The Kickapoo may have been seen as early as 1612 by Samuel de Champlain, but continuous contact can be traced only from the mid-seventeenth century. The present existence of three decidedly different bands is representative of the cultural pattern of the tribe since precontact times. For over three centuries the Kickapoo have undergone a series of Migrations, fragmentations, and reassociations. During the seventeenth century, constant attacks by the Iroquois, who were expanding their territory farther west to maintain their fur trade with the French, sent the Kickapoo and other tribes fleeing to the west and south. In their attempts to secure their own territory and interest in the fur trade, the Kickapoo shifted loyalties and alliances with other tribal groups as well as the French, British, and Spanish.
After the American Revolution, increased pressures to settle created divisions among the Kickapoo. Those who favored a more acculturated life-style became known as the "Progressives," whereas those who wished to maintain the traditional life-ways were called the "Kicking Kickapoo." The Progressives became associated with an Indian prophet, Kenekuk, and settled on reservation land in Kansas in about 1834. That reservation remains the home of the Kansas Kickapoo with whom the Potawatomi merged in 1851. The more traditional Kickapoo moved south into Texas, at that time a part of Mexico, where they settled among a combined group of Cherokee, Delaware, and Shawnee.
The anti-Indian policy that was established after Texas won independence, and ultimately became a state, drove the Kickapoo, along with a contingent of Seminoles and escaped African-American slaves, into Mexico. In 1852 they were given land by the Mexican government in return for protection against the Apache and Comanche. During the next two decades, the Kickapoo were repeatedly charged with raiding Texas ranches from their settlements across the Rio Grande. In 1873 the Fourth U.S. Cavalry crossed the Mexican border to decimate an undefended Kickapoo village. Captives were taken to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). Eventually, approximately half the tribe agreed to remain in their village of El Nacimiento, Coahuila, Mexico. This last group became a tribe recognized by the U.S. government in 1983 and, in addition to their holdings in Mexico, now have a reservation near Eagle Pass, Texas. In the United States they are officially known as the Kickapoo Traditional Tribe of Texas, and in Mexico, where they spend most of their time, as the Mexican Kickapoo ( Tribu Kikapu ), the term by which they still refer to themselves.