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Ioway Cultural Institute : Culture : Myths and Legends

Illustration: "Only Stories" by Lance Foster

The Iowa Indians (or Ioway Indians) lived in Iowa for ages untold. Iowa culture and history was passed on though stories. Stories might be of the long-ago time or of prophecies for the future. The stories told people how to live in this world and how to prepare for the next one. In "Only Stories," by Ioway artist Lance M. Foster (Hengruh: "Oldest Son"), it is winter, the traditional time of telling stories. At this time, snakes, the protectors of stories, were asleep and would not hear the stories they were told to defend by Wakanda, God. Here two families are visiting the warmth of their lodge, the chakiruthan. One man is telling a story of the past as well as a story of the future. The time of the past, of the coming of the Ioway clan ancestors, becomes the story of the future, the coming of a strange group of bearded whitemen with machines. Finally, the end of time becomes the beginning of time. In this way, everything becomes a circle and things are made right again. This is the way things have been and will be. This is what the stories tell us. As hard as it may be to believe, can we be certain they are..."Only Stories?"

Myths and legends

Dore and Wahredua, from Alanson Skinner's Traditions of the Iowa Indians (1925). Original storytellers Robert and Julia Small.

Maianwatahe, from Alanson Skinner.

The Bee King and Snake's Daughters

The Adventures of Ictinike.

Ictinike and the Buzzard.

Ictinike and the Creators.


Quapah Origins, Ho-chunk worak story which suggests the Ioway were once in the same tribe as the Omaha-Quapah.

Ioway Missouria Origins, a Ho-chunk story on the separation of the Ioway and Missouria from the Ho-chunk (Winnebago).

Midjestega, a Ho-chunk story in which Ioway appear.

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