MAKING OF IOWA
INDIAN BATTLE GROUNDS
Like all other Indians, the Red Men in what is now Iowa were constantly engaged in battles. Rarely did whites witness these conflicts between tribes. In fact, while doubtless every section of Iowa has been the scene of an encounter, great or small, only a few accounts are on record.
One of the most important battles was that between the Sacs and Foxes, and the Iowas, in which the Iowas were completely put to rout. The Iowas, in fact, were surprised, and made only slight resistance.
This fight occurred early in May, 1823-May 1st was the generally accepted date. The Iowas had their principal village on the Des Moines River, about where to-day the town of Iowaville is. The Sacs and Foxes, and the Iowas, had been good friends, and had agreed that if an Indian of one tribe was killed by another tribe, the murderer or murderers were to be delivered to the offended people.
So in 1819, or thereabouts, when, during a hunting trip, a Sac killed a young Iowa, the Sacs prepared to handover their tribesman, according to the compact. Black Hawk, then a stripling, was with the party that stopped at the Sac's lodge to get him. The Sac was ill, and his brother nobly volunteered to go instead.
After a journey of seven days the party came to sight of the Iowa village, and the Sac, brother to the murderer, was sent ahead, alone. He went forward, singing his death song. The Iowas closed about him, threateningly, and his companions thought him lost.
But soon he surprised them by approaching on horseback, leading a second pony. He reported that the Iowas were so struck with his action, in taking his brother's place, that they dismissed him with presents.
Bad feeling, however, increased between the tribes, and the Sacs and Foxes determined to attack the village. This battle was fought in the daytime, although night is the Indian's favorite season.
On the bank of the river at the lower end of the prairie of the bottom land four miles long, two miles wide at the middle, and tapering at either end, was the village. Pash-e-pa-ho, head Sac chief, led the attacking forces. The Indians crawled through woods above the village to some tall swamp grass at the rear of a mound about the middle the prairie. From here they watched the Iowas. They intended to lie in hiding all day and make a sally at night.
But this mound was the race course for the Iowas, and unluckily this was the day when they were to engage in their favorite sport. The braves left their arms in the village and headed for the mound. The Pash-e-pa-ho sent Black Hawk in a circle behind the trees to attack the village. The Sacs and the Foxes rushed out from ambush on the defenseless men at the race course, and at the same time Black Hawk's party poured into the village. Slaughter was on all sides. The poor Iowas had no place where they could make a stand. Tomahawk and knife were at work everywhere. But they fought gallantly, the Sacs and Foxes admit, and only a few were left when they yielded.
The Iowas became subject to their conquerors. This position was very distasteful to a people so proud and independent. They asked government to separate them from the Sacs and Foxes, and in other ways they showed their un happiness. Finally, in 1825, they sold their property in order to leave the country.
Unnumbered battles between the Sioux and their neighbors on the south-the Sacs and Foxes and the Pottawattamies-have occurred on the headwaters of the Des Moines, Iowa, Skunk and Cedar Rivers, and along the upper Iowa River. Many of these happened after Iowa was a Territory; some after Iowa was a State.
The shores of Mud Lake, southeast of Webster City, were the scene of an engagement in which a Musquakie chief, Big Bear, was killed. Again, in 1841, a bloody encounter took place on the Raccoon River, in Dallas County, not far from where Adel is now located.
Sixteen hundred Sacs and Foxes were in camp above the mouth of the Raccoon, within the limits of the present city of Des Moines, when Delaware warrior, exhausted and faint, rushed into the midst of a war and murdered all his companions. The Delaware had been on their way from across the Missouri to visit their friends, the Sacs and Foxes.
The Sioux had surprised them at Adel, but not until twenty-six Dakotas were slain did the battle cease. Only one Delaware out of twenty-four escaped.
The Sacs and Foxes immediately prepared to avenge the massacre. Pash-e-pa-ho was eighty years old, yet he mounted his horse to lead six hundred warriors. Keokuk and Kish-ke-kosh were with him. The Indians, armed with bows and war clubs, tomahawks and knives, guns and spears, pursued the Sioux, who were retreating toward the Missouri. About a hundred miles from the scene of the first battle the enemy was overtaken.
A desperate struggle ensued. The Sacs and Foxes claimed they slew three hundred Sioux, and lost only seven of their own number. Where the Sioux had attacked the Delawares the body of brave Nes-wa-ge, the Delaware chief, was found, lying at the foot of a tree. The trunk of the tree was gashed with Tomahawk blows, and around it were four dead Sioux of whom he had killed. Nes-wa-ge was a great warrior.
In 1836 the few traders at what in now Council Bluffs and vicinity saw a large band of Sioux pass down the river, on their way to the Lower Iowa River, where they attacked five lodges of Fox Indians, about fifty miles from the Mississippi. They killed all the Foxes but one.
So bold were the Sioux, that in 1837 the Fox chief Wa-cosh-au-shee went to St. Louis to see if he could not get protection for his people. When he returned he found them starving. So he divided them into two bands. One band went on a hunt northward between the Cedar and Iowa Rivers, and the band, with himself as leader, followed the east bank of the Cedar, up stream. This band numbered one hundred and seventy persons. Game was scarce. Fish were all that furnished food.
Wa-cosh-au-shee sent some young braves across the Wapsipinicon river to look about, and they reported that the Winnebagoes were hunting there, which was the vicinity of Anamosa, Jones County.
Then Wa-cosh-au-shee learned that a party of Sioux were not far away. He knew he could not retreat, with the women and the old men, so he placed all those who couldn't fight in a camp, and with his braves went ahead to surprise the enemy.
