Archange Ouilmette

It is believed that Archange Ouilmette was born around 1764. She may have been the daughter of a Potawatomi chief; or she may have been the daughter of a French fur trader and a Potawatomi woman. She might have been born in what is now Michigan; or perhaps in what is now Illinois. We do know for certain that she married a French Canadian fur trader, Antoine Ouilmette, living with him and their eight children in a log cabin on the north side of the main branch of the Chicago River. Like her husband, Archange was fur trader. She also helped early European settlers, serving as a translator and guide. Archange was respected and considered a friend of both her fellow Potawatomis and the new white settlers.

Archange and her family moved north to the area that is now Evanston and Wilmette (which, yes, is named after her family). Her husband helped negotiate the 1829 Treaty of Prairie du Chien between the US government and the Chippewa, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes. For his efforts, the US government granted 1280 acres in present day Evanston and Wilmette to Archange Ouilmette and her children. The family lived on this reserve until 1838 when they moved to join up with the rest of the Potawatomi tribe west of the Mississippi River.

Why this stop? The Merchandise Mart Brown Line/Purple Line stop is located on the north side of the main branch of the Chicago River, very close to where the Ouilmette cabin stood.

Watch this WTTW/PBS video to learn where Native Americans lived in and around present day Chicago.

Connect—Want to visit the site of the Ouilmette Reserve? Take the Purple Line to Central Street or to Linden and you’ll be there. Don’t expect to see nature at its finest. Sadly, all of the land has been developed.

Image—Courtesy of the Wilmette Historical Museum;
Artistic rendering of Archange Ouilmette by George Lusk (1934)