baxoje, the ioway nation, resources on the ioway or iowa indian tribe

Ioway Cultural Institute : The Ioway Virtual Library

Sacred Bundles of the Ioway Indians,
By Lance Michael Foster
(© 1994-2001, All Rights Reserved)

Chapter 3. The Ioway: Historical and Cultural Context


Ioway Origins / The Oneota


The connection of the Oneota (specifically the Orr Focus) archaeological culture of the American midwest to the historic Ioway tribe, first suggested by the work of Charles Keyes (1927) and supported by James Griffin (1937), was established through the ethnohistoric work of Mildred Mott Wedel who tied Oneota sites to historically-known Ioway-Oto areas and sites (Mott 1938).

A great deal has been written on the Oneota, more than can be mentioned here, but include the work of archaeologists like Alex (1978), Anderson (1975, 1981), Benn (1989), Bray (1963), Clark (1971), DeVore (1990), Gibbon (1972, 1982), Glenn (1974), Gradwohl (1967, 1974, 1978), Hall (1962), Harvey (1979), Henning (1961, 1967, 1970), Mott (Wedel) (1938, 1959, 1981, 1986), McKusick (1964, 1973), Osborn (1982), Salzer (1987), Straffin (1971), and Tiffany (1979, 1982).

The Oneota culture is associated with an archaeological assemblage of shell-tempered pottery (most commonly of an olla form, the handles, shoulders and lip decorated with trailing, incising, and punctating), chipped stone (triangular points with flat bases, knives, awls, and scrapers), ground stone (mullers and arrowshaft smoothers), disk pipe bowls, copper, elk or bison scapula hoes, and clam shells; some later sites also include historic era trade material like brass, iron, glass, and glass beads (Mott 1938: 290). Their economy seems to have been based on opportunistic hunting and farming, adaptable in its degree of reliance on either mode at any one site or time. Sites attributed to the Oneota, including mounds, village sites, and rock shelters, are distributed along certain tributaries of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in what are now the states of Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, South Dakota, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri (Figure 3.1: "Classic Oneota and related sites"). Dates for Oneota sites cluster between A.D. 1000 and 1700.

A lot of debate centers around the origin of Oneota culture. The Oneota is classified as Upper Mississippian due to its association with shell-tempered pottery. The real debate is about whether the Oneota were an indigenous Late Woodland group (associated with grit-tempered pottery and the effigy mounds found in the region) who adopted Mississippian traits, or an intrusive group from another region who had entered the region. Mississippian cultures appear to have had Mesoamerican ties, with influences seen in their temple mounds, towns, corn agriculture, ideological systems, and trade network (McKusick 1964).

The Oneota are not only identified with the Ioway, but also with the closely related Oto, Missouri, and Winnebago, all Siouan-speakers (McKusick 1964: 149). Based on the work of Waldo Wedel (1959), which linked the Fanning site in Kansas to the Oneota and the Kansa, the Dhegiha Siouans (the Kansa, Osage, Omaha, Ponca, and Quapaw) should also be included.

Some archaeological and mythological evidence indicates that the indigenous midwestern Woodland cultures were primarily Siouan. Other evidence shows Siouan ties to the east and southeast, such as legends of migration from the Ohio River Valley and the Cumberland Gap, as well as mythological motif ties to the Southeast (Lankford 1987).

Figure 3.1: Classic Oneota and related sites (After Glenn 1974: 24) [Online animated map of development of Oneota Culture, from Oneota webpages at University of Iowa]


A lot of difficulty comes from people assuming that cultural boundaries define a biological group, or that an archaeological assemblage defines an ethnic group. My studies of Ioway material culture in comparison with that from such groups as the Omaha indicate that ethnic boundaries may not evidence themselves in readily recognizable differences in material culture. Discussion with members of other tribes as well as oral tradition indicate that at one time in recent prehistory the Siouans were essentially one people, spread all the way from the Carolinas through the Ohio Valley and up to the Mississippi Valley and beyond.

Those Siouan groups which accepted to one degree or another the values, technology, and social organization of the Mississippians became the Oneota. Such a transformation would probably have come about through a combination of trade, intermarriage, and conquest. These turbulent and conciliatory early developments seem to be reflected in Ioway art and mythology which have a number of Southeastern connections (Benn 1989; Bray 1963; Lankford 1987; Skinner 1925; Whitman 1938). This early southeastern connection may enlighten certain aspects of later material culture symbolism for the Ioway.

David Benn echoes my concern with identifying ethnicity with an archaeological assemblage, and holds that the truth may be more complex than we might like:

The Oneota were a unique transformation of culture that does not slot into the rigid empirical categories like "Woodland" and "Mississippian." While it is true that the Oneota were formed from varied sets of concrete circumstances among which were population density, environmental setting, economic base and historical necessity, they were unique in that their social formation included certain social and ecological contradictions as a result of syncretism between their past and the socioeconomic culture of their Late Woodland and Mississippian contemporaries. That Oneota culture has been an enigma for archaeological analysis exposes two sources of conceptual problems: the lack of application of methodology which inquires into the structure and composition of political economies, and a paradigm which employs a dialectical perspective of historical process. If explanations are not pursued for social formations beneath the veneer of artifact assemblages and compartmentalized relationships into the deeper structure of producer relations, historical contradictions and dialectical processes, then the need to connect economy with ideology, the Woodland past with their successor Mississippian chiefdoms, aboriginal cultures with the ethnographic present, and human prehistory with present day societies will never be satisfied (Benn 1989: 255).


Sacred stories

Sacred stories, wekan, say that the the Ioway tribe began when the various clan ancestral animals met and decided to form one people, on the shore of the Great Sea at Red Earth. In the beginning, there was conflict and even war. Through the use of the holy pipe and the making of sacred friendships, it was finally agreed that they should become one, yet not one. The clans would share villages and intermarry, and hold interdependent ceremonies together. At the same time, each clan would exercise certain exclusive rights and hold its own ceremonies. In a way, they had the best of both worlds, the strength of unity and the freedom of individuality. It is not inconceivable that the group and ethnic conflicts faced in our world today could find peace in such a system.

