Human Interactions:
Native Americans

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Oaks near water
Archaeological sites at Midewin demonstrate that Native Americans utilized the region for at least the past 12,000 years. Paleo-Indians, the earliest people at the site, were present soon after the retreat of the glaciers. They utilized the region for hunting and collecting wild foods. The post-glacial environment in northeastern Illinois was far different than it is today. Prairie did not exist, and the vegetation consisted of open forest.

About 11,500 years ago, the climate changed, and became warmer. Deciduous forests replaced the spruce parkland. Prairie began developing in Illinois about 9000 years ago, but the maximal development of prairie did not occur until after 5000 to 6000 years ago. Since about 3000 years ago, climate has become wetter, and frequent prairie fires prevented reinvasion by forests. Native American peoples in the region adapted to these changes, and became an integral part of the prairie ecosystem, setting fires during their autumnal hunts. They utilized the wild resources that the prairie had to offer, and later groups cultivated lands surrounding prairies. The tribal affiliations of these early peoples at Midewin are not known.

Historically, the Miami, and later, the Potawatomi had villages located in the area near the Fox, Illinois, Des Plaines, and Kankakee Rivers. By 1700, the Potawatomi, the last group to inhabit the region, were present at the site. Their territory included land extending along the shores of Lake Michigan from Green Bay southward to the junction of the Fox and Illinois Rivers and eastward to Detroit (Tanner, 1987).

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Illinois State Museum State of Illinois IDNR Search, Last modified October 21st 2003, 02:53AM.