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Kiskekosh According to Colonel McKENNEY, Kishkekosh's name meant "the man with one leg" which was not descriptive of him at all. Late 1800 writings proclaim that his name meant "savage biter." Ethnologists, however, state that Kishkekosh's name translates more accurately as "He With a Cut Hoof."

Kishkekosh was not a chief, but a prominent man — a war leader. A self-constituted leader of portions of the tribe; not recognized as a chief, but as a strong and influential man, and an aspirant for leadership. He was rather a remarkable Indian, but the very opposite of Poweshiek in many particulars. Tall, straight, active, a swift runner — of great muscular power — the master in every athletic test with his tribe, and possessed of the most perfect figure and physical development. He was of sober habits, very fond of dancing in which he excelled, fluent in speech and eloquent in his language. A fine natural orator, he had, for a time, great influence with his tribe. Others have said that Kishkekosh was untrustworthy among all the whites, "cunning, keen, dishonest, mean, and treacherous."

These were the great men of the Fox Indians at that time. Wapashasheik and Powesheik were then [1837] about forty years of age, and Kishkekosh probably about ten years younger.

Sometimes Kishkekosh was described as a Fox (a.k.a. Meskwaki), and sometimes a Sac or Sauk.

He seems to have been quite a character, and not easily understood. He was personable and charming, at the same time he could be warlike. He tried, perhaps unsuccessfully, to pick up some of the more desirable habits of the settlers. He seems to have been loved by some and feared and distrusted by others.

A number of the histories of counties and cities in the State of Iowa have stories about Kishkekosh, but most are variations of the same three stories. One describes Kishkekosh's attentive but failed attempts at the table manners of sophisticated folks. A second tells how he refuse to eat breakfast at a house (where he may have been an uninvited guest) because he had observed the lady of the house had not washed her hands prior to preparing the food. A third mentions an occasion where white visitors were invited to dine at Kishkekosh’s village, where he joked with them and entertained them. The visitors heard the sounds of dogs being killed for a meal. The visitors were prepared a separate meal of venison, as the whites had a prejudice against eating canines.

In 1841, Kishkekosh presided over a village which was located in what is now eastern Mahaska County. His family at this time consisted of his wife, three children, and his mother who was believed to be over 100-years-old. Kishkekosh's wife was a lovely woman with lady-like manners.

In 1841, while 1,600 Sac and Fox were holding a war dance on what is now enclosed in the townsite of Des Moines, Si-mon-na-do-tah's Sioux warriors attacked a band of friendly Delawares at what is now the site of the town of Adel, killing twenty-six. Keokuk and Kishkekosh led a band of 500 Sac and Fox in pursuit, claiming upon their return to have killed 300 Sioux.

According to legend, Kishkekosh single-handedly invaded a Sioux village, scalped several braves, then tore the buffalo crown from the head of a popular chief. This was considered an act of desperate valor which gave him great prominence among the Sac and Fox.

About six million acres was taken by the United States as an indemnity for the expenses of the Black Hawk war. This "Black Hawk Purchase," as it ws commonly called in the early days was the first Iowa land obtained from the Indians for purposes of settlement.

The western boundary of the "Black Hawk Purchase" was rather irregular and it was not long after actual settlement commenced until disputes arose between the settlers and the Indians as to its exact location. To settle these difficulties, some of the Sac and Fox chiefs [including Kishkekosh] were taken to Washington, D.C., where they entered into a treaty on October 21, 1837, to cede to the United States a tract of 1,250,000 acres lying west of and adjoining the former cession. The object of this cession was to straighten the boundary line, but upon survey it was found that the number of acres ceded was not sufficient to make a straight line, and in a short time the Indians again accused the whites of encroaching upon their domain. Some of the wiser chiefs of the Sacs and Foxes saw that it was only a question of time when the tribes would have to give up all their lands in Iowa.

