The Guebert Site
Home of the Kaskaskia Tribe
During the seventeenth century, the principal summer village of the Kaskaskia Tribe of the Illinois Nation was located in the upper Illinois River valley at a place now known as the Zimmerman site. Archaeological evidence suggests that the Kaskaskia first settled there during the 1630s, and the village was their principal summer residence when they were first visited by the Father Jacques Marquette and his exploratory party in 1673.
After 1700, the Tribe began relocating to the south, led by the Kaskaskia Chief Rouensa and followed by several French Jesuit priests. Some of the Kaskaskia first spent time at the mouth of the Des Peres River on the west bank of the Mississippi. In the spring of 1703, the Kaskaskia moved again, this time to a site near the mouth of the Kaskaskia River. While initially an Indigenous village served by a small French mission, the place soon become the focus of French colonial settlement as well.
In 1721, the Kaskaskia relocated five miles up the Kaskaskia River, to a place now known as the Guebert site. Here, the Tribe established a summer village that would remain their principal place of residence in Illinois through the 1770s. As they had at their previous villages, the Kaskaskia continued raising corn, beans, squash and other produce in the fertile bottom lands along the Mississippi River. They also maintained their important role in the fur trade. The French constructed a mission church at the village, and at its peak the Guebert site was home to 1000 people living in dozens of houses across a 20+ acre area overlooking the river that bore their name.
Archaeologically, the site is known principally from several large private collections, some made as early as the 1890s. Little professional archaeology has been conducted there, and those investigations were never reported. However, the collections from the Guebert site represent the largest sample of eighteenth century artifacts affiliated with an Indigenous village anywhere in the region.
The Foundation’s first book, published in the spring of 2023, consists of an exhaustive study of over 10,000 eighteenth-century artifacts from the Kaskaskia village. The heavily illustrated volume examines five private, never-before-published collections, as well as the unpublished results of excavations conducted by the Illinois State museum in 1952. The volume promises to be a standard desk reference for Indigenous and French colonial studies in North America.