Indigenous Peoples Day: Remembering the Tribes of Iowa

Oct 10, 2016

History is written by the victors, and for hundreds of years, that has meant that the history of indigenous people in the U.S. has been simplified, twisted, or simply ignored.

"The word indigenous--what does that mean? It means we were here a very long time, and people invaded us," says Johnathan Buffalo, Meskwaki Historic Preservation Program Director. "Our world ended. First of all, 98 percent of [our] human population died within a hundred years of Columbus. Then the survivors had to survive a hundred years of warfare. Then another hundred years of acculturation, of even making them believe that they're from a different timeline."

On this edition of Talk of Iowa, we explore the history and culture of American Indians in Iowa, as well as talk about the challenges native people face today. Host Charity Nebbe sits down with Buffalo, Jacki Rand, principle investigator of the Iowa Native Spaces project, Lance Foster, Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and Howard Croweagle, President of the Central Iowa Circle of First Nations.

"Iowa as a state, Iowa as a people are very different from the rest of the country. Iowa is a special place physically, but it's also special that this event could happen," says Buffalo, referring to the Meskwaki tribe purchasing Iowa land in the 19th Century.

"It couldn't happen anyplace else; a group of Indians buying land in 1857 was beyond imagination, beyond comprehension of reality because at the time, Indians could not own land. The government could buy land from tribes, but Indians could not own land, and a farmer selling land to an Indian was just like selling it to his cow, his pigs, his horse. It could only happen in Iowa because ... in the 1850s, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin fill up with foreign-born Americans, none English speaking people, mostly Germanic people. They come in just as we're coming back to Iowa, and we meet them, and they're different. By 1857, they passed a law to have us remain in Iowa. The following year, we purchased the first 80 acres, and that's because of that relationship."