Vol. 52 No. 4 (2004)
Research Article

“Kankakee”: An Old Etymological Puzzle

Published 2004-12-01



All the analyses offered for the venerable old Illinois and Indiana placenames “Kankakee,” including those suggested in the 18th century, have been incorrect. There are basically two reasons for this: 1) As written, the term “Kankakee” is nonsensical and unanalyzable; 2) the language the name came from became extinct and did not enjoy a solid linguistic examination and reconstruction until the the closing years of the 20th century. The French explorer Cavelier de La Salle was the first European to record the hydronym that in time would evolve into “Kankakee”. It was his name for the combined Illinois River-Kankakee River waterway. Monolingual La Salle commonly botched his Native placenames recordings. Fortunately, he did a reasonably good job recording this placenames.

For Richard Schmal