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,
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
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
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, 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
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
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
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  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
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
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  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  (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
(From Skinner 1925: 436-439).
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Online Version Additional Notes:
IOWAY MYTHOLOGICAL BEINGS AND TERMS
To help people pronounce the Ioway terms, I have
rewritten Skinner in current 2001 orthography, with phonetic pronunciation in
(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
(wah-roo-KHAH-way): "Sacred Bundle", literally, "that which is
Maka (MUH-kuh.. the "a"
is nasalized, making the "ah" sound more like "uh"): "Medicine", as either an
object, a substance, a plant, etc.
(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,
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
Che Xowe (CHAY
KHOH-way): "Buffalo Power", from che "buffalo" + xowe "supernatural power or
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.
"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
(gray-TAH-ee-NYEH): "Little Hawk", from Greta "hawk" + -inye (diminutive
suffix). The American kestrel or sparrow hawk; may also refer to the
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)
(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,
An archaic sacred term for Buffalo Clan.
/ 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
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 
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
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).
ONLINE VERSION NOTE:
K'omanyi (K'OH-mah-nyee): Thundering (or Walking Thunder), from k'o
"thunder (sound)" + manyi "to walk, go along"
(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"
(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
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,
et.al.) 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
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
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
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
[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 http://www.ioway.org/).
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
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
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
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
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).
ONLINE VERSION NOTES:
"deity, god". Today, with Christianization of the Ioway, this term tends to
strictly be applied to the monotheistic God of the Judeo-Christian
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.)
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:
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
ONLINE VERSION NOTES:
Ma'un (MAH-'oo, with
the oo nasalized): "Earthmaker", the Creator, from ma "earth" + 'un "to do, to
(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
(EESH-chekh-hee): The Underwater Spirit, portrayed as a Horned Panther, which
represents the forces of chaos and evil. Often battles with the
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.
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
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
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:
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
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
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
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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