Iowa Indian Tribes

Chippewa. Part of the Chippewa, together with the Potawatomi and Ottawa, ceded lands in this State in 1846. (See Minnesota.)

Dakota. After the Iowa Indians moved from the northern part of the present State of Iowa, the Dakota occupied much of the territory they had abandoned until the Sauk and Fox settled in their neighborhood shortly before and immediately after the Black Hawk War of 1832 and harassed them so constantly that they withdrew. (See South Dakota.)

Foxes. This tribe began moving into Iowa sometime after 1804 and by the end of the Black Hawk War all were gathered there. In 1842 they parted with their Iowa lands and most of them removed to Kansas with the Sauk, but shortly after the middle of the nineteenth century some began to return to the State and by 1859 nearly all had come back. They bought a tract of land near Tama City to which they added from time to time and where they have lived ever since. (See Wisconsin.)

Illinois. Franquelin (1688) seems to locate the Peoria on the upper Iowa River, but Marquette, on his descent of the Mississippi in 1673, found that tribe and the Moingwena near the mouth of the Des Moines. When he returned he found that they had moved to the neighborhood of Peoria, Ill. The name Des Moines is derived from that of the Moingwena. (See Illinois.)

Iowa. Apparently borrowed by the French from Ayuhwa, the Dakota term applied to them, which, according to Riggs, signifies “sleepy ones.” Skinner (1926) states that Iowa is their own name, but I feel sure that it has been borrowed in later years. Also called:
Nadouessioux Maskoutens, Algonkin name meaning “Dakota of the Prairies.”
Nez Percé, a traders’ nickname.
Pahodja, own name, meaning “dusty noses.” Skinner (1926) gives a different translation, but I am inclined to accept that furnished by J. O. Dorsey.
Pashóhan, Pawnee name.
Pierced Noses, traders’ name.
Wa-ótc’, Winnebago name.

Connections. The Iowa were a tribe of the Siouan linguistic stock and of the Chiwere subdivision, which included also the Oto, and Missouri.

Location. The Iowa moved about a great deal but mainly within the boundaries of the State which bears their name. (See also Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.)

 Subdivisions and Villages. The only subdivisions mentioned are those of the moieties and gentes. But one village, the Wolf village, appears in the historical narratives.

History. In the earliest historical period the Iowa were living on a western affluent of the Mississippi conjectured by Mott (1938) to have been the Upper Iowa. Later they moved into the northwestern part of the present State of Iowa about the Okoboji Lakes and probably extended into southwestern Minnesota to the neighborhood of the Red Pipestone Quarry and to the Big Sioux River. In the latter part of the eighteenth century they passed over to the Missouri and settled south of the spot where Council Bluffs now stands and on the east side of the river. About 1760 they moved east and came to live along the Mississippi between the Iowa and Des Moines Rivers. Their principal town was on the Des Moines River and for a long time at a spot in the northwestern part of Van Buren County. Early in the nineteenth century part of them seem to have moved farther up the Des Moines while others established themselves on Grand and Platte Rivers, Mo. At this time they seem to have come into contact with the Dakota and to have suffered considerably in consequence. There is a tradition that they were defeated by Black Hawk in 1821. In 1814 they were allotted lands in what was known as “the Platte Purchase” extending from the Platte River of Missouri through western Iowa even to the Dakota country. By treaties signed August 4, 1824, July 15, 1830, September 17, 1836, and November 23, 1837, they ceded all of their claims to lands in Missouri and Iowa, and by that of Prairie du Chien, signed August 19, 1825, they surrendered all claims to land in Minnesota. The treaty of 1836 assigned part of them a reservation along Great Nemaha River, in the present Richardson County, Nebr., and Brown County, Kans., but it was considerably reduced by treaties of May 17, 1854, and March 6, 1861. Later part removed to Oklahoma to find homes in the present Lincoln and Noble Counties. Tradition assigns to this tribe a single origin with the Winnebago, Oto, and Missouri, and it is borne out by the close linguistic relationship between them. Rather specific migration legends have been preserved giving an account of the movements of this tribal complex and the time and circumstances of the separation. If we are to believe these traditions, after separation from the Winnebago, the Iowa-Oto-Missouri mother tribe moved first to Rock River, Ill., near its junction with the Mississippi, and thence to the Des Moines River some distance above its mouth, after separating at the Iowa River into two bands, the one which became the Iowa moving to the northwest while the Oto-Missouri went on to the mouth of Grand River, where part remained becoming the Missouri while the rest, the Oto, went on westward up the Missouri. The historical documents do not bring the Iowa so far south and they also seem to link the Oto and Iowa closely together. We should, therefore, be inclined to dismiss the native traditions altogether were it not that we have to account for the Missouri who are not mentioned in early times in close conjunction with the other two but had reached the mouth of Grand River as early as 1687. It is, of course, possible that the Missouri separated from the Iowa-Oto or Iowa at Upper Iowa River instead of Iowa River, but it is also possible that the entire tribal complex moved somewhat farther south before their separation. The later stages of Iowa history given in the tradition already noted conform sufficiently well with the known historical facts to give us some confidence regarding the rest of the story though it varies in details. According to this, the Iowa went from the neighborhood of the Red Pipestone Quarry to the mouth of the Platte, and then in succession to the headwaters of the Little Platte River, Mo., to the west bank of the Mississippi slightly above the mouth of the Des Moines, to a point a little higher up on the same side of the Mississippi, southwestwardly to Salt River and up it to its extreme headwaters, to the upper part of Chariton River, to Grand River, and thence to Missouri River opposite Fort Leavenworth, where they lived in 1848 at the time when this narrative was related and the map accompanying it drawn.

