IOWA HISTORY PROJECT
STORIES OF IOWA
FOR BOYS AND GIRLS
THE INDIANS OF IOWA
No one knows when the Indians first came to Iowa. That they lived in almost every part of the state is shown by mounds which have been located in nearly every county. Perhaps you know of some Indian mounds near your home. In some of the mounds that have been dug upon stone axes, war clubs, fragments of pottery, flint arrowheads, spearheads, and skeletons have been found.
Some of these mounds are round, some are long, and others are shaped like animals such as birds and bears. A favorite location for them was on terraces alon streams and rivers. In northeastern Iowa, Indian graves are found in caves in teh sides of hills and bluffs. Caves and overhanging cliffs along the streams were also used as homes.
When Joliet and Marquette reached Iowa in 1673 they visited with members of the Illinois tribe of Indians. These Indians had come across the Mississippi to hunt and fish along the streams now called the Cedar, the Iowa, and the Des Moines. But they were not Indians of Iowa - they were merely visitors in the Iowa country.
When the Iowa country was purchased by the United States in 1803, there were four groups of Indians living in this area. These were the Sauks and Foxes along the Mississippi; the Iowas along the Des Moines, east and south of the center of the state; the Otoes, Omahas, and Missouris along the Missouri River; and the Sioux in northern Iowa from the Big Sioux River all the way to the Mississippi.
Later the Potawatamis and some of their kinsmen, the Chippewas and Ottawas, were brought by the government from the region about Lake Michigan and given a new home in southwestern Iowa. At a still later date the Winnebagoes were brought into Iowa from Wisconsin and placed in a strip called the Neutral Ground between the Sioux and the Sauks and Foxes. Another tribe - the Mascoutins - lived for a time along the Mississippi near the mouth of the Iowa River. They have given their name to Muscatine Island, to Muscatine County, and to the city of Muscatine.
The Iowa Indians from whom the state takes its name were interesting. They were brave warriors and good hunters and trappers. They had splendid bodies, with broad shoulders. But war and sickness so reduced this tribe in numbers that they did not play an important part in Iowa affairs in later years. Their most notable chief was Mahaska, about whom you will read later.
The Sauks and Foxes were the most prominent Indians of Iowa. How they came into this region had already been told in the story about Des Noyelles and the French invasion of Iowa in 1735. The word Sauk is said to mean the "man with the yellow badge" or "people of the yellow earth"; while the word Meskwaki, as the Foxes preferred to be called, means the "man with the red badge" or "red-earth people." Both the Sauks and Foxes were excellent warriors.
Fur traders, though, felt that the Sauks were more reliable, and liked to deal with them better than with the Foxes. In 1804, Suaks and Foxes occupied villages on both sides of the Mississippi. Finally all of the Sauks and Foxes in Illinois were forced to move over into Iowa. Black Hawk and Keokuk were the most noted Sauk chiefs, although Pashepaho and Appanoose were also important leaders. Poweshiek and Wappello were the most prominent chiefs of the Fox tribe.
The Sioux or Dakota Indians lived in Iowa, north of the Upper Iowa River and the Big Sioux.
They alone occupied this northern region and roamed about at will. They were constantly in trouble with the Indians south of them and time after time clashes occurred between them and the Sauks and Foxes. Even the Iowas, who were of the Siouan race, had many battles with them, after some Sioux warriors killed Mauhawgaw, the father of Mahaska. The Sioux Indians were the last to leave Iowa. It was a band of Sioux also that came back to Iowa in 1857 and killed the white settlers near Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake. Wabasha in northeastern Iowa, Waneta, and War Eagle, who lies buried near Sioux City, were the best-known leaders of the Sioux in the Iowa country.
The Potawatamis, for whom Pottawattamie County is named, came into Iowa during the late thirties. Like the Sauks and Foxes they were a part of the Algonquian race. Although they were capable warriors they liked better to trade. They were a fine looking group of Indians and had excellent manners. They lived in Iowa only a few years, and were then removed by the government to Kansas. Waubonsie, Billy Caldwell, Johnny Green, and Big Boot were Potawatami chiefs who lived in Iowa.
The Winnebago Indians were of Siouan origin. They, like the Potawatamis, did not live in Iowa long, for in 1848 they were moved to Minnesota. Fort Atkinson in Iowa was built for their protection; and two schools, one on Yellow River and another on Turkey River, were built for the Winnebago boys and girls. One of the stories in this section tells you about these schools. Waukon-Decorah, for whom two towns in Iowa were named, Winneshiek, whose name was given to an Iowa county, Dandy, and Yellow Thunder were noted Winnebago chiefs.
Of all the Indians who once lived in Iowa none are here to-day except a small group of Meskwaki or Foxes who live on some three thousand acres of land in Tama County. One of the following stories will tell you how they happen to be in Iowa now when all the other Indians are gone.
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