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Indians of Tama County, Iowa

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Indian Occupancy
Long before the advent of white man, the entire state of Iowa, then called the Beautiful Land, was occupied by Indian tribes, chief among which were the Sacs and Foxes. Both these tribes were at one time powerful nations, and stood prominent among the aborigines of America. They were formerly two distinct nations, and resided near the waters of the St. Lawrence. By the Government they have always been treated as one people, although keeping up customs among themselves calculated to maintain a separate nationality, and in their own government they were separate. The Fox Indians moved to the west, and settled in the vicinity of Green Bay, on Lake Michigan, but becoming involved in a war with the French and neighboring tribes, were so much reduced in number that they were unable to sustain themselves against their hostile neighbors. The Sac Indians had been engaged in a war with the Iroquois, or six nations, who occupied the country which now comprises the State of New York, and had become so weak they were forced to leave their old hunting ground and move to the West. They found the Fox tribe, their old neighbors, like themselves, reduced in number by the havoc of war, and from a matter of necessity, as well as sympathy, they united their fortunes, and became in the sense of association, one people. The date of their removal from the St. Lawrence is not definitely known. Father Hennepin speaks of the Fox Indians being at Green Bay, then known as the Bay of Puants, in 1760. The date of their removal from Green Bay is unknown, but gradually they branched out, and occupied large tracts of land in Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin. At this time they were famous for their prowess in war.

When the "Black Hawk purchase" was made, a portion of this State was retained by the Indians, consisting of four hundred square miles, and known as "Keokuk's Reserve."

This reservation was along the Iowa river, and therefore Tama county formed a part of it.

In the early part of the present century  in 1803, the first Council of the French Republic ceded the Province of Louisiana to the United States. At the time the greater portion of the territory which now constitutes. Iowa was in the possession of the tribes of the Sacs and Foxes, who were acting at that time as confederate tribes.
From this date the Indians ceded away by treaty tract after tract of this the most beautiful country the sun ever shown upon, until to-day in this great State of Iowa they hold only a few hundred acres of land in Tama county, and this only in re-purchase from the white man.

In accord with the progressive and aggressive spirit of the American people, the Government of the United States made the last treaty with the Sac and Fox Indians in the fall of 1842, for the remaining portion of their lands in Iowa. The treaty provided that the Indians should retain possession of all the lands thus ceded until the autumn of 1845. These lands laid along the Iowa river, extending southeasterly, and embraced the southeastern part of the State. Their principal village at this time was Ot-tum-wah-no, where the city of Ottumwa now is. As soon as it became known that the treaty had been concluded there was a rush of emigration to Iowa, and a great number of temporary settlements were made near the boundary of the Indian line awaiting the day set for the Indians removal. As the day approached hundreds of families encamped along the line, and their tents and wagons gave the scene the appearance of a military expedition, but the United States military authorities had prevented any settlement, or even the marking out of claims when the hour should arrive, the settlers had placed piles of dry wood on the rising ground at convenient distances, and at a short-time before twelve o'clock of the night preceding the day set, these were lighted, and when the midnight hour arrived, it was announced by the discharge of firearms. The night was dark, but this army of occupation pressed forward, torch in hand, with ax and hatchet, blazing lines with all manner of curves and angles. When daylight came and revealed the confusion of these wonderful surveys, many disputes arose, settled generally by compromise, but sometimes by violence.

While this scene was transpiring the retreating Indian was enacting one, more impressive and melancholy. The winter following the treaty was one of unusual severity, and the Indian Prophet, who had disapproved of the treaty, attributed the severity of the winter to the anger of the Great Spirit because they had sold their country. Many religious rites were performed to atone for the crime. When the time arrived for leaving Ottumwa - where they had gathered - a solemn silence pervaded the Indian camp; the faces of their stoutest men were bathed in tears, and when their cavalcade was put in motion, toward the setting sun, there was a spontaneous outburst of frantic grief.