By agreement, the Oklahoma tract held by the Iowa was granted to its occupants in severalty.

Population. In 1702 Iberville estimated that the war power of the Iowa was about 300 “good men.” In 1736 Chauvignerie placed it as low as 80. An estimate made in 1760 gives the total population as 1,100 souls. In 1777 Cruzat reported that there were 250 warriors, and Lewis and Clark, in 1804, 200 warriors and a total population of 800. In 1829 we find an estimate of 1,000, and in 1832 Catlin gives one of the highest, 1,400. In 1836, however, an attempted census returned 992 but only 7 years later the United States Indian Office reported only 470. In 1885 there were 138 in Kansas, and 88 in Oklahoma. In 1905 the figures were 225 and 89 respectively. The census of 1910 returned 244 of whom 124 were in Kansas, 79 in Oklahoma, and 38 in Nebraska. The United States Indian Office Report of 1923 gave 338 in Kansas and 82 in Oklahoma, a total of 420. The census of 1930 returned 10 in Brown County, Kans.; 83 in Richardson County, Nebr.; 32 in Lincoln County, Okla.; 24 in Noble County, Okla.; and 5 in other States, or a total of 154. In 1937 there were 112 in Oklahoma. Although we have estimates of Iowa population higher than any above given, in one case as high as 8,000, it is evident that the figure suggested by Mooney (1928) as giving the probable population in 1780, i. e., 1,200, is nearer the truth-too high if anything.

Connection in which they have become noted. The Iowa were relatively inconspicuous in the early days, but their name will always be prominent because it was adopted as that of one of the great agricultural States of the Middle West. Iowa City, two rivers, a county, and several smaller places in the same State bear the name. There is also a county so designated in Wisconsin and villages in Kansas and California. There is a place of the name in Calcasieu Parish, La.; Iowa Falls in Hardin County, Iowa; Iowa Colony in Brazoria County, Tex.; Iowa Park in Wichita County in the same State, and Iowa Hill in Placer County, Calif.

Missouri. This tribe is said to have had the same origin as the Iowa and to have moved with them and the Oto to Iowa River, where the Iowa remained while the others continued on to the Missouri. (See Missouri.)

Moingwena. (See Illinois above.)

Omaha. While the Omaha usually lived west of the Missouri, they wandered for a time in western Iowa before moving over into Nebraska. (See Nebraska.)

Oto, see Missouri above, and Missouri)

Ottawa. Representatives of this tribe were a party to a treaty made in 1846, ceding Iowa lands to the Whites. (See Michigan.)

Peoria. (See Illinois above.)

Ponca. The Ponca accompanied the Omaha while they were in western Iowa. (See Nebraska.)

Potawatomi. The Prairie Potawatomi settled in western Iowa before removing to Kansas. They ceded their lands in 1846. (See Michigan.)

Sauk. The Sauk moved into Iowa after the Black Hawk War and from there to Kansas in 1842. (See Wisconsin.)

Winnebago. In 1840 this tribe went to the Neutral Ground in Iowa assigned to them by treaty of September 15, 1832, whence they removed in 1848 to Minnesota. (See Wisconsin.)



Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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