The area on which the modern city of Kalamazoo stands was once home to Native Americans of the Hopewell culture, who migrated into the area sometime before the first millennium. Evidence of their early residency remains in the form of a small mound in downtown's Bronson Park. The Hopewell civilization began to decline after the 8th century and was replaced by other groups. The Potawatomi culture lived in the area when the first European explorers arrived.
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, passed just southeast of the present city of Kalamazoo in late March 1680. The first Europeans to reside in the area were itinerant fur traders in the late 18th and early 19th century. There are records of several traders wintering in the area, and by the 1820s at least one trading post had been established.
During the War of 1812, the British established a smithy and a prison camp in the area.
The 1821 Treaty of Chicago ceded the territory south of the Grand River to the United States federal government. However, the area around present-day Kalamazoo was reserved as the village of Potawatomi Chief Match-E-Be-Nash-She-Wish. Six years later, as a result of the 1827 Treaty of St. Joseph, the tract that became the city of Kalamazoo was also ceded.
In 1829, Titus Bronson, originally from Connecticut, became the first white settler to build a cabin within the present city limits of Kalamazoo. He platted the town in 1831 and named it the village of Bronson—not to be confused with the much smaller Bronson, Michigan, about fifty miles (80 km) to the south-southeast of Kalamazoo.
Bronson, frequently described as "eccentric" and argumentative, was later run out of town. The village was renamed Kalamazoo in 1836, due in part to Bronson's being fined for stealing a cherry tree.Today, a hospital and a downtown park, among other things, are named for Bronson. Kalamazoo was legally incorporated as a village in 1838 and as a city in 1883.
People: The Kickapoo tribe was originally an offshoot of the Shawnee tribe ("Kickapoo" is thought to be a corruption of a Shawnee word for "wanderers,") but their language and customs had more in common with the neighboring Fox and Sauk. Fiercely resistant to European cultures, the Kickapoo Indians never assimilated, preferring to continue relocating further south from their original Michigan-Wisconsin-Illinois homeland. Today, 3000 Kickapoo people live in three groups in the US--the Kickapoo tribes of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas--and one community in Coahuila, Mexico.
History: Native American tribes are frequently defined by their historical reaction to European colonists. The Cherokee tried to fit into the new civilization; the Apache fought them tooth and nail. The Kickapoo tribe primarily withdrew. Wanting neither to fight the powerful invaders nor surrender to them, most Kickapoos left their native lands and moved southward to get away from white Americans, a process they repeated several times until the Kickapoos were living in Texas and Mexico--a far cry from their native Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. Some of the Kickapoo Indians in Mexico did eventually return to the United States, but their ancestors may have had a point--Kickapoo culture is most traditional and the Kickapoo language most alive in the Mexican Kickapoo tribe, furthest from the reach of the United States government and its programs.
Now maybe we can close some worlds and open migration routes?