The Sac and Fox Indians were then removed to Kansas upon a reservation given them. In the years 1859-60 they ceded to the Government that reservation, and removed to the lands now occupied by the original tribes, in Kansas. Three hundred and seventeen Indians of the Fox or Musquakie tribe, after their removal, returned to Iowa and settled in Tama county. The Government permitted them to remain, and by virtue of an act passed March 2, 1867, they are permitted to receive their share of the Tribal fund, which is the interest only on the amount due them from the Government for their lands. This branch of the tribe began buying the tract of land, which they now occupy as a reservation in Tama township, Tama county, with their annuity, and now own nearly 1400 acres. It cost $28,000, and is held in common about 200 acres being used for cultivation. Their personal property is valued at $20,000, mostly in horses. The strongest local attachment exists among them for their present home, it being the home of their fathers. They cannot forget the past with all its associations, and will never consent to remove from their present place. They have from the earliest moment been friendly to the whites, and while no very marked degree of civilization has been attained, yet they are a peaceful, honest, and contented people, possessed of a good degree of moral character, and have a brighter out-look for the future.

As to the present condition of the Indians, the following, which is an extract from the report by U. S. Agent Geo. L. Davenport, in August, 1881, treats at length:

"According to the census taken of this tribe last winter, they number 91 men, 104 women, 77 girls and 83 boys. Population in all 355.

"In the spring, the Indians, with the assistance of the Agency farmer, plowed 160 aces of land, and planted it with corn, beans, squash and potatoes. Their crops were well cultivated and looked very promising, when, in the early part of July, heavy storms set in, which caused the Iowa river to rise and overflow all the valley, the water rising four and five feet over their fields and village, destroying all their crops and doing great damage to their fences; and forcing the Indians to move their families to the adjacent hills. This calamity will cause great suffering to their families unless they receive their annuities, which they have all along refused to do.

"Their principal chief, Man-ma-wah-ne-kah, died in the early part of July. The tribe are in mourning for his death. He was very much beloved, and had great influence with them. He was thoroughly Indian in his ideas and sentiments, and was very much opposed to making any progress in civilization.

"In a short time this tribe will hold a council with their people to determine what they will do in regard to signing the pay-roll and receiving their annuities, which have up to this time accumulated to be quite a large sum. Last winter I obtained the names and ages of all their people, without their consent or assistance. But the tribe were quite displeased, and I had to explain to them that I was obliged to carry out the instructions received from the department. I have informed them that they can now receive their annuities by the head of each family signing the pay-rolls, and I believe they will do so in a short time.

"These are a very good people. They have behaved remarkably well during the past year. Their conduct toward the white people has been very friendly, honorable and upright. their women are modest and chaste; their children are brought up strictly, and behave well. I have not heard of a single instance of a quarrel or disturbance of any kind during the past year. The principal chief and council have done all they could to suppress in-temperance among them, and there have been but few cases of drunkenness among the young men during the past year, and then it has been the fault of the white man that gets the liquor for them.

"In regard to schools, the old Indian element is very much opposed, and the children are forbid attending. But the young men make good progress in learning to read and write, and many of them can read and write in English. Quite a number of women have attended the industrial school, and have made very good progress in making their garments and learning to do household work.

"Our teacher died in the early part of the month, after a long illness. She had acquired a knowledge of the Indian language, and was very much beloved by the women and children. It will take some time before we can overcome the prejudice the Indians have to regular schools. It will require patience, perseverance and kindness to succeed.

"The Secretary of the interior has kindly allowed me to purchase implements, by which I have been enabled to help the working Indians to carry on their agricultural work, and it has given them great encouragement.
Very Respectfully,
Geo. L. Davenport,
United States Indian Agent."


Indian Agents
The first Indian Agent for this tribe was Hon. Leander Clark, of Toledo. He was appointed July 1, 1866, and served in the capacity until July 10, 1869, when he was succeeded by Lieut. Frank D. Garretty, U. S. A., under the regulation transferring the Indian Bureau to the War Department. Lieut. Garretty served until October 5, 1870, when Leander Clark succeeded him, and again became agent. In September, 1872, Mr. Clark was relieved by Rev. A. R. Howbert, of Bell Fontaine, Ohio.

