Away back in the dim and misty past this whole State of Iowa, then called the Beautiful Land, was occupied by the savage redman, who hunted over its prairies, through its groves and fished in its pellucid streams. History tells us that when Pere Marquette visited the eastern part of the State in 1673, he found the country in the possession of a powerful tribe known as the Illini, but when the white men again visited the country, no remnant of them remained west of the Mississippi river, and the whole State was found to be overrun by the Fox, Sac and Iowa tribes, who claimed it by right of conquest.

Of these, the Foxes and Sacs were, at one time powerful nations, and stood prominent among the aboriginal inhabitants of America. They had been, formerly, two distinct nations, and resided near the waters of the St. Lawrence river. By our government, they have always been treated as one people, although keeping up customs calculated to maintain a separate nationality, and in their own government, were separate. The Fox Indians moved to the west, and first settled in Wisconsin, near Green Bay, on Lake Michigan, but becoming involved in a war with the French and the neighboring tribes, were so much reduced in number that they were unable to sustain themselves against their hostile neighbors. The Sac Indians had been engaged in a war with the Iroquois, or Six Nations, who occupied the country which now comprises the State of New York, and had become so weak that they were forced to leave their hunting ground, and move to the west. They found the Fox tribe, their old neighbors, like themselves, reduced in number by the havoc of war, and, from a matter of necessity, as well as sympathy, they united their fortunes, and became, in the sense of association, one people. The date of their removal from the St. Lawrence is not definetely known. Father Hennepin speaks of the Fox Indians being at Green Bay, then called the Bay of Puants, in 1760. The date of their removal from Green Bay is not known, either, as their traditions are not reliable, but they gradually branched out, and occupied large tracts of Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin.

When in 1803, the First Consul, of the French Republic, Napoleon Bonaparte, ceded to the United States all this Territory, then a part of the Louisiana purchase, these tribes, together with the Iowas, were the dominant people.

Sometime after this, the Foxes and Sacs declaring war against the lowas, nearly exterminated the latter in one terrible campaign, in which the afterwards celebrated Black Hawk took a prominent part.

When the "Black Hawk purchase" was made, in 1832, a portion of this State was retained by the Indians, consisting of four hundred square miles, and known as "Keokuk's Reserve."

From this date the Indians ceded away by treaty tract after tract of this the most beautiful country the sun ever shown upon, until to-day in this great State of Iowa they hold only a few hundred acres of land in Tama county, and this only in repurchase from the white man.

In accord with the progressive and aggressive spirit of the American people, the Government of the United States made the last treaty with the Sac and Fox Indians in the fall of 1842, for the remaining portion of their lands in Iowa. The treaty provided that the Indians should retain possession of all the lands thus ceded until the autumn of 1845. These lands laid along the Iowa river, extending southeasterly, and embraced the southeastern part of the State. Their principal village at this time was Ot-tum-wah-no, where the city of Ottumwa now is. As soon as it became known that the treaty had been concluded there was a rush of emigration to Iowa, and a great number of temporary settlements were made near the boundary of the Indian line, awaiting the day set for the Indians removal. As the day approached hundreds of families encamped along the line, and their tents and wagons gave the scene the appearance of a military expedition, but the United States military authorities had prevented any settlement, or even the marking out of claims by any monument whatever. To aid them in marking out their claims when the hour should arrive, the settlers had placed piles of dry wood on the rising ground at convenient dis tances, and at a short time before twelve o'clock of the night preceding the day set, these were lighted, and when the midnight hour arrived, it was announced by the discharge of firearms. The night was dark, but this army of occupation pressed forward, torch in hand, with ax and hatchet, blazing lines with all manner of curves and angles. When daylight came and revealed the confusion of these wonderful surveys, many disputes arose, settled generally by compromise, but sometimes by violence.

While this scene was transpiring the retreating Indian was enacting one, more impressive and melancholy. The winter following the treaty was one of unusual severity, and the Indian Prophet, who had disapproved of the treaty, attributed the severity of the winter to the anger of the Great Spirit because they had sold their country. Many religious rites were performed to atone for the crime. When the time arrived for leaving Ottumwa--where they had gathered--a solemn silence pervaded the Indian camp; the faces of their stoutest men were bathed in tears, and when their cavalcade was put in motion, toward the setting sun, there was a spontaneous outburst of frantic grief.

The Sac and Fox Indians were then removed to Kansas upon a reservation given them. In the years 1859-60 they ceded to the Government that reservation, and removed to the lands now occupied by the original tribes, in Kansas. Three hundred and seventeen Indians of the Fox or Musquakie tribe, after their removal, returned to Iowa and settled in Tama county. The Government permitted them to remain, and by virtue of an act passed March 2, 1867, they are permitted to receive their share of the Tribal fund, which is the interest only on the amount due them from the Government for their lands.

