Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


In the language of the Iowa Tribe, bakhoje min ke means, "I am an Ioway," (or Iowan as we would say.) These people were the first known Iowans, dating back perhaps to 700 AD.

The land we occupy in Van Buren County was theirs, their hunting ground, as they had their largest village near the borders of the counties of Wapello, Davis, and Van Buren, between what is now Selma and Eldon. These were their ancestral lands as far back as any of them knew.

The Iowa tribe was once part of a huge nation called Madadanyida that lived along the shores of Lake Michigan, which became overcrowded. From about 700 to 1500 AD, groups departed to find new lands, and sister tribes developed, which included the Otoe, Missouria, Ioway, Winnebego, Sioux, Hochunk, Omaha, Ponca and Dakota. Sister tribes recognized each other as kin, but didnít always get along. Each had different traditions, different histories, different religious rites, and were considered by each other as different ethnic groups.

The Ioway were among the first to separate and spread out beyond the Mississippi River, occupying land now known as Iowa (from whence it got its name.) They called themselves Bakhoje, and their language was Chiwere, which means "the people of this place." The language is a variety of the Sioux. A joke translated their name to mean "ashy heads" or "gray snow."

Across the Midwest they left many sites, hallmarked by distinctive types of pottery. Archaeologists call the ancestral culture "Oneota," for the Upper Iowa River where the culture was first discovered. When the Ioway tribe first arrived in Iowa, they met a group called the Beaver, and united with them.

French explorers quickly learned that the land belonged to this large tribe, made peace and began to trade with them. They quarried in Minnesota, built bark lodge villages along the Iowa, Des Moines, and Mississippi rivers, planted corn, beans and squash, and hunted deer and buffalo in the prairie woodlands scattered throughout the land. For hundreds of years they lived, hunted and moved freely across Iowa. In 1837 No Heart defended their ancestral rights to the lands by producing a hand-drawn map showing many villages and routes of travel.

Epidemics of disease and bloody wars with other tribes, such as the Meskwaki--the Sac and Fox--pushed them west and expelled them from their prized ancestral lands. The advance of white population played a central role in this squeeze, as they were coerced into signing a series of treaties. In 1836 they were pushed across the Missouri River. By the 1870s and 1880s, what was left of the tribe settled in Indian Territory, now known as Oklahoma and joined what had become their allies--the Sac and Fox. The white manís hunger for land was a force that could not be stopped.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick