Huber, Palos, and the colonial ‘Illinois Country’

Huber, Palos, and the colonial ‘Illinois Country’

two people who just uncovered an artifact

ISAS Assistant Director Thomas Loebel (left) works with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle (right) to uncover an artifact at the Forest Preserves of Cook County (FPCC) site, Sept. 12, 2020.

Historical periods of cultural contact, social disruption, and colonization are studied by archaeologists around the globe in order to better understand how our present-day world came to be the way it is. In northern Illinois, ISAS archaeologists work in conjunction with the Forest Preserve District of Cook County to help preserve and understand what are sometimes called Oneota and “Upper Mississippian” cultures (AD 1200s-1600s). The descendants of these cultures still live in the Midwest, and their ancestors lived in a complicated world of village-based tribal nations before the overwhelming disruption caused by the arrival of Europeans in the Midwest.

ISAS archaeologists have been particularly focused on understanding  the Upper Mississippian “Huber phase” culture living in the Chicago and southern Lake Michigan area during the late 15th through early 17th centuries. Preservation efforts, including public outreach and education, have followed on the heels of archaeological investigations at the Huber site itself, which is only partially under public ownership. 

two women hold re-assembled vesselA new ISAS publication, Palos Village: An Early Seventeenth-Century Ancestral Ho-Chunk Occupation in the Chicago Area, provides previously unpublished details on another large village site, called Palos. Here, Huber phase peoples occupied the southern Lake Michigan Region at the time of the earliest appearance of European trade items in the region. Remarkably, the Palos site people were on the receiving end of a subcontinental exchange network that brought metal trade items (copper ornaments and brass) west into the Illinois Country before the year 1600, linking Native northern Illinoisans to the emerging global trade networks and entangling Indigenous Midwesterners in a history of irrevocable, colonial-era, social change.