The Foxes crossed Otter Creek, in Buchanan County, and shortly after midnight of August 3 they made a rush upon what they supposed was a Sioux encampment. But the wigwams proved to be only sandhills.
The Sioux were in a ravine close by, and suddenly attacking the Foxes, drove them back with great loss. The Foxes did their best, and fought hard, but eleven were killed and sixteen wounded. This was near the mouth of the Otter.
In April, 1852, occurred the last conflict with the Sioux. The scene was the wet bank of the east branch of the Des Moines River, some six miles north of Algona, Kossuth County. A band of Musquakie had gone from Tama County to Clear Lake. The chief was Ko-ko-wah. These Indians heard that a party of Sioux was encamped on the Des Moines. The temptation was too great, and it was determined to attack the old-time foe. So the Musquakies donned their war paint, and after surveying the ground they descended on the unsuspecting Sioux.
A number of Sioux braves had left the camp, on a hunt, but the remaining persons in the camp were cut into pieces.
The Musquakies lost four warriors, two among them being noted braves named Kear-kurk and Pa-tak-py. Pa-tak-py was slain by Sioux squaw, who shot him in the breast, and then when he was running away shot him again, this time through the body, with an arrow. Then a Fox killed her in turn.
At Twin Lakes, and on the South Lizard in Webster County, the Pottawattamies and the Sioux had a little the best of it.
Along in 1830, when some whites crossed the river into Iowa, about where Dubuque now stands, a few miles below the present city, they saw at the foot of a high bluff a quantity of bones, and shreds of blankets, evidence that once bodies had lain there. This spot was called Sioux Bluff. The Sacs and Foxes said that there was the scene of a battle in which the Sioux were defeated and forced over the cliff.
The bluff is two hundred feet high, perpendicular on the riverside, and standing alone. The Sioux had retreated to the crest, and had fortified themselves by building a barrier of trees and brush. At night the Sacs and Foxes crept up the steep ascent, and early in the morning attacked the outposts. The brush was set on fire, and the Sioux, exposed to the light, were shot down. The enemy burst over the bulwarks, and the defenders who survived jumped or were hurled over the precipice.
Sacs and Foxes thereafter looked on the locality with awe. They claimed that at full moon the cliff was haunted by the spirit of a young Indian maiden, who bewailed her lost lover.
Just out of Iowa, on her borders, the Indians contended on battle, interesting to Iowa because people from her confines were engaged. Long, long ago Sacs and Foxes, and Mas-coutins fought all day, opposite the mouth of the Iowa River. The Sacs and Foxes in canoes had gone down the Mississippi, from their village, and were attacked in the channel by Mas-coutins, and defeated. The Mas-coutins pursued them up stream, and but few of the vanquished party escaped to bear the news to their friends at home.
It will be remembered that Pe-an-mus-ka chief of the Foxes when they had a village on the site of Dubuque, and it has been stated he was killed treacherously by the Sioux. The Sioux, Winnebagoes and Menomonies were in alliance for a time against the Sacs and Foxes, and in 1828 they asked the Indian agent at Prairie du Chien to invite the Foxes to council, where the hatchet would be buried forever.
So the message was sent, and a delegation of Fox braves left their village at Dubuque to attend the meeting. The second night after their departure they encamped a little below the mouth of the Wisconsin River, on the eastern shore of the Mississippi. While they were lounging around, at supper time, a war party of Sioux and Menomonies, sent for the purpose, surprised them and only two Fox Indians escaped. Pe-ah-mus-ka and other warriors were slain mercilessly.
The two Indians carried the tidings to the village, and at once, under the lead of a half-breed, Morgan, otherwise Ma-que-pra-um, all the Foxes who could be mustered set out to get revenge. They went up the Mississippi in canoes, and lay in ambush on the Iowa bluffs opposite Prairie du Chien. At night they threw off everything but TomaHawk and knife and swam the river. Slyly they crept upon the encampment of Menomonies, right under the cannon of Fort Crawford, and killed seventeen warriors, besides women and children and old men.
Then the Foxes abandoned their Dubuque town forever.
An Indian duel occurred on and island in the Mississippi, below Davenport, in the spring of 1837. A Sac and a Winnebago had quarreled, and met to fight it out. The Winnebago had a shot gun, and the Sac a rifle. Of course the rifle proved more useful, and the Winnebago was slain.
The Sac afterward felt very badly, for he knew he must give himself up to the Winnebagoes, in accordance of Indian regulations of honor. His sister told him that he must go to the Winnebago camp, on Rock Island, and be killed. He entered his canoe. His sister herself paddled it. On the way the Sac sang his death song. At the lower end of the island the Indians from all around formed a circle, in the center of which was an open grave.
The Sac was led to the edge of the grave by his sister, and when he calmly seated himself here a Winnebago brave, the nearest male relative of the dead man, executed him by striking him with a Tomahawk. Thus good will was established between the tribes.
A short distance below the mouth of the upper Iowa River is a cape called Winnebago cape. Just above is a cape which has been known as Cape Garlic. Many years ago the Winnebagoes set out o invade the territory of the Sioux. They crossed the Mississippi, but while they were landing the Sioux attacked them. The Winnebagoes were crowded between the two points of land, and were utterly defeated.
These are only a few of the encounter which occurred when Indian fought Indian in and around what is now Iowa. When in the woods and fields, and along the banks of streams, we pick up arrowheads and spearheads, tokens of Indian battle and hunt, let us bear in the mind that the Sacs and Foxes, the Iowas and the Sioux, and all the rest were but men and women, as are the white people. They loved their homes; they loved their relatives and friends; they were brave in defense of their rights. We cannot learn too much about the Indians, and the more we learn, especially of their life before the Whites corrupted them with liquor and false promises, the more we will respect them.
Every arrowhead has its history.