Hon. Lafayette Young, in his history of Cass county, has been to much pains to gather the subsequent Indian history of this part of the State, and we freely quote from his work, by his kind permission. His account is as follows:

"By a treaty made Sept. 26, 1833, this county, though not then named as such, was a part ot a five million acre hunting ground, granted to the Chippewa, Ottawa and Pottawattamie Indians, on the condition that they would remove from lands lying farther east than they then occupied. The Indians removed to this section of the State in accordance with that treaty, and remained here until by another treaty they agreed to go still further westward. The treaty last referred to was made at Trader's Point, (now in Mills county,) June 5, 1846. The Indian inhabitants of this county were of the Pottawottamie tribe. They were quite numerous, and during the years they were here had encampments on the streams in various parts of the county. They were peaceable, greasy and lazy. Their principal village was at a point west of the present town of Lewis, now known as Indiantown, which the Indians called Mi-au-mise (the young Miami) after their favorite chief. The agency and favorite trading post for these Indians was at Traders' Point, on the Missouri river. At that place there was an Indian agent, an interpreter and a store, at which lead, powder, tobacco, etc., could be bought by the child of the forest or any other person. This store was kept by Peter A. Sarpy, of St. Louis, a man quite famous in his day--more famous, however, in Nebraska than in Iowa. Col. Sarpy had a young man from St. Louis, clerking for him at Traders' Point, who fell desperately in love with one of our Cass county girls of the Pottawottamie tribe, and when the Indians went away in 1846 or 1847, the young man stuck a feather in his hat and went with them, and if he is living to-day he is probably a gray-haired child of nature, drawing his rations from the government and stealing from the frontier settlers in true aboriginal style. The main body of the Indians left prior to 1847, although stragglers and small squads of them could occasionally be seen as late as 1856. They cultivated no land in this county, so far as we have been able to learn, although in some other counties on the Missouri slope they did leave a few small patches of ground bearing marks of cultivation. At Mi-au-mise (or as we call it Indiantown) they had a burying-ground, where rest the bones of many of their tribe whom death claimed while the tribe hunted elk and deer along the streams and over the prairies of this county.

"The most noted event that occurred in the county, during its occupancy by the Indians, was the death of the famous chief of the Iowa tribe, Mahaskah, which occurred on the Nodaway, near the southeast corner of the county, in 1834. He was sitting by his camp fire, one evening, (sixty miles from his tribe on the Des Moines) when a skulking, cowardly Indian enemy crawled to a convenient and secluded spot and shot him in the back, killing him instantly. Thus perished, on our soil a chief who had led his tribe in seventeen successful battles with the Sioux, and whose name is perpetuated by being borne by one of the counties in this State.

As has been said, a portion of the Fox and Sacs returned to this State and were allowed to settle in Tama county. The following account of these people was written for us by a citizen of that county, and is given in this connection as conveying some light upon the customs, habits and peculiarities of these remnants of a once powerful race, and who once roamed these prairies in search of game, or indulged in red foray or bloody war.

Much has been written in regard to the customs and habits of the Indian tribes of the northwest, and as a description of one was supposed to apply to all, many of these articles have been reproduced as a treatise upon the Musquakies, or the tribes which at one time occupied the "Black Hawk Purchase." But most of these articles in many of the customs and peculiarities they recite, are entirely erroneous, and, as a whole, very much exaggerated. Contrary to the inferences which would be drawn from them, the tribes of the Sac and Fox Indians, since their contact with the whites, have always to a certain degree been civilized, and the pioneers who were associated with them during the early days when the redskins called this region "home," agree in the opinion that, as a rule, their ideas of justice and morality were but a few paces in the rear of those held by "civilized humanity." The habits and customs of this tribe of today, do not differ very much from those of early days. Very few of them deign to wear the dress of the white man, generally wearing a blanket over the shoulders, feathers in the hair, and not infrequently painted fantastically about the face, neck and arms. Beads and cheap brass jewelry usually adorn the neck and ears, and the Indians maids wear large and massive bracelets. The blankets are all highly colored, as, in fact, is all of their clothing.

Instead of being frivolous, they are, as a rule, thrifty and industrious, but the squaws are made to do the hardest labor. Few quarrels are had among themselves, and they are always peaceable to whites. Since their occupancy of the little reservation in Tama county there has only been one crime committed.

