Who Were the Indigenous Peoples of the 40 South News Area?


If you are like me, you love reading articles from Doug Houser and imagining who might have lived in your house or on your block 100 years ago.  Have you ever wondered who lived there hundreds or thousands of years ago?

I have been trying to answer that question, and I wanted to share what I have found so far.  First, though, let me wish you a happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  What is Indigenous Peoples’ Day?  It is a day to stop and ask exactly what this article asks.  Who used to live here?  What were they like?  Where did they go?  How did they interact with the land, climate, and natural environment, and how do we today?  The City of St. Louis officially began celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the second Monday of October a couple of years ago.  The Maplewood Sustainability Commission passed a resolution last week to recommend the same.

So who were the Indigenous people of Brentwood, Maplewood, and Richmond Heights?  Check out https://native-land.ca for an interactive map showing the area inhabited and hunted by different tribes as well as the treaties through which their land was taken.  Native Land shows this area as formerly inhabited by the Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo), Wazhazhe Maⁿzhaⁿ (Osage), Myaamia (Miami), and Očeti Šakówiŋ (Great Sioux Nation).  The United States bought rights to the area (and much more) in 1808 for $5,000 under Cession Number 67.

Not too far away, in Illinois, you can visit Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, which boasts a fantastic interpretive center teaching how we think the Mississippian people lived, not to mention the surviving gigantic mounds on and around which one of the largest cities in pre-Columbian America was built.  The Mississippian civilization predates the aforementioned tribes by quite a bit, hence their lack of inclusion on the Native Land map.

I discovered that there are no longer any federally-recognized tribes in the entire state of Missouri, as most indigenous groups were removed during the Indian Removal Act of 1830.  According to historian James Duncan’s 2016 presentation at the Maplewood Public Library, at one point in Missouri’s history it was actually “illegal to be an Indian.”

I was curious to see where the aforementioned Kickapoo, Osage, Miami, and Great Sioux Nation peoples went upon leaving Missouri.  As best as I can tell, the Kickapoo now reside in Kansas (Kansas Kickapoo Tribe, 2007), the Osage live in Oklahoma (Osage Nation, 2014), the Miami live in Oklahoma, and the Great Sioux Nation has dispersed to various communities in the USA and Canada (University of Missouri, 2020).

If anybody has any more information to share, I would love to learn more.  Here are some information sources I have found helpful:

Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site: https://cahokiamounds.org/
James Duncan’s lecture The Majesty of the Osage
Indian Land Areas Judicially Established: https://www.loc.gov/item/80695449/
Indigenous Tribes of Missouri: Missouri’s Native Peoples:  https://libguides.jeffco.edu/missouritribes
Kansas Kickapoo Tribe: https://www.ktik-nsn.gov/
Miami Nation: https://miamination.com/
Native Land Digital: https://native-land.ca/


Jonathan Spencer is a Master Naturalist, graduate biology student through the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the chair of the Maplewood Sustainability Commission.


  1. Wow, great article. I just was looking at a map of all the mounds originally in St Louis, most of which were leveled by settlers to the area. Love your forward for more information on individual tribes. Really appreciate your work and sharing it with us.

  2. Jonathon–really appreciate this information. Since you’re a Master Naturalist, wondering if you’ve done any documentation of the natural history of the area? I’m particularly interested in the trees and how long some of them have been here. Thanks for your insights!

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