Because of successive disasters faced by the Ioway throughout history, several of these almost leading to their disappearance as a people, the stories which remain are often fragmentary and confused. Enough remains to show that the Ioway belief system was rich and complex. Some of these stories are connected with the Ioway bundle system. In Traditions of the Iowa Indians (1925), Skinner related some of the folklore of the Ioway which pertains to the bundle system.

The ancient Ioway story of the Hero Twins, "Dore and Wahre´dua" (Dore being the twin kept and raised by his father and Wahredua the abandoned twin of supernatural power), who roamed the world killing monsters, relates one version of how the Ioways got their medicine bundles.

It is said that this is a true story of the beginning of the Indian race, and many of the medicines that were found in the medicine bags of otter skin used in the Mankanye Washi are derived from Wahre´dua's hair. These twins made the world possible for men to live here (Skinner 1925: 433).

The monsters known as Sharp Elbows (itopa´hi ) were the ones who had killed their mother, and the Twins caused them to destroy themselves.

These Sharp Elbows look like persons except that they had long sharp bones like awls or daggers projecting from their elbows and two faces, one in the front and one in the back of their heads. The sacred pipe of the Black Bear Gens has a stone bowl that is made in representation of one of these powerful spirits, probably because one of the ancestors of the gens had some supernatural experience with one of these spirits (Skinner 1925: 435).

After destroying most of the world's monsters, the Twins began to explore the world, in the process gaining power for people to live in the future. Following is an extended passage relating their receiving the sacred bundles:


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While on their travels one foggy day Wahre´dua was taken up into the World Above by the spirits, and while there he was taught by them to control the rain, thunder, and lightning, so that he could go on the warpath as they did. He was taken up there to be shown the power that he and his brother had to exercise in this world. So the Powers Above showed Wahre´dua all the different types of warbundles (Waruháwe). These hung all around the walls of the wigwam from one side of the door to the other. Among them were the prototypes of the warbundles that we use today in the Iowa tribe. They were:

1. The Holy Sacred Bundle (Wathé Waruháwe or Wathé Manka) which contains some of Wahre´dua's hair medicine. It is a very strong power, and is used to govern the affections of women, to bring presents to the owner, to obtain gifts of horses for him, and even to reform bad women.

2. The Brave Bundle (Wakwa Shóshe).

3. The Red (Bean) Medicine Bundle (Maka Sudje Waruháwe). This is a bundle used especially for war and horse stealing. Horse doctors use it also, and so do snake doctors.

4. The Deer Dewclaw Bundle (Ta Sagre Waruháwe), used by Buffalo Doctors in healing the sick.

5. The Scalping War Bundle (Watce Waruháwe).

6. The Chief's Sacred Bundle (Wanikihi Waruháwa [sic]), a peace bundle.

7. The Buffalo Doctor's Sacred Bundle (Tcehówe Waruháwe).

8. The Grizzly Bear Bundle (Manto Waruháwe), used by the Grizzly Bear Doctors to cure the sick.

Originally there was only one of each kind of bundle in each gens, but many false ones are now to be found. One of each of these was given to Wahre´dua to carry back to earth. Some were covered with fresh scalps, just aken. Others had scalps that were a few days old, and some were [437] older still. There was one bundle that hung near the door which was very old and tattered. It was a leading bundle, and Wahrédua, having magic power, knew it in spite of its appearance and took that one too. The spirit who was teaching him said: "You have taken the greatest of all. You can control the rain, air, sun, even the beasts and the fowls of the air. Your brother is crying for you down on earth, go back and continue your journey. You will find that your father has fled."

When Wahre´dua got back to earth he saw that it was all foggy again. He wandered around until he heard Dore calling him. When he approached him, Dore said, "What have you and where have you been?"

"Oh," said Wahre´dua, "I have something that will make us great. Now we will go on."

They left that place and traveled until they came to a place where the earth ended. There was a great crack there that opened and closed, but the twins jumped over it when it was shut. Once on the other side they found a wigwam where dwelt Pigeon (Rutce or Lutce), the Master of the Fowls of the Air. He gave the brothers the Pigeon War Bundle (Lutce Waruháwe), which is used especially to locate the enemy. This Pigeon himself was the bird who located the earth at the time of the creation, hence came his great powers. He was the ancestor of the Pigeon Gens. He said to the twins: "Now you have come. I have been expecting you. Take this bundle to use in war to protect you from the scouts and spies of the enemy. It shall be the sacred bundle of the Pigeon Gens."

This Pigeon had also in his charge all the war bundles that are connected with the bird kind. There were the Eagle, Hawk, and Owl medicine Bundles, and that of Sparrow-hawk (Gretaninyé), and Black Hawk (Gretan). All these were shown and explained to the twins. The lodge was covered with feathers inside. The twins were told to help themselves to all the feathers that they could carry. As for the bundles, they did not actually carry those away, they learned their contents and rituals, and copied them when they got home.

On their way back the twins again came to the crack that marked the corner of the earth, and stepped across. They had now visited the east and so they soon set out to visit the west.

When they got to the western end of the earth they came to another crack and stepped across while it was shut. Here they were presented with the Wolf Gens War Bundle (Méjiradji Waruháwa), the original of the one I owned (Informant, Robert Small). The being who gave it to them had all the bundles connected with the wolves. He was called Wolf Chief (Méjiradji Wanikihi), and with him was Coyote Chief (Manikathi Wanikihi), so they acquired the Coyote Sacred Bundle also.

All these bundles are only branches of the Sacred Medicine Bundles (Wathe) and the Scalping Bundles (Watce), which, with the Red Medicine Bundle (Maka Sudje), head all the others. The Wolf Chief gave [438] them the choice of all the war bundles that hung around the walls of his lodge from one side of the door to the other, and again Wahre´dua selected the oldest and most insignificant looking, yet the most powerful one.

The twins returned and went south without looking for their father. Again they came to a crack that marked the boundary of the world and stepped over it while it was closed. Here they found a lodge where dwelt Munje Wanikihi, the Bear Chief, who greeted them kindly and showed them all the sacred bear bundles. These were mainly for doctoring the sick, as used later by the Grizzly Bear Doctors, but were also secondarily for war. The Brave Bundles (Wankwa Tcutze [compare "Wankwa Shoshe" as the version given in same story, earlier]) belong to this latter class. The Bear Chief said, "When you get back you can tell the people what you have," and he explained each sort and its ritual to the twins. All around the inside of his house were hung sacred warbundles from one side of the door to the other. Some had fresh scalps on them, others scalps a few days old, others still older, as in the other two lodges at the east and west ends of the world. The Bear Chief gave them their choice as before, and Wahre´dua selected again the oldest and poorest-looking one, which was in reality the most powerful of all.