In April, 1875, Thomas S. Free became agent of the Musquakie Band. He took active steps to accomplish the advancement of the Indians in education and farming. In August, 1875, a school-house was built at a cost of $1200, in which A. B. Somers first taught. Mr. Free is now at Sioux Falls, D. T., practicing law.

In June, 1879, George L. Davenport was appointed to succeed Thos. S. Free, and is the present officer. Mr. Davenport has had a varied and eventful life. He was born on Rock Island, Nov. 15, 1817, the eldest son of Col. Geo. Davenport, being the first white child born in that part of the country. The city of Davenport was named in honor of his father, who was one of its founders. George was nursed by an Indian maid, and his playmates were Indian boys; he therefore learned to talk their language about as soon as he did English. At an early age he was adopted into the Fox tribe, and called "Mosquake," and was always a great favorite with them. His early education was gained at the school of an invalid soldier at Fort Armstrong, and at the age of ten he was sent to attend school at Cincinnati, O., where he remained two years, then returned to the Island, and was placed in the store of the American Fur Company, of which his father was a member, remaining until this post was given up in 1843. During this time he attended school a part of the time at the Illinois College at Jacksonville, at the Catholic University at St. Louis, and at the Winchester Academy, in Virginia. In the fall of 1837 he accompanied, by request, the Sac and Fox delegations of chiefs to Washington, and visited other large cities. In 1832 he made the first claim west of the Mississippi, and built the first frame house in the territory. During the early days of the city of Davenport he was among the most zealous workers for the city's success, and for many years was one of the most prominent of her citizens. He was president of the Merchant's Bank and Davenport National Bank for eighteen years was president of the City Gas Corporation for twenty-two years. In 1871 he was elected a director of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railway, and held that position for five years. He was married in 1839, and lost one son during the late rebellion. Politically, Mr. Davenport is a Republican. He is an affiable, pleasant gentleman, and as a business man is upright and honorable. For the place he holds he is well fitted, and his labors are leaving their marks.

The Indian Name
It is quite generally believed that the name by which the Indians in Tama county are known - Musquakie, [sometimes spelled Misquakie] - is a misnomer which they have been given since they have lived here. But this is a mistake, as is also the theory that the name was derived from the fact that they were a portion of Keokuk's followers in trying to avoid the last Black Hawk war, and means "Deserted." When the Sac and Fox Indians occupied the northeastern part of the United States they were called by their proper Indian names: Sockee for Sack; and Musquakie for Fox. When the French landed upon the shores of the portion of the continent, they named them Sac and Reynard, or Fox The former band have finally accepted that name; but the latter tribe, among themselves, still hold to the name "Musquakie," which means in their tongue "red men;" or, "Musqua" red; "kies, " people '


Customs, Habits and Peculiarities of the Musquakie
Much has been written in regard to the customs and habits of Indian tribes of the northwest and as a description of one was supposed to apply to all, many of these articles have been reproduced as a treatise upon the Musquakies, or the tribes, which at one time occupied the "Black Hawk Purchase." But most of these articles in many of the customs and peculiarities they recite are entirely erroneous and, as a whole, very much exaggerated. Contrary to the inference which would be draw from them, the tribes of the Sac and Fox Indians, since their contact with the whites have always to a certain degree been civilized, and the pioneers who were associated with them during the early days when the red skins called this region "home," agree in the opinion that, as a rule, their ideas of justice and morality were but a few paces in the rear of those held by "civilized humanity." The habits and customs of this tribe of to-day, do not differ very much from those of early days. Very few of them deign to wear the dress of the white man, generally wearing a blanket over the shoulders, feathers in the hair, and not infrequently painted fantastically about the face, neck and arms.

Beads and cheap brass jewelry usually adorn the neck and ears, and the Indian maids wear large and massive bracelets. The blankets are all highly colored, as, in fact, is all of their clothing.

Instead of being frivolous, they are as a rule thrifty and industrious, but the squaws are made to do the hardest labor. Few quarrels are had among themselves and they are always peaceable to Whites. Since their occupancy of the little reservation in Tama county there has only been one crime committed.

