Iowa Tribe

Iowa warrior

The Iowa Tribe (Ioway)
Summary and Definition: The Iowa tribe, aka Ioway, originally inhabited the Great Lakes region but migrated to the Great Plains to hunt buffalo and settled along the Platte River. They were the first Native Indians to establish lands in Iowa from which the present-day state gets its name. The people of the Iowa tribe call themselves the Baxoje.

Picture of the Iowa Native Indian
The above picture depicts Wash-ka-mon-ya, meaning Fast Dancer, who was a distinguished Iowa warrior. It was painted by the famous artist George Catlin (1796-1872) who visited the Iowa tribe in 1832. The young Iowa warrior wore vermillion red face paint and a striking black handprint. The Hand symbolized human life and this sign was believed to channel spiritual power, strength, domination and protection to the warrior. The application of war paint helped the brave to believe himself to be invincible. The Hand Symbol also indicated that the warrior has been successful in hand-to-hand combat. The red zig-zag line across the forehead symbolized lightning which was believed to add power and speed to the warrior. The Native Indian also wears a roach headdress with a single eagle feather. His finest jewelry was worn including numerous bead and shell necklaces together various earrings. The most decorative earring piece was made using long, cylindrical 'Hair Pipe' beads that hung from his ears and extended to his chest as a necklace.   

What were the rituals and ceremonies of the Iowa tribe?
The rituals and ceremonies of the Iowa tribe and many other Great Plains Native Indians, included the Sweat Lodge ceremony, the Vision Quest and the Sun Dance Ceremony. The sacred, ceremonial pipe (called a Calumet), was ritually filled with tobacco was passed among participants at all sacred ceremonies and rituals of the Iowa tribe.

Where did the Iowa tribe live?
The Iowa are people of the Great Plains Native American cultural group.   The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Iowa tribe.

  • The American Great Plains region mainly extended across states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota

  • Tribal Territory: Iowa

  • Land: Grass covered prairies with some streams and rivers

  • Climate: Hot summers and cold winters

  • Animals: The  animals included the Bison (Buffalo), deer, cougars, elk, bear, beaver, porcupine, antelope, prairie dogs, eagles and wolves

  • Crops: The crops grown in the area were corn, beans, sunflower seeds and squash

  • Fish: Various fish including sturgeon, crayfish and mussels

What clothes did the Iowa tribe wear?
The men of the Iowa tribe wore a variety of clothes including  breechcloths, deerskin leggings, and sometimes a blanket robe over the upper part of the body. Buffalo hides were also worn as cloaks and moccasins were worn during the winter. Ornaments were made of shells, beads, shells, bear claws and metal. The women wore long buckskin ankle-length dresses or skirts, leggings and blanket wraps. The men of the Iowa tribe wore Roach headdresses that were attached to a scalp-lock on their shaved heads and stood straight up from the head like a tuft or crest. Only an Iowa chief was allowed to wear the eagle feather headdress. The women of the Iowa tribe wore their hair in two braids if they were single, and one braid down the back if they were married.

What did the Iowa tribe live in?
The Iowa tribe used tepees as a form of shelter when they went hunting for buffalo hunts during the hot, summer months. The tepees were oriented with the doorway on the east so a person woke toward the rising sun. In the winter they built houses called 'chakiruthan' meaning 'house-tied-together', referring to the lashing of the framework with bark strips. Earth lodges were also built for winter lodgings.

What language did the Iowa tribe speak?
The Iowa tribe spoke in the Chiwere dialect of the Siouan language, closely related linguistically to the Missouria and Otoe tribes.

What food did the Iowa tribe eat?
The food that the Iowa tribe ate included buffalo meat, that was acquired on their hunting trips across the Great Plains. The meats also included deer (venison), elk, bear and wild turkey. Their main food were supplemented with roots and wild vegetables such as spinach, mushrooms, prairie turnips and potatoes together with berries and fruits such as rhubarb. The tribe were also farmers who raised crops such as corn, beans, sunflower seeds and squash

What weapons did the Iowa use?
The weapons used by the Iowa tribe included bows and arrows of cherry wood, ash and horn. The horn bows were covered with the skin of a rattlesnake. Other weapons included knives, spears, stone ball clubs, hatchets and lances.

Iowa History: What happened to the Iowa tribe?
The following Iowa history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks of the people. The Iowa timeline explains what happened to the people of their tribe.

Iowa History Timeline

  • The Iowa Tribe originated in the Great Lakes Region

  • 1673: French explorers Jacques Jolliet and Louis Marquette discover the Mississippi River

  • 1682: Rene-Robert Cavelier de La Salle (1643-1687) explored the region for France

  • 1680's: The French establish fur trading posts in the area

  • 1717:The Iowa settle along the Platte River

  • 1788: Julien Dubuque becomes the first white settler in Iowa

  • 1801: A devastating smallpox epidemic kills many people

  • 1802: They number of Iowa people considerably declines due to sickness and inter-tribal warfare

  • 1803: The Louisiana Purchase

  • 1804: Lewis and Clark expedition (1804 - 1806) made contact with the Iowa tribe

  • 1812: The Iowa tribe began to be displaced during the War of 1812

  • 1830: The Indian Removal Act

  • 1832: The artist George Catlin visits the Iowa tribe

  • 1836: Platte Purchase of 1836

  • 1837: The Iowa were moved from Iowa to reservations in Brown County, Kansas, and Richardson County, Nebraska

  • 1837: Second great Smallpox epidemic kills many Native American Indians

  • 1846: Iowa became the 29th state

  • 1862: The Homestead Act allowed white settlers to move on to Indian lands

  • 1870's: The buffalos had been deliberately slaughtered by the whites to the point of extinction so ending the lifestyle of the Great Plains Native Indians

  • The Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska operates the Casino White Cloud at White Cloud, Kansas on the Ioway Reservation.

Iowa History Timeline

Native American Indian Tribes
Native Indian Tribes Index

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