The twins returned, and by now their lodge was full of strong powers. They went hunting to get a bear, a wolf, and eagle, and a pigeon to use in making up their sacred bundles according to the instructions which they had received. As they knew that there would be Chiefs, Braves, well-to-do men and commoners in the Iowa nation when it came to exist, they got four of each kind, and anyway there would have to be four in each gens, one for each of the descendants of the four gens ancestors [here he contradicts his earlier statement that there was only one of each kind in each gens and that the others were false]. The twins later selected from each gens of the Iowa nation the four leading men and instructed them in all the ways of these bundles, and that took them a great deal of time. There should be four whistles attached to or inside of each sacred bundle. These are made of cane because cane grows in water whence emerged each of the gens ancestors. These whistles are to invoke the aid of the four winds. When the twins turned the bundles over to mankind a great feast was held, after which the leaders learned the traditions, rites, and rituals of the sacred bundles so that they could operate them properly. From that time until recently the war bundles were used as the twins taught us. The gentes began at that time, and once being organized the people of each gens were also instructed in the story of the origin and the use of these bundles. Each gens ancestor was an animal that came out of the Great Water and became a person.

The twins then said to the people, "We cannot stay here any longer, but now you people can take care of yourselves. There shall be chiefs, secondary chiefs, subchiefs, braves, and commoners. The Iowa tribe shall be ever peaceable, and we give you for each gens a peace pipe. Seven in all were given to the people. First one for the Buffalo (A´ruhwa) gens, second one for the Black Bear (Tunánpi) gens, third, one for the Pigeon [439] (Rutce) gens; fourth, one for the Wolf (Munjiraji [note variant spelling]) gens; fifth one for the Owl (Mankatci or Mankoke) gens; sixth, one for the Eagle (Hkra) gens, and seventh and last one for the Elk (Homa) gens.

As the people were now well supplied with the means to make both war and peace the boys started to look for their father [footnote: Note that, probably by error of the narrator, no account is given of their journey to the north end of the earth, although it was said they were to go to all four quarters of the compass.]


(From Skinner 1925: 436-439).

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Online Version Additional Notes:


To help people pronounce the Ioway terms, I have rewritten Skinner in current 2001 orthography, with phonetic pronunciation in parentheses:

Wareduwa (wah-RAY-dwah): Holy Twin brother who was discarded by his father and raised by mice, and who had the greater power of the brothers. The "u" is very short and blended with the "w"

Rore (ROH-re - sometimes when flapped "r" comes at the beginning of a word it sounds much like a "d"): Sometimes seen in stories written as Dore or Lole, Rore was the Twin brother who was kept and raised by his father

Wathe (wah-THAY): An untranslated term which refers to the medicine in the Twin bundle

Waruxawe (wah-roo-KHAH-way): "Sacred Bundle", literally, "that which is flayed"

Maka (MUH-kuh.. the "a" is nasalized, making the "ah" sound more like "uh"): "Medicine", as either an object, a substance, a plant, etc.

Wang'wasose (WAHNK'-wah-SHOH-shay): "Brave; warrior", a title of achievement from "Wange" man + wasose "to be brave, courageous" (k and g are basically the same sound, just pronounced a little differently depending on which letters are around them, and how fast they are said)

Maka Suje (MUH-kuh SHOO-jay): "Red Medicine", the red mescalbean (Sophora secundiflora) found in Texas and surrounding areas

Ta Sagre (TAH SHAH-gray): "Deer dewclaw / hoof" from "ta" deer + "sagre" hoof, nail, claw

Wach'e (wah-CH'E .. the ' is a glottal stop which is pronounced like the - in "uh-oh"): This does not mean "scalp". Wach'e is a title given to a Keeper of a Warbundle, and can be loosely translated as "Death", as in someone with the Power to deal death (ch'ehi means "to kill", as ch'e "dead" + -hi (a causative suffix).

Wangegihi (WAHNG-ay-gee-hee): "Chief", from wange "man" + gihi "to cause someone to go in a certain direction", showing the authority of a chief.

Che Xowe (CHAY KHOH-way): "Buffalo Power", from che "buffalo" + xowe "supernatural power or guardianship"

Mato (MAH-toh): "Bear". Generally this is used today nonspecifically for all bears, but historically tended to be used to denote the grizzly bear, whereas black bears were called munje (MOON-jay), wathewe (wah-THAY-way), "something black" or the sacred term Tunap'i (too-NAHP-'ee) in an indirect form. The Bear Clan usually was thought of as Black Bear rather than Grizzly, as Black Bear lived in the woods (where Bear Clan originated) and grizzly on the plains and mountains.

Ruche (ROO-chay): "Pigeon". This is ageneric form used for all pigeons and doves, but most often either refers to the Mourning Dove that sings in the morning and while mating, or the extinct Passenger Pigeon that migrated in immense flights of millions of birds.

Gretainye (gray-TAH-ee-NYEH): "Little Hawk", from Greta "hawk" + -inye (diminutive suffix). The American kestrel or sparrow hawk; may also refer to the falcon.

Greta (GRAY-tuh .. with the final "a" nasalized, sounding like "uh"): "Hawk" of various types

Mejiraji (may-JEE-rah-jee): Sacred archaic term for the Wolf Clan. The animal is usually called Sunta (SHOON-tah)

Manikathi (mah-NYEE-kah-thee): "Coyote" possibly from manyi/mani "to walk or go along"+ ka/ga "towards there" + thee "(on) foot", showing the nature of coyote always restless and moving, but this is uncertain. Coyote was also called wamonoke, "the thief."

Aruxwa (ah-ROO-khwah): An archaic sacred term for Buffalo Clan.

Makasji (MUH-kuh-sjee) / Makoke (MAH-koh-kay) : Terms for the Owl Clan, which is the Barred Owl. Makasji seems to come from maka "medicine" + -sji (a suffix meaning "real" "genuine"). Makoke is the term for the bird itself.

