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Illinois State History Facts

Many native tribes lived in the area known today as Illinois for thousands of years, such as the Paleo-Indians, Woodland, and the Mississippian peoples.

Seal Of Illinois

As they built large ceremonial and burial mounds, they are often called the Mound People. One such mound is called Monks Mound and is the largest ancient memorial north of Mexico.

Monks Mound In July

Several tribes moved into the area during the 1600s and 1700s.

The Iroquois, Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Miami tribes called the area home, along with the Illini, which was a group of 12 different tribes.

The French Arrive

Related: Illinois State Facts


French explorers Marquette and Joliet were the first to arrive in the Illinois area in 1673. They made their way down the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers.

They claimed the area for France and soon after fur traders arrived from France to set up a fur-trading business with the natives. Several forts and settlements were established.

Louis Jolliet

The French people maintained good relationships with all the tribes in the area and they lived together peaceably.


The British Arrive

One hundred years after the arrival of the French fur traders, British troops arrived and wanted to take over the area including the land.

The French and the native Indians resisted and in 1763, the British overpowered the inhabitants and claimed the land for England.

However, British rule only lasted for 20 years because the U.S. Revolutionary War made the Illinois area part of the Northwest Territory of the United States.

In 1818, Illinois became the 21st state of the United States. The capital was first Vandalia and then Springfield in 1839, which is still the capital of Illinois today.

Flag Of Illinois

Native Americans Resist

More and more settlers moved into the area of Illinois, and the native tribes were forced further west to find animals to hunt and somewhere to live in peace and harmony with nature, as they had always done in the past.

However, some of the tribes wanted their land back and they returned to the Illinois area prepared to wage war against the U.S. Army and the settlers.

Chief Black Hawk was their leader. He and his warriors were overpowered by U.S. troops at the Battle of Bad Axe and forced back west to Iowa.

Black Hawk Illustration From Old Book

The Civil War

In 1861, an Illinois congressman, Abraham Lincoln, became the president of the United States. As a member of the Union of the United States, Illinois sent men to fight the Confederates but no battles were fought on Illinois soil. The Confederates were defeated in 1865.

The Great Chicago Fire

A small fire started in a barn in the south part of Chicago in 1871. It spread so violently that it destroyed approximately 20,000 buildings, which was most of Chicago.

Chicago In Flames

Quiz Time!



Who were the ancient peoples that build ceremonial and burial mounds?

What tribes traded with the French fur traders?

What happened after the French lived and traded with the Indians for 100 years?

Why did the native tribes move west out of the Illinois region?

What was the Battle of Bad Axe?

Battle Of Bad Axe And Steamboat Warrior


The Paleo-Indians, Woodlands, and the Mississippian natives built ceremonial and burial mounds.

The Iroquois, Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Miami tribes were some of the tribes that traded with the French.

After the French had been trading with the Indians for 100 years, British troops arrived and fought and won a war against the French fur traders and Indians and claimed the land for England.

Illinois was becoming crowded with European settlers and the native tribes were forced to move west to find good hunting.

Concourse B Chicago O Hare Airport

Some natives, led by Chief Black Hawk, decided to move back into Illinois to reclaim the land that had been taken from them but were defeated and had to move back to Iowa.

US State History


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