IOWA HISTORY PROJECT
STORIES OF IOWA
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
HOW THE INDIANS LOST IOWA
As white settlers began to come to Iowa the Indians again and again were compelled to bid farewell to their native villages and to move to new homes. Even before white settlers were allowed to live in Iowa, the Sauks and Foxes in 1824 gave up a triangular shaped region in what is now Lee County for the half-breeds. But white traders soon gained control of this land.
You have already learned how the Sioux and the Sauks and Foxes, in 1830, each gave up a strip of land twenty miles wide in northeastern Iowa to the government to form a neutral area between them. At the same time the Indians in western Iowa gave up their claims to the Missouri slope. Later the Winnebagoes were moved over from Wisconsin into the Neutral Ground, and the Potawatamis with some of their kinsmen, the Ottawas and Chippewas, were brought from Illinois to occupy the government-owned land in southwestern Iowa.
At the close of the Black Hawk War, in 1832, the Sauks and Foxes gave up a strip of land along the Mississippi River. This was about fifty miles wide and extended from the Neutral Ground on the north to Missouri on the south. The treaty council at which the Indians agreed to give up their land was held at the present site of Davenport. General Winfield Scott and Governor John Reynolds of Illinois represented the United States. Antoine Le Claire was the interpreter. The land secured from the Indians at this council was first called Scott's Purchase and later the Black Hawk Purchase.
So many white settlers moved into this strip that in 1837 the government made another purchase from the Sauks and Foxes. This tract lay west of the Black Hawk Purchase. You will notice on the map that the western boundary of the Black Hawk Purchase was crooked. As the new purchase was about twenty-five miles wide in the middle and tapered off at either end it made the boundary between the land of the government and the Indian land to the west almost straight.
A year earlier, that is in 1836, the four hundred square miles on the Iowa River, known as Keokuk's Reserve, had been sold to the government. This was the tract that had been given to Keokuk and his band because they did not join Black Hawk in his war against the whites.
The government obtained the land from the Indians by treaty councils, some held in Washington and others in the land of the Indians. The President sent delegates to represent the United States and the tribes were represented by their chiefs. In exchange for the land the government usually agreed to pay a certain amount of money to the Indians and to give them certain goods such as blankets, cloth, tobacco, powder, and sail. Sometimes, too, the government promised to build a blacksmith shop, to lay out farms, to establish a school, and to help move them to their new home.
The council of 1842, at which the Sauks and Foxes agreed to give up the rest of their land in Iowa, was held at Agency City about six miles east of the present city of Ottumwa. A large tent was erected for the ceremony. Captain James Allen was there with a company of dragoons from Fort Des Moines to keep order. John Chambers, governor of the territory of Iowa, represented the United States. He was dressed in the showy uniform of a brigadier general to impress the Indians. During the council he occupied a seat on a raised platform at one end of the tent. Near him sat the interpreter, Antoine Le Claire, and some other white men. In front of the platform was a circular row of seats for the chiefs.
The Indians wore their best blankets, gaily decorated with fantastic figures. Some had a headdress of red-dyed horse hair tied to the scalp lock. Others had feathers and fine plumage in their hair. Many wore jingling bracelets on their wrists and dangles or rings in their ears. They carried fancy war clubs and spears decorated with colored feathers. Fringed leggins and deerskin shirts ornamented with porcupine quills completed their costume.
Governor Chambers made a speech, and the interpreter explained it to the Indians, sentence by sentence, as he went along. Then the chiefs replied, and Mr. Le Claire translated their words to the whites. The Indians told about the great green meadows of their Iowa home, the fine groves of sycamore and walnut trees along the streams, and the beauty of the prairie flowers. No other land, they thought, could be so fine.
The council lasted many days. At last, on October 11, 1842, the treaty was signed. The government agreed to pay the debts of the tribes to the traders and $40,000 a year for several years. For this amount the Sauks and Foxes promised to give up nearly one third of the area of Iowa. The Indians agreed to vacate teh land as far west as a line north and south through the Red Rocks in Marion County, by May 1, 1843. They promised also to give up the rest of the tract in 1845, and to move to Kansas. In the story about the Tama Indians you will learn how they kept their promise.
At the close of the council Governor Chambers advised the Indians to live at peace and to leave whisky alone. He told them that they should learn to work, as this would keep them out of trouble and enable them to have whatever they needed. The braves listened to this advice but didn't care much for it. The idea that they in their gay blankets and feathers should work like squaws sounded ridiculous.
In 1846 the government made a treaty with the Potawatamis by which they agreed to move from Iowa to Kansas. During the same year the Winnebagoes promised to give up their home in the Neutral Ground for a new reservation in Minnesota. The Potawatamis soon tookup their march to Kansas, and the Winnebagoes, with an escort of mounted soldiers from Fort Atkinson, left for Minnesota in 1848. Only the Sioux remained.
In 1851 these Indians agreed to sell their lands in northern Iowa to the government. In this way all of the prairies and hills and woodlands which the Indians once owned in Iowa passed into the possession of the white man.
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