Xra (KRAH): "Eagle" of the different types.

Huma (HOO-mah): "Elk". This is the generic term for elk. When used specifically, it means "cow elk" while Hodache means "bull elk."


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Although Small did not relate what happened at the north, this may have been an intentional change in the story, rather than an error; in many traditions, portraying something sacred accurately yet incompletely or with a small change, is a way of respecting the sacredness of the thing and protecting oneself against the consequences of divulging the sacred. The being of the north may have been an eagle, as they collected four animals to make the bundles, three of which correspond to the animals mentioned for the directions (pigeon, wolf, and bear) and the fourth, with no correspondence, is the eagle. However, he also says the eagle bundle was under the control of Pigeon, and he does not mention buffalo, which not only was a gens of prime importance but also had a bundle system attached which he does not mention in the text. It is likely that the being of the north was Buffalo Chief (although some stories also name Spirit Buffalos from the Above World and others from the Under World) as Eagle was usually considered to be with the Thunders, who lived in the Above World or the skies of the west.

This story also seems grand and syncretic, an attempt to make sense of everything, to fit it all together. It contradicts the claims of the Wanathunje story which purported to have given all of the bundles to the Ioway, as well as the stories of the various societies, such as the Buffalo Doctor origin story which credits Lone Walker and the Heavenly Buffalo as their benefactors. It is also fairly well established that the Red Medicine Bundle came to the Ioway from the Pawnee in late times. This is on top of the internal inconsistencies.

But one must not dismiss the story as false. Truth wears many faces. One may make an analogy here with the building of another sacred story from various, unconnected, inconsistent stories and sources into a syncretic, coherent, sacred whole the Bible. In this light, the "Pigeon finding the earth" parallel is an interesting one.

The great variations in Ioway stories and traditions, all the way down to the tradition that each gens or clan had its own origin myth, coming from different places, and even speaking different languages (also see Whitman 1938), lends some credence to the idea that the Oneota ancestors of the Ioway had come from different traditions, perhaps being different ethnic groups. The skeletal grouping variations in Oneota burials support this as well (Glenn 1974).

There is a final story, obviously inserted into the Twin saga, as they had no role in it at all, which relates how, during a race with a sacred gens pipe, Turtle cheats and makes a fake pipe and then takes a shortcut to the finish line (echoes of the Hare and the Tortoise!). He loses to the real winner, Man-in-the-Earring (also known as Human-Head-Earring, Human-Heart-Earring, or by his Winnebago name, Red Horn), but Turtle's action still has consequences: "Turtle's trick was the start of the false peace pipes that some people hold and call genuine Iowa gens peace pipes" (Skinner 1925: 441). One might wonder if this was a veiled comment by Small on Skinner's collecting experiences, which will be described later. Other stories in this collection relate to the bundle system, such as "The Man with the Human Head Earrings": Blackhawk likewise decided to depart, but before leaving his children he gave them the war powers that are included in the war bundles. These powers are to see far, locate the enemy, and pounce upon them (1925: 458).

Another story, "Married to Grizzly Bear," has an incident which is just like the one in the story of the Twins, when the Twins visited Pigeon, seeing the bundles, choosing the oldest, and taking feathers from a feather-covered floor. In this case, it is a chief's son and his four followers:

They were gone over two years, and decided to visit the end of the world. Finally they reached the spot and saw the great crack in the ground that marks the boundary there. When the crack closed itself, they all went over, and once on the other side they found a huge lodge. There were four people in the lodge who received them hospitably. They laid down their arms and went in.

One of the four people was the leader, and he addressed them as follows: "My grandsons, we have heard that you were coming here, and we are glad that you have arrived. Now I shall talk to you for four days. But first look about you. You see all around the lodge many war bundles. Some have fresh scalps attached to them. Some of these scalps were taken today, others are older. Now you who are the leader, look these over, pick out any one that you want for yourself, and it will take me four days' time to teach you its ritual, so that you can use it when you get home."

Next to the door hung a sacred bundle that had no scalps attached to [466] it. It was old and dirty, and falling apart. The chief's son chose this one, although it was old and homely. The beings told him that it was one of the foremost of all the sacred bundles. The leader opened it and spread out its contents before him, and explained them to the chief's son, and it took him four days to explain them all. When the days were up, the man said to him, "Tomorrow morning I want you to go out and get some feathers to take home."

Next day the floor of the lodge was covered with eagle feathers. The youths took the best of these, as many as they wanted. They were told that on the way back they would be engaged in several actions with the enemy, but that they would be successful. The chief of the lodge at the end of the world told them: "Remember that you can always give us tobacco and dog meat. These are the principal things that we want."

That is the reason why every spring the Iowa used to have a bundle feast, using dog meat. Sometimes they used merely to kill a dog, tie tobacco around its neck and say: "We sacrifice this dog and tobacco to our Grandfathers the Thunderers," for the four beings were really Thunderers. These were the same ones who are mentioned in the other stories. Their names were Khromanyi [k'omanyi : Thundering], Ug´rimanyi [luglimanyi : Lightning], N´iumanyi [nyiyumanyi : Raining], and Wakand´ainye [wakandainye : Little God, or Little Thunder] (1925: 465-466).



K'omanyi (K'OH-mah-nyee): Thundering (or Walking Thunder), from k'o "thunder (sound)" + manyi "to walk, go along"

Rugrimanyi (ROO-gree-mah-nyee): Lightning (or Walking Lightning), from rugri "lightning" + manyi "to walk, go along"

Nyiyimanyi (NYEE-yoo-mah-nyee): Raining (or Walking Rain), from nyi "water" + yu "to fall" = "rain", + manyi "to walk, go along"

Wakandainye (wah-KAHN-dah-EE-nyeh): "Little God", from wakanda "a god, a spirit, a deity" + -inye (diminutive suffix). Sometimes also used to speak of Jesus.


Other legends mention sacred bundles, including one where Trickster (Ishjinki: ish-JEEN-kee) deceives Turtle and takes his sacred bundle to teach him a lesson (1925: 490), and another where Hare tricks his grandmother into believing she is menstruating so she has to take the medicine bundles out of the lodge while he gorges himself on a turkey he was supposed to share with her (1925: 499).

