Illinois Indians, a confederation of tribes of the Algonquian language family. The Indians referred to themselves as Illiniwek, meaning “men” or “people”; Illinois was the French spelling of the name. The main tribes of the confederacy were the Kaskaskia, Peoria, Michigamea, Moingwena, Cahokia, and Tamora. In the 17th century, Marquette, Hennepin, La Salle, and other French explorers found them in southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and parts of Iowa and Missouri, chiefly along the Mississippi and Illinois rivers. At this time they numbered about 8,000. These Indians lived mainly by farming, but also hunted buffalo.
After 1680, Iroquois attacks drove the Illinois south and west. During the 18th century they were almost wiped out by their northern neighbors, the Sac, Fox, Kickapoo, and Potawatomi. In 1833 the survivors, members of the Peoria and Kaskaskia tribes, moved to Kansas. In 1867 they settled in northeastern Oklahoma, where they intermingled with other Indian tribes.