Kickapoo, first and foremost, referenced a cheap liquor, although kickapoo undoubtedly refers back to the Algonquin Kickapoo Indian tribe, originally residents in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Today about 800 members of the tribe live in Oklahoma. Ironically, the Kickapoo have never been known as notorious drinkers.
“Kickapoo Joy Juice” was first popularized in the 20th century by Al Capp in his “Li’l Abner” comic strip. The term initially appeared before the Civil War in “kickapoo ranger,” meaning a violent pro-slaver in Kansas. The sales connection goes back to 1861 when Dr. N.T. Oliver established the Kickapoo Indian Medicine Company which was selling the patent medicine, “Kickapoo Indian Sagwa.” The name “Kickapoo
was likely chosen for its “alliterative” sound.
Probably made of aloes and stale beer, the “Juice” was hyped during medicine shows with the aid of half a dozen Indians and many white performers.