Ioway sacred stories reflect the character of complexity, contradiction, inconsistency, adaptability, and syncretism that one can see in their Oneota roots.


Ioway ethnohistory

A brief essay on Ioway ethnohistory follows, but readers seeking more detail are directed to the works by Duane Anderson (1973), Martha Royce Blaine (1979), Roy Meyer (1962), and Mildred Mott Wedel (1986). I have also written on a number of these topics for a series of printed powwow programs for the Baxoje Fall Encampment (Foster 1991, 1993). The recent history of the Ioway given here is the basis for an upcoming article (Foster, in press). Salient points from these sources have provided the framework for the discussion that follows.

The historic Ioway were Siouan-speakers, sharing their language and most of their culture with the Oto and Missouri tribes (grouped with them into the "Chiwere" group). They considered the Winnebago their "fathers", having separated from them at some point in prehistory or protohistory. They had much in common, culturally and linguistically, with other Siouan groups, such as the Dhegiha (Omaha, Ponca, Osage, Quapaw, Kansa) and the Dakota. They also, through similarity in range and resources, as well as through diffusion, shared much of their culture with local Algonkian groups (Sauk, Mesquakie, Illinois, Kickapoo, and Caddoans (Pawnee, Arikara, and Wichita).

The Ioway experienced first contact with Europeans through the French traders in Wisconsin in the late 1600s. Based in horticultural villages, the Ioway wandered the lands between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and into Wisconsin, trading catlinite pipes and buffalo hides. Gradually, trade relations were established and the Ioway brought into the European fur trade. At this time, the Ioway had relatively peaceful relations with most neighboring tribes, except the Illini (Illinois), who associated the Ioway with their hereditary enemies the Winnebago.

By the 1700s, however, epidemic disease, and major migrations of intrusive tribes rippled in from the east and the Great Lakes, continuing a domino effect due to warfare and resource depletion. The Spanish also intrigued some Plains tribes into the southwestern slave trade. The Ioway were not a numerous people since their final split from the larger proto-Chiwere / Winnebago (Oneota) group in the 1500s, numbering perhaps a maximum of 3000-5000 at any one time, often spread out in a huge area in different villages.

When the European powers, as well as the Americans, began manipulating old tribal animosities for their own economic and territorial gain, fighting each other in effect through the tribes, the resource-rich lands of the Ioway became very attractive. The Ioway fought for first the French against the British and Spanish, and then when that was lost, for the British against the Americans. They unfortunately always seemed to pick the side which eventually lost, and gained the animosity and hatred of many traders in the process, such as Manuel Lisa.

During the tribal wars lasting from the late 1600s to the final removal of the Ioway from their ancestral lands in Iowa in the 1830s, the Ioway fought the Plains Apache, the Comanche, the Illinois, the Kickapoo, the Potawatomi, the Ojibwa, the Osage, the Santee and Yankton Sioux, the Kansa, the Pawnee, the Omaha, the Sauk and the Mesquakie, and even their relatives the Oto and Missouri. They seemed to be at peace only with the Winnebago, and were able to usually get along with the Oto and Missouri.

They also forged a rocky alliance with the newcomers to their Iowa lands, the Sauk and Mesquakie, who also seemed to have every other tribe against them, although that alliance also went sour at times (the destruction of the Ioway village on the Des Moines and the presumption of Keokuk at the last treaty negotiations come to mind). The attractiveness of their lands (and of their women-- the French seemed to have a real thing for Ioway women) doomed them to repeated decimation.

Facing inevitable encroachment by whites as well as invading Sioux and the Sauk and Fox, the small Ioway tribe was forced to cede all their lands east of the Missouri River in 1836 and move to assigned lands on the Nemaha Reserve in Kansas and Nebraska by 1838.

Now forced to become stationary, the Ioway condition worsened and they surrendered to the comfort of the whiskey keg. Murders (by both whites and other Ioways) increased as alcohol and disease destroyed the old traditional structure of authority; the suppression of the unifying aspects of war did not help things, nor did the attempts to annihilate tradition by the agents and the missionaries. By the time the Civil War began, intermarriage, alcohol, and economic manipulation by outsiders had destroyed the greater part of Ioway life.

The Civil War aroused some of the old martial instincts which gave them direction, and the greater part of Ioway men went away to fight on the side of the North, as cavalry and as scouts. When they came back, they had changed, and many now began to follow the white road. The division between the "traditionals" and the "progressives" centered on disputes about authority and land. The traditionals, feeling the pressure of encroaching whites and the desire of the progressives to hold land individually, left the Nemaha in disgust in the 1870s to start once again to restructure the old communal life style in the hot, dry lands of Indian Territory, near their kinsmen the Oto-Missouri and their old friends the Sauk. They did not know that individual allotments were inevitable, and were later forced to accept them.

Today, the Iowa call themselves "Ioway," or, in their own language, "Paxoje" (Dusty Noses). The preferred usage is "Iowa" for the legal tribal entities (the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska; the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma) and "Ioway" for the people themselves. The Ioway people are divided into two independent groups: the Southern Ioway, in Oklahoma, and the Northern Ioway, in Kansas and Nebraska.

[ONLINE VERSION NOTE: The following information was correct when the thesis was written in 1994. It is given here as part of the original content, but many of the figures and current situations have changed. For more current information on the contemporary Ioway in 2001, visit

The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska is located on a 1,500-acre reservation in the extreme northeastern corner of Kansas (Brown and Doniphan Counties) and the extreme southeastern corner of Nebraska (Richardson County). The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma does not have a federally-recognized reservation. After their move to Indian Territory in the 1870s, they were eventually assigned a reservation there in 1883. After the Dawes Act of 1887, this reservation, which bordered unassigned lands, was opened to white settlers as part of the 1889 Land Run in Oklahoma by the federal government. Most tribal members today are located on trust lands in Lincoln, Payne, and Logan counties, between the Cimarron River and Deep Fork in Oklahoma.

The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska is administered by its Executive Committee and is located on a reservation near White Cloud, Kansas. It is served by the Horton Indian Agency in Horton, Kansas, which provides health and other services. The Iowa Tribe owns a tribal farm operation, a dairy herd, a gas station, a fire station, a bingo operation, and a grain-processing business operating out of a leased mill in Craig, Missouri. The approximately 1,500-acre reservation is checkerboarded with Indian and non-Indian ownership, and reacquisition of the land base is seen as a primary goal, as well as developing an infrastructure attractive to potential employers. About 588 Ioway were reported to be living on or near the reservation in 1993; many live in nearby towns in Kansas and Nebraska. The total enrollment for the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska is reported at 2,089, although blood quantum is often quite low.

Directed to accept a form of tribal government based on a model provided by the federal government, as part of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934, the Oklahoma Iowa finally ratified a Tribal Constitution delimited by that model, in 1938, but only by a close vote. The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma is administered by its Business Committee, located near Perkins, Oklahoma. It is served by the Shawnee Indian Agency, in Shawnee, Oklahoma, but the tribe contracts with the Potawatomi for health and food programs. The tribe owns about 200 acres of scattered land in trust, as well as a bingo operation. Of 366 individuals on the tribal roll, nine are listed as full-bloods. Blood quantum tends to be higher than among the Kansas group, but the requirement was lowered to 1/16 in about 1991. The Oklahoma Ioway live on about 1,300 acres of individually-owned land, much of which is surface-leased to non-Indians for grazing or farming. Leasing provides some income, but most of the Ioway have jobs in nearby towns. Fifty-two land owners gain some income from oil and gas leases. As a member of the United Indian Nations of Oklahoma, the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma is currently fighting a toxic dump proposed by a subsidiary of Amoco, which is to be located on burial grounds in Mercer County, Missouri.

The Iowa of Oklahoma shared in the almost $8 million land claims judgement awarded to both groups of Ioway by the Indian Claims Commission in the 1970s. Well-known Ioways of this century have included hereditary leaders like Chief David Tohee of the Oklahoma Ioway and political appointees like Marvin Franklin of the Kansas Ioway, who was appointed as Acting Commissioner of Indian Affairs in 1973, and Blaine Nawanoway Kent and Solomon Nawanoway Kent of the Oklahoma Ioway.

Community life in both tribes is based on extended kinship groups, with some use of the traditional clan system among the Oklahoma Ioway, notably during funerals. Incredible factionalism is present in both groups, and limited interaction occurs between the Oklahoma and Kansas Ioway, except for mutual visits in a few families. Each group sponsors an annual powwow, and the Kansas Ioway also have a rodeo. Artwork tend to be individualized and produced for in-group use, such as ribbonwork and beadwork used in dance regalia.

It is difficult to say how many speakers of the Ioway language are left; a few Northern Ioway know mostly isolated words and phrases, and some Southern Ioway Indian families attempt to keep some limited use, especially if there are older members in the family, or they are trying to strengthen their identity as Ioway. William Whitman described the language in "Descriptive Grammar of the Ioway-Oto" (1947). A two-volume primer, Iowa and Otoe Indian Language (1977, 1978), was developed by Lila Wistrand-Robinson and Jimm Garrett Good Tracks, as part of the Christian Children's Fund American Indian Project. Good Tracks has also edited a lexicon, Iowa-Otoe-Missouria Language to English (1992), distributed by the Department of Linguistics at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Almost all of the Ioway in both Kansas and Oklahoma identify themselves as Christians of various denominations. Some, even self-identified Christians, attend ceremonies such as funerals, namings, Native American Church meetings (more popular earlier in the century), sweats, and intertribal dances. Some Ioway, especially those living away from their home communities, make friendships with members of other tribes and join in their ceremonies. Several individuals and families are attempting to redefine their identities as Ioway through the retention of the Ioway language, the reinterpretation of remembered cultural elements, and the borrowing of missing cultural elements from appropriate, similar models in other tribes. This interest in the past is what has prompted me, a member of the Northern branch, to investigate the present topic of sacred bundles.


Ioway Culture / Religious concepts


In 1859, Lewis Henry Morgan summarized the Ioway belief system as follows.

The Iowas believe in a great spirit and in an evil spirit. They are not represented as having any particular form. Besides these they have a large number of inferior spirits, some of which are good and some evil. They have the Spirit of Medicine, of Water, of the Bluffs, and of nearly every object in nature. The principal ones only are named. They worship the sun and the moon, and all natural objects. They believe in witches and in dreams, and that their Indian medicine men can put a bone in a man's back or take one out (Morgan 1859, in White 1959: 68-69).

The spiritual world of the Ioway was complex, having incorporated many alien influences into their basically Siouan world-view, as well as having retained some Mississippian traits from their past. The term wakánda, now used to designate the monotheistic God, originally was somewhat amorphous. Dorsey states it referred to "superhuman beings or powers" (Dorsey 1894:367); other meanings in Ioway were the Creator, God, Thunder, or Thunderbird. The following etymology is suggested for wakánda : wa [something, someone] + kan [old, strange, wonderful, incomprehensible, unquestionable, sacred, supernatural] + da [there, somewhere] (Whitman 1947: 238, 240; Walker 1980: 96).

Among the Omaha, "Wakon´da stands for the mysterious life power permeating all natural forms and forces and all phases of man's conscious life", but it is not synonymous with "the great spirit" (Fletcher and LaFlesche 1972: 597). Neither is it synonymous with the Oceanic term mana (Fortune 1969: 5). Instead, wakanda is somewhat indefinable. It is not the same as a personal God, yet it, in its various manifestations, could be related to as a Person, with an intelligence, a personality, and a will, sometimes taking the form of a human or animal, or of a natural feature or force, like the wind or thunder. In some ways it might even be compared to the idea of "The Force" in the Star Wars movies, as in "May the Force be with you."

