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Ioway Cultural Institute : The Ioway Virtual Library

From the History of Buchanan County, Iowa

From the History of Buchanan County, Iowa, 1842
Published by Williams Brothers Publishers 1881

[page 14]


This tribe is said to belong to the Dakota family, the principal representatives of which have had their meeting-grounds west of the Missouri. Unlike many of the other tribes, therefore, that have inhabited this region, their migrations were from the west instead of the east. They originally called themselves Pahucha, which signifies "Dusty Nose" - though from what peculiarity they were thus called, we are not informed. They were first mentioned by Father Marquette, who, as early as 1673, speaks of them "as the Pahoutet, back of the Des Moines." Some of the tribes called them Mascoutin which name is said to signify "Prairie," and which is perhaps perpetuated in the name of the county and city of Muscatine. They were divided into eight clans, all named from different animals, of which the eagle, wolf, bear, and buffalo still exist---the other four, which were named the pigeon, elk, beaver, and snake, having become extinct.

In 1675 their country was said to be twelve days' journey west of Green Bay. In 1700 they were in what is now Southern Minnesota, and, like the Sioux, were at war with all the western Algonquin tribes. The celebrated Jesuit historian, Charlevoir, gives an account of them at about this period of their history. He says that the great pipestone quarry was then embraced in their territory, and speaks of their celebrity throughout the west as pedestrians, alleging that they were "able to

[page 15]

travel twenty-five or thirty leagues a day when alone." It is said that many of their early chiefs had names indicative of their remarkable endurance in walking, and of the pride which they took in their acknowledged superiority in this respect. And one of their later chiefs, who flourished as recently as 1825, was named Manehans, or Great Walker. The name of their greatest warrior and chief, Mahaska, or White Cloud, who flourished about the same time, has been perpetuated in the name of the county of which Oskaloosa is the county seat.

In early times the Iowas were powerful and warlike, and often came into collision with those greatest of Indian warriors, the Sioux. At the beginning of this century they numbered about fifteen hundred souls; but, what with wars, smallpox and "fire water," their numbers have been gradually reduced until 1872, when the last published enumeration took place, the tribe consisted of only two hundred and twenty-five. In 1803 they defeated the Osages, at that time a powerful tribe, and this seems to have been about the last of their military successes; although their hostility to the Sioux continued as late as 1825, when Generals Clark and Cass made an attempt, only partially successful, to establish peace between the two tribes.

Few of the northern Indians have shown greater aptitude for civilization than the Iowas, although the evil influences surrounding them have prevented this disposition from bearing very abundant fruits. The first treaty of peace between them and the United States was made in the year 1815 - Wyingwatha, or Hardheart, and some of the subordinate chiefs acting on the part of the Indians. August 4, 1824, another treaty was formed; General Clark acting for the United States, and the great chief, Mahaskah, or White Cloud, and Manehana, or Great Walker, representing the tribe. By this treaty all the lands of the Iowas in what was then known as the Missouri territory, were ceded to the government for five hundred dollars down, and the same sum to be paid annually for ten years - the United States agreeing to support a blacksmith at the headquarters of the tribe, and, to assist them with agricultural implements, horses, cattle, etc. They had at this time several villages on the Des Moines and Iowa rivers - a part of the Sacs and Foxes being associated with them. As usual the intrusion of the whites upon their lands led to trouble and complaints; and the influence of liquors, following that of war and disease, was fast reducing the numbers of this once powerful tribe.

By a treaty formed September 17, 1836, the remnant of the tribe, then numbering nine hundred and ninety-two, was removed to a reservation located on the west bank of the Missouri, above Wolf river. But a part of them became discontented, and, the very next year, abandoned the reservation and took up the life of vagrants, subsisting by theft, or hunting upon the grounds of other tribes. Their numbers dwindled year by year, the chiefs taking the lead in intemperance, from the effects of which vice many died, and many others were killed in the fatal quarrels to which it led. About the year 1835 the Presbyterians established a mission and manual labor school among these people, and kept it up with commendable zeal for more than twenty years. Though much good was accomplished, the effort failed to arrest the steady decay of the tribe. By 1846 they had become reduced in numbers to seven hundred and six. At this time their territory was bounded on the east by the Missouri, and on the north by the Great Nemahaw.

On March 6, 1861, a treaty was made by which the tribe, then reduced to three hundred and five in number, ceded to the United States all their lands, except a reservation of sixteen thousand acres. In 1869 they informally agreed to sell this and remove south; but afterwards retracted their agreement, but consented to give part of their lands to the Sacs and Foxes, who had parted with their reservation.

About the time the Presbyterian mission was abandoned, the tribe was placed under the care of the Quakers, under whose influence they have made considerable advance in civilization, and have shown an increasing disposition to become more sober and industrious. In 1872 their school numbered sixty-three pupils - more than one-fourth of the entire tribe - and all clad in the garb of civilized life. They had seven hundred acres of land under cultivation, thirteen framed houses, and twenty built of logs. Their produce was estimated at two thousand six hundred and eighty-five dollars, and their stock at seven thousand nine hundred dollars. The Government of the United States holds fifty-seven thousand five hundred dollars in trust for the Iowas, the interest upon which is paid annually to the heads of families; and the almost useless 'Indian goods" formerly furnished, are now replaced by articles af intrinsic value.

It is a remarkable fact, and one well worthy of record, that in 1864, when they numbered in all only two hundred and ninety-three, the Iowas had forty-one men in the United States military service - almost one-fourth of their entire population! What white community at the north could show any such ratio of soldiers as that? It is said that these forty-one men were much improved by our military discipline, and that they all adopted civilized dress and customs. We greatly regret our inability to give any personal incidents in the military record of these men, or to trace their history since the war. It is devoutly to be hoped that some of them, at least, received the appropriate reward of citizenship in the nation which they helped to defend.

A grammar of the Iowa language, composed by the Rev. S. M. Irvin and Mr. William Hamilton, was published at the Iowa mission in 1848.

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