Keokuk, Wapello and Poweshiek advised a treaty peaceably ceding the lands to the United States, rather than to wait until they should be taken by force. These chiefs asked for a council, which was called to meet at the Sac and Fox Agency [later known as Agency City, then Agency] in what is now Wapello County.

John CHAMBERS, then governor of Iowa Territory, as appointed commissioner on the part of the United States to negotiate the treaty. A large tent was set up near the agency. On one side of the tent was a platform, upon which sat Governor CHAMBERS, John BEACH, the Indian agent, Lieut. C. F. RUFF, of the First United States Draggons, and the interpreters, Antoine Le CLAIRE and Josiah SWART. Around the tent the Indians were arranged, leaving an open space in the center.

Kishkekosh appeared wearing his stolen buffalo crown which made him appear taller and more terrifying. The Sioux seemed to be hypnotized by the sight, muttering among themselves. Kishkekosh assumed a positiong on a high bench and stared down upon the faces of his people's ancient enemies.

Sensitive to the undercurrents that was always present during any Indian council, the agents offered gifts, promises, and finally a few threats that convinced Kishkekosh to remove his buffalo crown during the council.

When the time came to open the council, Governor CHAMBERS, attired in the uniform of an army officer, made a short speech, stating the purpose for which they were assembled. At the close of his remarks, Keokuk, clad in all his native finery . . . stepped into the open space of the tent and replied. After that, there was "much talk," as nearly every chief present had something to say.

The result of the council was that on October 11, 1842 [The Treaty of 1842] the Indians agreed to cede all their lands west of the Mississippi River to the United States, but reserved the right to occupy for three years from the date of signing the treaty "all that part of the land above ceded which lies west of a line running due north and south from the Painted or Red Rocks on the White Breast fork of the Des Moines River, which rocks will be found about eight miles in a straight line from the junction of the White Breast and Des Moines [Rivers]."

The tract of land ceded by this treaty includes practically all of Central Iowa, extending southward to the Missouri line. The United States agreed to pay for the land thus ceded the interest at five per cent upon $8000, annually, to assume the payment of certain debts owed by the Indians to licensed traders, and to "assign a tract of land suitable and convenient for Indian purposes to the Sacs and Foxes for a permanent home for them and their descendants, which tract shall be upon the Missouri River or some of its waters."

The Indians agreed to vacate that part of the cession east of the Red Rock line by May 1, 1843, and the United States agreed to remove the balcksmith and gunsmith tools at the agency west of the said line and establish two shops for the accommodation of the Indians until their removal to the new lands assigned them "upon the waters of the Missouri." The treaty was signed by forty-for of the chiefs and head men of the Sacs and Foxes, among whom were Keokuk and his son, Appanoose, Pashepaho, Kishkekosh, Poweshiek, Kaponeka, Chekawque and a number of others whose names still remembered in Iowa.

In the fall of 1845, most of the Indians removed from the country and the rest departed in the spring of 1846.

It isn't known where Kishkekosh went, but it is assumed he went with his band to Kansas after their removal in the fall of 1845.

Monroe County, Iowa was originally named Kishkekosh County.

Today there is a prairie reserve in Jasper County named after Kishkekosh.


SOURCES: FULTON, A. R. The Red Men of Iowa: Being a History of the Various Aboriginal Tribes Chapt. 15. Pp. 265-69. Mills & Co. Des Moines. 1882. The Roused Bear. History of the Butterfly Part 6 & 7. 2010. HUFF, Sanford W, M.D. "Poweshiek, Wapashasheik and Kiskekosh: A Chat with Colonel TROWBRIDGE" Annals of Iowa Vols. 6 & 7. Pg. 61. State Historical Society of Iowa. Des Moines, Iowa. 1868. "Last Iowa Indian Battle" The Sioux City Journal 23 Feb 1896. WRIGHT, John W., YOUNG, William A. History of Marion County, Iowa and Its People Vol. I. Pp. 51-2. S.J. Clarke Publ. Co. Chicago. 1915.

Transcriptions & Compilation by Sharon R. Becker, September of 2010