Archange Chevallier Ouilmette was a Native American woman who settled in the Evanston area with her husband Antoine, a French fur trader, in 1826. Archange acted as an intermediary between her fellow Potawatomi tribe members and early Chicago residents, serving as a translator and guide. She was instrumental in the signing of the 1829 Treaty of Prairie Du Chien, which gave the U.S. government title to much of the tribal lands in northern Illinois. In return, she was given 1,280 acres of land encompassing much of present day Wilmette (named for the family) and land north of Central Street and east of Ewing in Evanston.
Purportedly, Archange Chevallier Ouilmette was a skilled fur trader, a translator, and a guide for early Chicago settlers; she was, it is said, a friend to both whites and natives of the area, and as such, the United States federal government deeded her approximately 1,280 acres which comprise much of modern-day Ouilmette and a portion of Evanston. She and her family lived in the Evanston area between 1826 and 1838, when they moved west to Iowa with their Potawatomi brethren. Little, however, is known about the real life and motivations of this Potawatomi woman living in an area rapidly changing due to a great influx of white settlers. What is known is that the federal government deeded 1,280 acres of land (a large portion of modern-day Wilmette and a tract in Evanston north of Central Street and east of Ewing Avenue) to Ouilmette in 1829. The most traveled story says the land was a gift from the federal government because Ouilmette was instrumental in convincing local Indians to sign the 1829 Treaty of Prairie du Chien (which led to the removal of Indians in the area and thus opened up much of Northern Illinois to the United States federal government). Other stories, however, have percolated about the origins of this land. Local historian and Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives, Elijah M. Haines, voiced perhaps the most alluring of those stories in 1888. In his book The American Indian, Haines suggests that the land was a political bribe for Ouilmette to convince her husband (a French fur trader) to support the Prairie du Chien Treaty, a treaty that would no doubt, lead to the end of his life as a trader between whites and natives of the land. Regardless of the motivation behind its deed, Ouilmette’s land was first used as a reservation and when the family moved to Iowa in 1838, slowly the land changed back into white settlers hands. Today, Ouilmette is credited with literally helping to create the areas of Wilmette and Evanston as those open to white settlement.