The Ioway had two words denoting the concept of "sacred": wahúprin, or waxóblin (xóblin ), is "mysterious, as a person or animal;" waxónyitan (xónyitan ) is "mysterious, as an inanimate object", such as a bundle or pipe (Dorsey 1894: 367). This is a distinction that has become blurred with time. While wakán means "sacred" in Lakota, wákan means "snake" in Ioway. Snakes were considered sacred or powerful in Ioway culture (Dorsey 1894: 367; Walker 1980: 96).



wakanda (wah-KAHN-dah): "deity, god". Today, with Christianization of the Ioway, this term tends to strictly be applied to the monotheistic God of the Judeo-Christian tradition

xobri / waxobri (wah-KHO-bree, with nasalized "ee") "mysterious, sacred, powerful" (applied to an animate object, as when talking about a person or animal, as a person or animal exhibiting amazing powers or characteristics)

xonyita / waxonyita (wah-KHOH-nyee-tah) "mysterious, sacred, powerful" (applied to an inanimate object, like pipe, bundle, etc.)

wakan (WAH-kuh): "Snake"


The concepts and terms involved with the spirits and the sacred vary among the Siouan tribes, as well as among the individuals in those cultures. It is also important to remember that differences exist in understandings and beliefs among individuals in non-Western cultures, just as such differences exist among individuals in Western culture. Among subscribers to any cultural worldview or belief system, there are always the credulous, the sincere, the skeptical, and the manipulative, as noted by Fortune (1969).

The Ioway supposedly had "seven great gods" or "wakantas ", with the Sun, Wind, Thunder, and Underworld Powers mentioned by Dorsey (1894: 423-424). The Omaha also had seven great wakandas, but these differed somewhat: Darkness, Upper World, Ground, Thunder, Sun, Moon, and Morning Star (Dorsey 1894: 372).

There were many kinds of other spirits in Ioway cosmology: Má'un (Earthmaker), Máyan (Mother Earth), the assistants the Wakánda wáwa'in, including the four Thunderers and the four Animal Beings residing at the cardinal directions beyond the cracks defining the world, the mythological helpers and heroes: the Twins, Hare, Ishjínki (the Trickster), Turtle, Black Hawk, Human-head-earrings, and others, including the hunting dwarf Máyanwátahe, the Clan Ancestors, and the Animal-Spirits. The destructive forces were the Underworld Powers as represented by the ischéxi, the horned water panther or serpent, ghosts, monsters, giants, and little people (though these last could be good). On top of all these were many unnamed wakándas dwelling in bluffs, water, timber, high rocks, mounds, and even household utensils (Dorsey 1894; Skinner 1925, 1926). The world was conceived of as being a lodge, as well as being multi-tiered.



Ma'un (MAH-'oo, with the oo nasalized): "Earthmaker", the Creator, from ma "earth" + 'un "to do, to make"

Wakanda Wawa'i (wah-KAHN-dah wah-WAH-'ee, with ee nasalized): The Four Helping Spirits at the Four Quarters of the World

Ishjinki (ish-JEEN-kee): "Trickster", a chaotic figure that does both good and evil, and is a catalyst for change and humor

Maya Wadahe (MAH-yuh WAH-dah-hay): Literally "Earth Standing-There", or glossed "About the Earth Man", a dwarf being of good fortune, especially in hunting

Ishchexi (EESH-chekh-hee): The Underwater Spirit, portrayed as a Horned Panther, which represents the forces of chaos and evil. Often battles with the Thunders.


Like other Native American tribes, the Ioway had great attachment to their lands, and had a number of beliefs regarding the features found within their landscape. Fulton states: "They believed the earth flat, and knew of nothing but water beyond this continent. In their traditions the great lakes and the Mississippi were the most prominent geographical lineaments" (Fulton 1882: 124). The landscape was alive, with powers and supernatural beings everywhere. For example, water spirits or nymphs lived in the Mississippi in underwater caves (Donaldson 1886: 620-621). When children were sent out to fast, or vision quest, "the places that were selected as most probable spots in which to come in contact with spirits were bluffs, canyons, or high isolated rocks and hills" (Skinner 1926:250). One medicine man had a penchant for heights: because the Great Spirit was in the heavens above the clouds, elevated areas brought one closer to the Creator (Donaldson 1886: 596, 646). This idea of the sacredness of elevation also was emphasized in the Ioway attempt to always elevate sacred items like the bundles.


Social organization

The basic social group was the patrilineal clan, sometimes called the "gens" in the older anthropological literature. The Ioway native term for the lineage was kilaje, or kiraji (KEE-rah-jee). ONLINE NOTE: Another term used is wokigo (whoah-KEE-goh). Modern Ioway use the term "clan," and so that is the terminology used in this study. The clan was quite isolationistic, each going so far as to have developed its own clan origin myth, excluding others from this knowledge. Each clan had its own rights and prerogatives, and centered its spiritual life around the clan pipe bundle. This was further complicated by class stratification based on birth and descent from one of four ancestral animal brothers within that clan. This stratification was absolute-- one could not gain entrance into the pre-eminent "royal" clan, regardless of one's personal attributes or achievements, unless one

[Figure 3.2: Ioway clan organization: NOT YET SCANNED]

had been born into it (Skinner 1926). The arrangement of the Ioway clans into their moiety structure can be seen in figure 3.2.

This defined, exclusionist society extended such control into the spiritual world, not only through clan pipe bundle and other clan privilege (Bear in hunting, Thunder in war, Buffalo in agriculture, etc.), but through family (clan and class) control of the religious societies, as defined by ownership of the associated bundles. The democratic Plains ideal of the individual, through vision and effort, gaining power and raising himself thereby, only went so far among the Ioway of old. A gain in status through achievement was the cultural ideal, but actually rarely happened.

Any consideration of a culture without consideration of acculturation and diffusion in an attempt to find a "pure tribal type" is delusional. Protohistoric Oneota archaeological sites ascribed to the Ioway contain European trade goods. The Oneota experienced intertribal trade and intermarriage with tribes of many language stocks, like the Algonkian, the Caddoan, and the Muskhogean, throughout the Mississippi valley through their Mississippian cultural context. The Oneota also were the root stock of the related Winnebago, Ioway, Oto, and Missouri, and probably components of other tribes like the Dhegiha Siouans. The Ioway Medicine Dance (Otter Dance) was obtained from the Sauk, and they in turn had gained it from the Ojibwa, while the Ioway passed it on to the Winnebago.

