 B.C. to 1,000 B.C. Like the Hunter-Foragers, these people hunted small game and gathered seeds. Fish and vegetables became an important part of their diet.

     The next era would be the Woodland Period, (1,000 to 500 B.C.). The Hopewell tribe inhabited Missouri during this period. They learned how to fire clay pots and tools, engaged in trade, and created large ceremonial earthworks. They cultivated corn and hunted deer and wild turkey.

     The Mississippian Period followed, and lasted from A.D. 900 to 1700. During this time, southern tribes influenced the Mississippians. They were highly dependent on the river; eating river dwelling animals and utilizing the fertile soil of the riverbeds to grow crops. During this period the Mississippians became more dependent on agriculture than ever before. They grew corn, beans, squash, sunflowers, and gourds. These people were sedentary, living mostly in towns.

     The Historic Period, beginning in 1700, is the last classified era of Native American development. These would be the Indians the European explorers and settlers would come into contact with. These tribes include the Missouri, Osage, Delaware, and the Shawnee. These tribes lived in large villages, gathered wild food, and cultivated corn, beans, and squash. Contact with Europeans brought dramatic changes to these tribes. As more and more European settlers moved into the area, the local Indians were pushed west of the Mississippi, but many remained in the state. After statehood, more than 6,000 Native Americans lived throughout the state of Missouri to the dismay of settlers. Missourians wanted the entire state available for settlement, so through the 1820s they broke treaty agreements and forced the Indians to leave the state. By this time, the Missouri Indians had been so weakened by disease and war that they had disappeared. The Osage, Sac, Fox, Shawnee, and Delaware were still present in Missouri until they were forced to move west across state lines and eventually to Indian Territory.

The Early Explorers

     The first Europeans to explore modern-day Missouri were the French. (At first the area that now includes Missouri was known as Illinois Country, then after 1770 it was known as Spanish Illinois or Upper Louisiana. The name Missouri wasn't adopted until 1812.) In 1673, Louis Jollet and Father Jacques Marquette set out to explore the area that now encompasses Missouri. Marquette was a French-born Jesuit missionary and Jolliet an explorer and mapmaker from Canada. They started out from Green Bay and traveled down the Fox River until they arrived at an Indian village at the headwaters of the Wisconsin River. There they traveled down the Wisconsin until finding a footpath that led them to an Illinois Indian village where they would spent the night. Leaving there, they traveled 300 miles down the river where they passed the mouths of the Illinois, Missouri, and Ohio Rivers arriving at the mouth of the Arkansas River. Here they met with local tribes and learned that the river led to the Gulf of Mexico instead of California, like they had hoped. They were also warned that if they continued down the Arkansas they would encounter hostile Indians and Spaniards. They turned back and learned of the shortcut back to Lake Michigan via the Illinois River. This expedition brought awareness of the frontier and the first detailed information of the Missouri and Illinois areas.

The First Settlements

     The first resident of Missouri was the French Jesuit Priest, Father Gabriel Marest. In the fall of 1700, he accompanied a band of Kaskaskia Indians to the west bank of the Mississippi. Here they constructed cabins, a chapel, and a primitive fort. The following spring a group of French traders joined Father Marest at the settlement. The settlement was eventually abandoned when the settlers moved to a safer site.

     The first permanent settlement in Missouri would be St. Genevieve, established in 1750 by French Canadian farmers. The settlers here grew wheat, tobacco, cotton, flax and corn, and brought slaves in to work the fields. The population grew from 23 in 1752, to 691 in 1772, but a great flood washed the town away in 1785, forcing them to rebuild.

     St. Louis, the second of Missouri's permanent settlements, was founded in 1764. St. Louis found its beginning in its present location because the founder of the City, Pierre Laclede Liguest, wanted a site to establish his fur trading post that would not be subject to flooding, yet would have a central location. The city grew slowly, yet steadily, and by 1700 the population reached 500.
By Rickie Lazzerini

BA History
University of California, Santa Barbara

Index of Historical Reviews

2005 Rickie Lazzerini, All Rights Reserved
This page may be freely linked to but may not be reproduced
in any form without prior written consent from the author.

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