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Area historian to detail what happened to Illinois’ Kickapoo nation

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Kevin Young discusses the Kickapoo Indians with a certain familiarity and fondness, as if he and the native Illinois tribe are old friends.

"We've just kind of followed each other over the years," he says.

Young was born in Rossville, two hours from Springfield in Vermilion County, near Kickapoo State Park. After watching John Wayne's The Alamo in 1961 at Danville's Dixie Drive-In Theatre, Young developed a passion for the history of Texas and Mexico. He later moved to San Antonio, where again he ran into the Kickapoo Indians.

Young — a historian, author, historical advisor for such movies and television series as Glory and North and South, and owner of a historical-research company in Rossville — will cap nearly 25 years of research with a presentation on Sunday about the Kickapoo, their migration, and how the tribe ended up in Texas and Mexico. One of the most interesting points of his talk, he says, is why the Kickapoo chose to move south instead of to Kansas and Oklahoma with other Midwestern Indian tribes such as the Illini.

"People are dumbfounded that a Midwestern Indian tribe — the largest chunk of it — is now in northern Mexico," Young says. "It's quite a different story, and people are amazed that they end up that far away."

Most people are familiar with the Kickapoo's beginnings, Young says, but don't realize that the tribe eventually became one of the chief Indian tribes raiding Texas settlements between the 1860s and 1870s. He plans to share these stories and others during his presentation and hopes that the audience leaves with a more complete understanding of the Kickapoo.

"A lot of Illinois Indian history has gotten lost over the years, particularly on the local levels," Young says. "I want them to appreciate that experience and really what a small world it is.

"They know what starts out as an Illinois story but don't know the later half of the Kickapoo story."

Young's presentation on the Kickapoo Indians will begin at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 20, in the auditorium of the Rock Springs Nature Center, in Decatur. For more information, call 217-423-7708.

Contact Amanda Robert at

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