They are more religiously inclined than the white man, believing in God and recognizing the existence of a Supreme Being whom they call the Great Spirit. Their conception of God differs only in part from that held by the Christian world. To them He is an individual being--a supreme personage. They know nothing of Jesus Christ and have no traditions that tend to indicate a belief in any such personage. They have a devil whom they designate as the Bad Spirit. To both are offered sacrifices. Their religion partakes more of the Jewish Creed than that of any other, and abounds in numerous forms and customs quite similar to the old customs first practiced by the Hebrews. They have a Bible which they call "Meeschaum." It is made up of about twenty-seven parts and the whole is written in strange signs only intelligible to the Indians, and the contents are never explained to the whites. There are about half a dozen of these "Meeschaum" in the tribe; they are all worn and old and are handled with the greatest care. The word "Meeschaum" in the Indian tongue means "Holy words or laws." Meetings of worship are held which last for three and four hours, and a separate and distinct language is used for religious talk and worship. They listen with great interest to the explanation of the white man's belief and religion, and have traditions which have been handed down from former generations that are almost identical with Bible parables and illustrations.

One of these traditions is that long years ago, when even the race of red men was in its infancy, there came a rainy season to the land inhabited by the forefathers of the Indians. It continued to pour down in drenching torrents for nearly "two moons." The land became covered with water. It rose until even the highest hills began to disappear beneath the waves. The red men seeing that the end was not yet, resolved to cast their lot upon the waters and trust to the Great Spirit for safety. All the canoes that could be found were collected together and bound with lariats. When the proper time came the raft was ladened with the necessary food, blankets and a few musk rats, and all got aboard as the last high mound was submerged by the rapidly rising waters. For many days and nights the bark tossed to and fro, the rain ceased, and they only waited for the water to go down . A musk rat was dropped overboard. He sank toward the bottom and after remaining some time returned to the surface with clean paws and clambered into the raft. This indicated that the water was yet too deep to reach bottom. In a few days the experiment was repeated; but with the same result. In a few days more the muskrat was again put overboard and after being down a few moments came to the surface with his paws covered with mud, and again disappearing to return no more. This was the hopeful sign they had looked for and in a few days the canoes rested upon the summit of a high mountain. It is readily seen that this tradition is merely another version of the Bible narrative of Noah and the ark; told, it is true, in a rude way, but the truths are still intact and the Indians firmly believe in its authenticitv.

The Musquakies have a system of self government. They are divided into three families or clans, which are each represented by a chief; then there is a council consisting of a number of braves who are chosen with reference to their general intelligence or else those who have distinguished themselves in war or otherwise. In addition to these there is a "Business Chief", who is the highest in authority: he attends to the business, leads them in case of war, and is the general executive. Nothing is done except what is agreed to by the council and their wishes are carried out by the head chief. Whatever their decree most of the people at once submit to it without the need of persuasion or force, and it is very seldom that even the slightest of their laws are violated. There are sometimes exceptions to this in the cases of young men who obtain liquor from the whites and when under its influence will pay but little attention to the laws of the chiefs.

The present "Business Chief" is "Mahtah-e-qua" who years ago distinguished himself in war with the Sioux. His name, in Indian tongue, indicates the office he holds: Major-General or Leader.

As a rule the offices of the Indians are hereditary. When a chief dies his son takes his rank, and, if too young, they either wait until he has reached the years of discretion, or the remaining chiefs appoint some one to fill the vacancy until the heir attains maturity. If any one of the tribe does wrong, his face is blacked, and he is obliged to fast a day or more, according to the nature of the crime or offense.

They are very much opposed to education, because, they say, "We don't want our children to grow up like white children. When white people come to our village we treat them well, the children stand back; but when the Indian goes to town the white children throw stones at him and call him names." They have a school house but are so prejudiced against education that it is hard work to get a young Indian into it. The old braves would not venture in until all the desks were taken out. They all say that if they were educated they would become mean like the white man--"White man is so mean that when he dies his God puts him in an awful hot place, and burns him forever, but the Indian's God is more merciful, and the mean Indian less wicked; the Great Spirit sifts him like chaff and the good Indian goes to the happy hunting ground beyond the river where the bad Indian and the white man never comes." They have a faith that laughs at the impossible, and their confidence in the ways and workings of the Great Spirit for good would put to shame many faithless white men.

Transcribed by Cheryl Siebrass, March, 2022 from: "History of Cass County, Together with Sketches of Its Towns, Villages and Townships, Educational, Civil, Military and Political History: Portraits of Prominent Persons, and Biographies of Old Settlers and Representative Citizens", published in 1884, Springfield, Ill: Continental Historical Co., pp. 235-240.

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