Past Event

Illinois Hieroglyphics: A Detective: Story from Early Illinois Indigenous History

A Road Scholar Program by Bob Morrissey

Locked away in a museum in Paris, France, are four art objects associated with the Native peoples of Illinois. Among the most stunning examples of Native American art from any period, these painted hide robes are especially valuable because of their age.

Collected sometime in the late 1600s or early 1700s, the large robes are decorated with geometrical and abstract designs, tantalizing clues about the people who made them – yet, in many respects, the hides have long been a mystery. Although certain features of the hides imply much about their identity, the specific circumstances of their origins in the Illinois Country are not known.

Consequently, historians have not been able to discern precisely what sorts of stories these hide robes can tell us about the past. Historian Bob Morrissey will discuss these remarkable objects in the light of the historical record. He will try to show how they can indeed provide a window into the past, revealing important and often overlooked themes in the Native history of this region.

As the State of Illinois celebrates its Bicentennial, it is fitting that we reconsider the history of the indigenous peoples who shaped the region during the colonial and early National periods. By examining these artworks, we can begin to reconsider the Native history of Illinois from an indigenous perspective, through indigenous sources. Aimed at a general audience, this presentation will introduce artworks that deserve much wider recognition among Illinoisans, even as it makes a case for the special importance of the Illinois Country in early American history.

This event is Free and Open to the public. For more information, please contact Marie Maltby at