The concept of "tribe" is very much tied to history. Tribal identity is defined not only by the tribe itself, but also by its friends and enemies. Warfare, disease, intratribal feuds, conflicts of interest, intermarriage, and adoption, to name a few processes, all affect the makeup of the historical socio-political group known as the "tribe." Language is not sufficient as a cultural marker in the Ioway case; the Oto and Missouri spoke the same language historically, with only a few differences in lexical and phonetic choice (there are greater differences between the American English forms used in New York and Alabama).


Material culture

Descriptions of the material culture of the Ioway are scattered throughout the various sources. Skinner described it as basically a syncretic and diverse, but unoriginal, material culture system:

They are particularly worthy of interest in that while they belong to one linguistic family, their material culture and folklore are largely identified with thoseof the component peoples of another group, the Central Algonkian. In other words, the Ioway, like their close relatives, the Winnebago, once possessed a material culture wholly based upon that of the Central Algonkians, with only a few radical departures towards the Plains type. Some features, such as decorative art, are developed to an exuberance seldom seen among the founders of the parent culture.

In common with the Central Algonkians, the Ioway learned the art of weaving thread of inner basswood, cedar, and nettle fibre. They made knot bowls and spoons of wood and buffalo horn. Stone corn crushers and metates were utilized, and rawhide was freely used for the making of receptacles. They had buffalo hide shields and separate soled moccasins, dwelt in earth, wattle and daub, bark and mat houses, and even used rawhide tipis (Skinner 1926: 189).

One must remember that Skinner first studied the material culture of the Menomini, and thus his diffusionist biases slant in that direction. Over and over I have seen Ioway culture described as taking this feature from that tribe, and that from another. As the woodland cultures all depended on the same resource base, similarities in technology are inevitable. Skinner has even noted that the Woodland Siouans may have been the ideological originators of some of the Central Algonkian culture:

This group of Siouans, contrary to the evidence of material culture, seem to have reacted upon the Central Algonkians, among whom those tribes closest in contact with them have experienced a certain tightening up of social life, a remodeling of customs after the pattern of the more definitely organized Siouan type, and quite different from that of the uninfluenced Algonkians (1926: 189).

It is difficult to understand how Skinner came to this conclusion unless he did not have a sound understanding of just how long the Ioway and other Woodland Siouans had lived in the region (at least 1000 years), and how recently the Central Algonkians had moved down into the Great Lakes and prairie region, in some areas as late as the 1700s.

It is just as likely that the intrusive Central Algonkians adopted some of the material expressions of the indigenous Woodland Siouans rather than the reverse. Gradually, based upon a common woodland lifeway, the different cultures engaged in a dialogue with a symbolic and technomic vocabulary. One example of a reverse ideological trade in the adoption of the Algonkian Medicine Dance by the Woodland Siouans.

It must be reiterated that Skinner's reasoning is inherently faulty, as it was not based on any archaeological evidence, but only upon his own limited experience. Whenever a trait is first discovered in any culture, one cannot assume its origin belongs there, as well as assuming any further occurrences of that trait must have come through diffusion from the first-studied culture. That is like being brought up as a Japanese in Japan, watching television, and believing that, since you first noticed T.V. in Japan, it must necessarily have been invented there. Evidence is lacking for Skinner's thesis of diffusion of material culture.

In American Indian Art, Feder described the Ioway as having belonging to the Prairie art style area, as well as the role of the Ioway in originating the curvilinear Prairie beadwork style:

The so-called Prairie tribes, to the south of the upper Missouri, form still another distinct artistic area. These groups, however, are also not very homogenous and they could easily be broken into smaller art areas. Basically they differ from other Plains tribes in the larger number of Woodland traits which they have adopted. They make twined yarn bags and finger-woven sashes in the Woodland style, utilize cloth apparel decorated with ribbon appliqué or beadwork in an abstract floral style, and wear soft-soled moccasins in contrast to the usual Plains hard-sole types.

These groups tend to replace the Sun Dance with the Grand Medicine Society of the Great Lakes area.

It is difficult at this late date to try to reconstruct the locations of style centers and to trace the diffusion of any particular style from its center. However I believe that a style center developed in the early reservation period around the southeastern portion of Nebraska and northeastern part of Kansas. Here the Iowa and Sauk-and-Fox of the Nemaha reservation, combined with the neighboring Oto and Missouri, seem to have developed a very rich form of decoration using the abstract floral beaded designs. The Oto-Missouri were probably responsible for spreading this style to the Osage and Kaw as well as to the Omaha and Ponca. This same basic style was common among the Nebraska Winnebago and the Prairie Potawatomi in Kansas. Either or both could have played a large part in developing it. Certainly the basic idea of abstracting floral designs developed along the eastern part of the Kansas-Nebraska line, and the impetus must have come from an older floral style in the Great Lakes area. In all probability the Winnebago, Potawatomi, and Sauk-and-Fox brought a basic floral tradition with them when they moved to Kansas and Nebraska, and this changed upon contact with the Iowa and Oto-Missouri (Feder 1965: 69).

[Online version: Ioway Moccasins, from Detroit Institute of the Arts website]

The material culture of the Ioway appears little different from the Oto and Missouri, or from the Omaha, or even the linguistically unrelated Sauk and Fox (Mesquakie). The designation of Oneota, specifically the Orr Phase, archaeological sites as Ioway rests soley on the presence of a single artifact type (Allamakee Trailed pottery) and its covariance with historically-known Ioway sites. If one discounts strict covariance between shell-tempered/trail-designed pottery (which was produced by women if ethnographic analogies hold true) and the Ioway sensu stricto (as happens if one considers woman exchange through intermarriage or intense warfare and slave trading, which the Ioway did experience), then neat tribal packages disappear into a lot of blurred lines.

It is arguable that, rather than tribal, the material culture of the Prairie Siouan tribes should be considered in terms of smaller interaction spheres (Omaha-Ioway-Oto-etc.) as subsets of a larger interaction sphere (Plains-Prairie-Woodland). In a comparative case, Hudson and Blackburn chose to create the "Chumash Interaction Sphere" for the Chumash and neighboring tribes in southern California (1982). Their study indicated an ideological and material culture which cut across not only languages but even linguistic families. The "Chumash Interaction Sphere" was participated in by the Chumashan-speaking groups, but also the Takic-speaking Gabrielino, Kitanemuk, and Tataviam peoples of south-central California (Hudson and Blackburn 1982: 20).



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