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Native Languages of the Americas: Kickapoo (Kikapoo, Kikapu)

Language: Kickapoo is an Algonquian language closely related to Mesquakie-Sauk (some linguists even consider it a dialect of Mesquakie-Sauk). Kickapoo and Mesquakie-Sauk are both polysynthetic languages with complex verb morphology and fairly free word order. Unlike Mesquakie-Sauk, however, Kickapoo is a tone language--the high or low pitch of a vowel can change a Kickapoo word's meaning. Kickapoo is spoken in three distinct language areas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and northern Mexico, by a combined 800 people. The language is most vigorous in Mexico, where some children are still learning it at home; in America Kickapoo is endangered, though revitalization efforts are ongoing. In the past, Kickapoo Indians also used a unique linguistic code called "whistle speech" to convey simple utterances, but today that is a lost art.

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People: The Kickapoo tribe was originally an offshoot of the Shawnee tribe ("Kickapoo" is thought to be a corruption of a Shawnee word for "wanderers,") but their language and customs had more in common with the neighboring Fox and Sauk. Fiercely resistant to European cultures, the Kickapoo Indians never assimilated, preferring to continue relocating further south from their original Michigan-Wisconsin-Illinois homeland. Today, 3000 Kickapoo people live in three groups in the US--the Kickapoo tribes of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas--and one community in Coahuila, Mexico.

History: Native American tribes are frequently defined by their historical reaction to European colonists. The Cherokee tried to fit into the new civilization; the Apache fought them tooth and nail. The Kickapoo tribe primarily withdrew. Wanting neither to fight the powerful invaders nor surrender to them, most Kickapoos left their native lands and moved southward to get away from white Americans, a process they repeated several times until the Kickapoos were living in Texas and Mexico--a far cry from their native Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. Some of the Kickapoo Indians in Mexico did eventually return to the United States, but their ancestors may have had a point--Kickapoo culture is most traditional and the Kickapoo language most alive in the Mexican Kickapoo tribe, furthest from the reach of the United States government and its programs.

Kickapoo Language Resources
Kickapoo language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Kickapoo Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Kickapoo Indians past and present.

Kickapoo Indians Fact Sheet
Our answers to frequently asked questions about the Kickapoos.

Kickapoo Legends
Introduction to Kickapoo Indian mythology.

Kickapoo Language Resources

Our Online Kickapoo Language Materials

Kickapoo Vocabulary:
    List of Kickapoo vocabulary words, with comparison to words in other Algonquian languages.
Kickapoo Pronunciation Guide:
    How to pronounce Kickapoo words.
Kickapoo Animal Words:
    Illustrated glossary of animal words in the Kickapoo language.
Kickapoo Body Parts:
    Online and printable worksheets showing parts of the body in the Kickapoo language.
Kickapoo Colors:
    Worksheet teaching Kickapoo color words.
Kickapoo Food:
    Worksheet with pictures of food words in the Kickapoo language.
Kickapoo Animate Nouns:
    Lesson on Kickapoo animate and inanimate nouns.
Kickapoo Possession:
    Lesson on the use of Kickapoo possessive prefixes.

Kickapoo Dictionaries and Language Books for Sale
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Kickapoo Vocabulary:
    Kickapoo dictionary for sale.
Paul Voorhis:
    Bibliography of scholarly papers by a prominent researcher of the Kickapoo Indian language.
American Indian Language Dictionaries:
    Kickapoo and other Native American dictionaries and language materials for sale.

Kickapoo Language Lessons and Linguistic Descriptions

Hello Oklahoma: Kickapoo Tribe:
    Kickapoo alphabet, phrasebook, and sample text.
Kickapoo Language Tree:
    Theories about Kickapoo's language relationships compiled by Linguist List.
Kickapoo Language Structures:
    Kickapoo linguistic profile and academic bibliography.

Literature and Texts in the Kickapoo Language

Kickapoo Tales:
    Collection of traditional Kickapoo stories, with English translation.

Kickapoo Language Preservation and Usage

Algonquian Language Family in Mexico:
    Information on the Mexican Kickapoo Indians and their language.
Circle of Learning at Kickapoo:
    The Kickapoo Nation School and its cultural and linguistic maintenance program.
House of Languages: Sauk-Fox-Kickapoo:
    Information about Sac, Fox, and Kickapoo language usage.
Kickapoo Language:
    Kickapoo demographic information from the Ethnologue of Languages.
Native Translation:
    Kickapoo and other North American language translation services.
Kickapoo Community Profile:
    Study including ethnographic information about the Kickapoo Nation and their language.

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Additional Resources, Links, and References

  Endangered Languages Project: Kickapoo:
Bibliography of Kickapoo language resources.
  Algonquina: Kikapú * La Lengua Kickapoo:
  Articles on the Kickapoo language in Spanish.
  Kickapoo Language:
  Kickapoo links.
Learning Kickapoo:
Bibliography of Kickapoo language learning resources.

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