The Illinois State Historical Society (ISHS), the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago, the French Heritage Corridor Association, and several partner museums, historical societies, and Native American organizations across the state will host the 2012 Illinois History Symposium at the Embassy Suites in East Peoria next spring. The theme of the annual conference, “Contested Lands: 1763-1840,” frames the seminal events of pre- and post-Revolution America as they were played out on the frontier, including the War of 1812, an international conflict that culminated in statehood for Illinois six years later, and reestablished the national boundaries of Canada.
“The symposium commemorates the War of 1812 and provides the context for events that define our national identity today,” says Christal Dagit, executive director of the Tazewell County Museum and Historical Center and Regional Director of the Illinois War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission. “The anniversary gives us an opportunity to remember a time in the development of the United States when Illinois was the far west,” Dagit observed. “So much is not known about this period in our history. We need to reflect on these times when life was so hard on so many.”
“The War of 1812 was a significant event in Canadian history, creating a strong national identity,” said Colleen Duke, Academic and Cultural Affairs Officer at the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago. “What is most interesting is that both Canada and the United States see themselves as the victors, each for different reasons. The Consulate General is pleased to partner in this symposium and making this commemoration a significant educational opportunity for Canadians, Illinoisans, Native Americans, and modern-day residents of the Old Northwest Territory."
When the nation’s 2nd war with Great Britain broke out in 1812, the present Prairie State was part of the Illinois Territory, hunting grounds for more than a dozen Native American tribes--Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Kaskaskia, Sauk, Fox, Miami, Winnebago, Menominee, Ho-Chunk, Sioux, Piankashaw, and others. The 1809 territorial map included the future states of Illinois and Wisconsin, and the northern peninsula of Michigan. Soon after war broke out, the eastern seaboard was set ablaze in several memorable battles, one that inspired our National Anthem. The Great Lakes likewise provided a backdrop for numerous bloody encounters with the British, which gave our nation several heroes. But it was on the Illinois frontier where the untested American militia went head to head (in some cases scalp to scalp) with the indigenous population, who fight mightily—and futilely—for Native Sovereignty.
“East Peoria is the perfect setting for the 2012 symposium,” says ISHS executive director William Furry. “Not only was the Illinois River a principal transportation corridor for Native American tribes moving from Canada to the Mississippi River during the war, the region was the setting for several bloody engagements between the frontier militia and the Indians, engagements that set the stage for tribal removal 20 years later.”
The 2012 Illinois History Symposium will look at the confluence of these various factions—English, Native American, French, Canadian, and American—and explore how these populations, in conflict and collaboration, established the identities of the nations we know today. Archaeologists, professional and amateur historians, genealogists, and other scholars will present their latest research at the symposium, providing ample opportunities for public discussion of their findings. The symposium will also include an “artifact identification” session, an opportunity for the general public to bring Illinois artifacts in for examination and identification by trained archaeologists.
The last day of the symposium will also include a Native American pow-wow, with tribal elders from several nations in attendance. Also planned throughout the commemoration are Native-American blessing ceremonies, a reconciliation offering, and several sessions devoted to the history and culture of tribes formerly indigenous to the area. There are no recognized Indian nations living in Illinois at this time.
Additional partners for the symposium are Dickson Mounds Museum in Lewistown; the French Heritage Corridor Association; The Tazewell County Museum and Historical Center; the Peoria Historical Society; the Woodford County Historical Society; the McLean County Museum of History; Daughters of Veterans of the War of 1812; the Illinois War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission; The Chicago History Museum; and the National Park Service.
Illinois State Historical Society