This image depicts a prairie fire, a fairly common occurrence on the
Great Plains in the years before its mass cultivation by white farmers.
Many prairie fires were started by lightning. But Native American tribes
set fires, knowing that in dry seasons they burned away dead and dying
vegetation, enriching the soil for the next year's crop. Many Native
Americans also deliberately set fires to assist in their hunting activities.
Set fires drove wild game toward waiting hunting parties. In a fire's
aftermath the new, tender plants that grew up could also attract grazing
animals. Prairie fires were a major factor preventing early white settlers
from venturing out onto the open plains however. Illinois' first settlers
preferred to remain close to rivers and their accompanying stands of
trees. In part these settlers clung to surroundings similar to those
of the eastern and southern woodlands they had left. But they also preferred
these surroundings' shelter to a life on an open prairie prone to flash