The first European settlers of the plains in the current State of Iowa found a tribe of big game hunters who referred to themselves as the Iowa. These people are believed to have been the descendants of the Oneota – a people of Mississippi origin who moved into the Upper Iowa River area around 1250 C.E. The Oneota were an agricultural people. They raised corn and beans and lived in permanent village sites where they built houses made of wood. They were also skilled potters.
The word Iowa is variously translated as ‘one who puts to sleep’ or ‘beautiful land.’ The Iowa developed a way of life in response to the environment of this beautiful land. In the Northeast they found a heavily forested landscape that featured rugged canyons and deep ravines. Moved west they encountered a vast marshland. The rest of their domain was basically prairie. The Iowa lived in villages that were situated in river valleys. They depended on both hunting and farming for their livelihood. They followed an annual cycle that fit in with the seasons.
Throughout the winter period of November through April, the Iowa would trap beaver in their river valley winter camps. Around January they would hunt for bear. The hardy hunters would actually fight the bear in hand to hand combat. Around March the large camps would disperse, with small bands travelling to the sugar cane regions to make sugar and syrup. In April the bands would regather at the Summer camps. Here they would trade with the European fur traders before celebrating their annual Spring Festival. The Lodges that had fallen into disrepair over winter would then be rebuilt and the fields would be prepared for planting. In May the crops would be planted. Corn planting would be accompanied by religious rites.
Summer was the season of hunting and war for the Iowa people. The young warriors would travel far from their villages on long distance hunts for the bison and the deer. They would travel out on war parties, usually fought over hunting rights to certain areas.
During the 17th Century, many tribes from eastern states were forced west as a result of warfare with the British, Americans and French. Such tribes as the Sauk and Fox, Kickapoo and Ojibwe moved into the traditional Iowa hunting grounds. This, naturally led to inter tribal warfare. This century also saw an increased interaction with white fur traders by the Iowa. As a result of trading for metal pots and tools, the making of traditional clay pottery and stone tools began to fall into decline. The white man also brought with him disease – primarily smallpox – which ravaged through the native villages.
">The Iowa were closely related to the Sioux. Intertribal warfare over hunting grounds, however, had distanced them from these people. The language of the Iowa people is of Siouan origin. Linguists call this language ‘Chiwere.’ The Iowa were a religious people with many religious societies. They had bear and buffalo doctors as well as a Medicine Lodge. Iowa society was organised in accordance with Clan membership. Each Clan within a village was accorded specific responsibilities. The Thunder Clan, for example, would take leadership in warfare. Other Clans included the Elk, Beaver, Buffalo and Bear Clans.
Successive treaties during the 1800’s surrendered Iowa title of much of their lands to the United States Government. In 1836, the Iowa signed a treaty by which they were moved to a reservation on the Kansas-Nebraska border. Later treaties were to diminish the size of that . In the 1880’s many Iowa began moving into Indian territory in Oklahoma.
Today there are two tribes of Iowa Indians. They are the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska and the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma.
-This blog was copied from Essortment for educational purposes.