They are more religiously inclined than the white man, believing in God and recognizing the existence of a Supreme Being who they call the Great Spirit. Their conception of God differs only in part from that held by the Christian world. To them He is an individual being - a supreme personage. They know nothing of Jesus Christ and have no traditions that tend to indicate a belief in any such personage. They have a devil whom they designate as the Bad Spirit. To both are offered sacrifices. Their religion partakes more of the Jewish Creed than that of any other and abounds in numerous forms and customs, quite similar to the old customs first practiced by the Hebrews. They have a Bible, which they call "Meeschaum." It is made up of about twenty-seven parts and the whole is written in strange signs only intelligible to the Indians, and the contents are never explained to the whites. There are about half a dozen of these "Meeschaum" in the tribe; they are all worn and old and are handled with the greatest care. The word "Meeschaum" in the Indian tongue means "Holy words or laws." Meetings of worship are held which last for three or four hours, and a separate and distinct language is used for religious talk and worship. They listen with great interest to the explanation of the white man's belief and religion, and have traditions which have been handed down from former generations that are almost identical with Bible parables and illustrations.

One of these traditions is that long years ago, when even the race of red men was in its infancy, there came a rainy season to the land inhabited by the fore-fathers of the Indians. It continued to pour down in drenching torrents for nearly "two moons." The land became covered with water. It rose until even the highest hills began to disappear beneath the waves. The red men seeing that the end was not yet, resolved to cast their lot upon the waters and trust to the Great Spirit for safety. All the canoes that could be found were collected together and bound with lariats. When the proper time came the raft was ladened with the necessary food, blankets and a few musk rats, and all got aboard as the last high mound was submerged by the rapidly rising waters. For many days and night the bark tossed to and fro, the rain ceased, and they only waited for the water to go down. A musk rat was dropped overboard. He sank toward the bottom and after remaining some time returned to the surface with clean paws and clambered into the raft. This indicated that the water was yet too deep to reach bottom. In a few days the experiment was repeated; but with the same result. In a few days more the muskrat was again put overboard and after being down a few moments came to the surface with his paws covered with mud, and again disappearing to return no more. This was the hopeful sign they had looked for and in a few days the canoes rested upon the summit of a high mountain. It is readily seen that this tradition is merely another version of the Bible narrative of Noah and the ark; told, it is true, in a rude way, but the truths are still intact and Indians firmly believe in its authenticity.

The Musquakie have a system of self government. They are divided into three families or clans, which are each represented by a chief; then there is a council consisting of a number of braves who are chosen with reference to their general intelligence or else those who have distinguished themselves in war or otherwise in addition to these there is a "business Chief," who is the highest in authority; he attends to the business, leads them in case of war, and is the general executive. Nothing is done except, what is agreed to by the council and their wishes, are carried out by the head chief. Whatever be their decree most of the people at once submit to it without the need of perswasion or force, and it is very seldom that even the slightest of their laws are violated. There are sometimes exceptions to this in the cases of young men who obtain liquor from the whites and when under its influence will pay but little attention to the laws of the chiefs.

The present "Business Chief" is Mah-tah-e-qua" who years ago distinguished himself in war with Sioux. His name, in Indian tongue, indicates the office he holds: Major-General or Leader.

The names of the principal clans, or families are Wolf, Elk and Bear. The name of the Wolf Chief is Muk-we-posh-e-to, which signifies "Old Bear." He is only about nineteen years of age, and therefore does not have much weight in the council.

The Elk Chief is "Wah-ko-mo," meaning "clear or bright." He was born on Turkey river, Iowa, and is about 65 years old. His words have great influence with the tribe, and he is, in one sense, a leader of the council.
The Chief representing the Bear family is Push-e-to-nik, who is about 45 years old.

As a rule, the offices of the Indians are hereditary. When a chief dies his son takes his rank, and, if too young, they either wait until he has reached the years of discretion, or the remaining chiefs appoint some one to fill the vacancy until the heir attains maturity. If any one of the tribe does wrong, his face is blacked, and he is obliged to fast a day or more, according to the nature of the crime or offense.

