First the land and then the men on the land, such is the normal sequence; but what historian of the white race can describe the first men of the Illinois country? What magic talisman does he hold that will reveal to him the processes of the red man's mind? They are almost as inscrutable today, after the labors of multitudinous students, as they were to the first missionaries who sought to lead this child of nature up the century-old rounds of the ladder that ascended to the knowledge of the white man's God. (21)

The story must therefore be told with the use of many question marks and with many confessions of ignorance. (21)

A writer who knew the Illinois well has written the following description: "There never were people better made than they; they are neither large nor small - generally there are some them whom you can circle with your two hands. They have tapering legs which carry their bodies well, with a very haughty step, and as graceful as the best dancer. The visage is fairer than white milk so far as savages of this country can have such. The teeth are the best arranged and the whitest in the world. They are vivacious, but withal indolent." (39)

As among other primitive people, the chief governing forces of the Illinois were social opinion and folk custom, and powerful forces they were. The freedom of these prairie children was more a metaphor than a reality; from childhood up they were hedged around by unbreakable custom; habit guided their footsteps, fear of consequences limited their wills. (43)

For the American aborigines the idea of an orderly world did not exist; like young children, they did not expect to find natural causes for phenomena. In their world anything might happen, everything was possible; men visited the sun and moon, passed through numberless transformations, beasts spoke, and the roll of the thunder across the skies was, in the minds of the Illinois, the flapping of the great wings of the "thunderbird." The Indians lived in a myth-made world. (47)

Like most Indians, the Illinois were inveterate gamblers, and men and women alike would often stake everything they owned on a throw of dice. (52)

If in the course of contact with shrewd traders who befuddled them with a strange fiery liquor and reduced them from economic self-sufficiency to abject dependence, the Indians came to show themselves suspicious, treacherous, greedy, and oftentimes ill-natured and unreasonable, it is not a logical deduction to conclude that the dusky aborigines were an essentially inferior race who deserved nothing better than to be exterminated and driven from the land of their forebears. (53)

The once proud Illinois who had been able to contend on equal terms with the Winnebago and the Iroquois were reduced by 1748 to between thirty and thirty-five hundred men, women, and children; and these were described by their neighbors as drunken, lazy sots, afraid to go to war. (223)

The Illinois Country: 1673-1818 (1920)
Clarence Walworth Alvord