Encyclopedia o f Chicago
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Chicago as an Indian Town

“Although every Indian town carried a tribal identity, the resident population included people connected with other tribes. They may have come to live in the village because of marriage alliances made during a trading visit. . . . Some were captives or slaves acquired during inter-tribal wars. There were frequently people of European and African heritage captured as children or adults. . . .

“Indian villages were the recognized home bases for their inhabitants, yet, unlike white settlements, were seldom fully occupied during the entire year. In the northern Great Lakes region, . . . the major fishing sites were the places regularly occupied during the spring to fall period of tolerable weather. To the south, . . . villages had their maximum population during the summer planting and harvesting seasons. . . . The village customarily split into smaller groups to depart for winter hunting camps, then moved to maple groves for sugar making in the early spring and often took in a short-term spring fish run before returning to plant corn and other vegetables and visit a major trading center. In mid-winter, an Indian village site might be entirely vacant or house only elderly people left behind with dried food supplies to serve as general caretakers during the four-month winter hunting season.”

DuSable: A Regional Man

Jean Baptiste Point DuSable was a “free Negro,” born into the French colonial empire in North America in the mid-eighteenth century. Questions about where he was born remain, but it is clear that by the 1770s DuSable was trading with partners who had connections in Montreal, Kaskaskia, and Cahokia. Historical records place DuSable as a trader at Michigan City in 1779, as a British prisoner at Fort Michilimackinac, and then as the British-appointed manager of a trading post north of Detroit in 1780.

DuSable negotiated between the colonial powers and the Potawatomi, Miami, and Chippewa with whom he traded. His wife, Catherine, was a Pot-awatomi whose family connections were important to this trade. By 1788, the couple had established a home at Chicago. They solemnized their marriage at a Roman Catholic church in Peoria (1788), and saw the marriage of their daughter Suzanne to Jean Baptiste Pelletier, and the birth of their granddaughter Eulalie (1790).

Sometime before 1800, Catherine died. DuSable sold his considerable holdings at Chicago and moved south to St. Charles, Missouri, where he died in 1818.