They are very much opposed to education, because, they say, "We don't want our children to grow up like white children. When white people come to our village we treat them well, the children stand back; but when the Indian goes to town the white children throw stones at him and call him names." They have a school house but are so prejudiced about education that it is hard work to get a young Indian to it. The old braves would not venture in until all the desks were taken out. They say that if they are educated they will become mean like the white man - "White man awful smart but awful mean." They say the "white man is so mean that when he dies his God puts him in an awful hot place and burns him forever, but the Indian's God is more merciful, and the mean Indian less wicked; the Great Spirit sifts him like the chaff and the good Indian goes to the happy hunting ground beyond the river where the bad Indian and the white man never comes." They have a faith that laughs at the impossible, and their confidence in the ways and workings of the Great Spirit for good would put to shame many faithless white men.

Some of the Indians are very intelligent and philosophical. At one time Judge Leander Clark, who was their agent, asked one of the chiefs if he would allow one of his boys to be brought up by Mr. Clark as a white boy. The chief shook his head and upon being asked why, replied: "If you took my boy, he would be brought up like a white man; the Great Spirit never intended that he should be a pail face or He would have made him white; He had made him red and intends he should be brought up like red men. Would you let me bring up your white boy like red men? Then you can have my Indian boy to bring up like white man."

The Indians have a way of expressing themselves in writing and often write letters to acquaintances in Nebraska and the Indian Territory. Some of the Indians claim that they still own a strip of land crossing the State of Iowa, ten miles wide, claiming that at the time of the last treaty that much was reserved to them. Whether the majority of the Indians believe this is not known, as it is seldom, if ever, spoken of to-day, by any of them.
After the birth of a child the mother keeps a separate fire and eats alone, and the brave does not go near to see either mother or child until the little one is at least a month old.

The Indians cannot swear until they learn the English language in which to express it. The Indian language contains no words that could be used for profanity, and the worst thing one Indian can call another is "a dog" or "a fool," which is considered a deadly insult.

The Indian village is located near the center of the reservation. In the spring they move to the fields and until the crop is sown, camp where they are at work. As soon as the spring's work is done they move into the village and have an easy time until the crop matures. They then move back to the fields and remain until the crop is gathered. After this the Indians - most of them at least, leave their Tama county home and spend the winter in some of the adjoining counties, only to make their appearance when the time for spring work again rolls round. They do that for the purpose of finding maple trees, game and charity.

In a retrospective view of the tribe, while residents of the Tama county but one marked scene of violence can be recalled. This occurred upon the morning of June 13, 1874, resulting in the murder of a Pawnee Indian. The facts as given by the Tama City Press of June 19, 1874, are as follows:

"On the morning of June 12, 1874, four Pawnee Indians came to the camp of the Misquakie, and remained all day the night of the 12th. On the next morning one of them while but a few steps from the wick-iup was approached from behind by one of the Musquakie called "Black Wolf," who drew a revolver and fired three shots. The first entering the back of the head, and passing through the brain lodged under the skull in front; the second one passing into the base of the neck, passed upward toward the head and came to the surface near the right ear; and the other was merely a scalp wound. The last two wounds were not necessarily fatal, but the first one bore unmistakable evidence of the intention of him who held the fatal weapon. At the first shot the Pawnee went down, and the other two must have hit him while in the act of falling. When we reached the camp, the Pawnee, had been buried, and not fearing a dead Indian, we had no necessity for the professional assistance of either of the gentlemen who accompanied us. Soon after, the coroner, deputy sheriff, Indian agent and several other parties appeared upon the scene, and the dead Pawnee was resurrected, brought to Tama city, together with his murderer and on Saturday evening an inquest was held by E. M. Beilby, county coroner."

When it was proven the Black Wolf did the bloody deed, a warrant was issued and delivered to deputy sheriff Bartlett who arrested him and lodged him in jail. Black Wolf remained in jail until February 18, 1875, when he was discharged, the witnesses failing to appear against him.


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History of Tama County, Iowa, 1883

Native American Nations

 

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