Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick

The "Red People" of Iowa

Long before the white man invaded these parts, the entire state of Iowa was occupied by tribes of copper-colored "red" people. The chief tribes were the Sac and Fox who once formed powerful nations, standing prominent among the aborigines of North America.

Near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River resided two nations, who were possibly the descendants of the skraelings the Norsemen had found there, occupying a land called "Vinland" around 990 AD.

By 1700, the Fox nation moved to the west, settling near Green Bay on Lake Michigan and soon became involved in war with the French and with neighboring tribes, which reduced their numbers substantially.

Meanwhile, the Sacs warred against the Iroquois, sometimes called Six Nations, who occupied the country to the south, which now comprises the state of New York. They were forced to leave their hunting grounds, so they also moved westward. After a few months, they found their old neighbors, the Fox tribe. Both were weak and faced extinction from hostile neighbors.

Around 1730, the remnants of the two tribes became allies in an association of one people. Soon after the alliance, they branched out across Iowa, Missouri and Wisconsin, often incorporating other small tribal remnants that still resided in the region. By the 1820s, their habitat included Van Buren County.

After the Iowa Indians were defeated in a battle along the Des Moines River (near Eldon) in 1824, the Sac and Fox tribe occupied Iowaville (one mile above Selma) as one of their main year-round living quarters, so as to keep close watch on the remaining Iowa tribe.

"Keokuk's Reserve" was the result of the Black Hawk Purchase. A four hundred square mile area along the Iowa River in what is now Tama County, was retained by the Sac and Fox Indians as a government owned reservation in 1832.

After vast Iowa lands were ceded to the U.S. Government during the 1840s, the remainder of the tribe was removed to Kansas and placed on a government reservation there. In 1867, 317 Indians moved back to Iowa and took up land on the old Tama reservation, and the government agent permitted them to live there. Gradually, these people began purchasing the land they claimed, until they were deeded full ownership by the government.

Indians of Tama County are known as Musquakie, sometimes spelled Misquakie. The name is not a misnomer. It has been improperly reported that they were part of Keokuk's followers who resisted the Black Hawk War, and that the name means "deserted." This is hardly the case.

Originally, the Sac and Fox were called by their proper names: Sockee for Sack and Musquakie for Fox. The French, however, called them Sac and Reynard (Fox). The Sac accepted the name whereas the Fox still retain the name Musquakie. In their tongue, "Musqua" means red and "kies" means people, thus the correct name in English is, "red people."

Just as much false information has been written about how the tribes derived their names, a lot of erroneous material has been advanced about their customs and habits. Unless provoked, their contact with white people was usually rather civilized, and they posed little or no threat to the settlers. Pioneers who had dealings with them wrote accounts of how their justice system and morality were not very far removed from ideas held by "civilized" white people. Often their leaders were philosophical and very intelligent.

In an article written in the 1870s it was noted that the habits and customs of the small tribe in Tama (at the time) were not much different than they had been when the white men first met them. They had a system of self government. All business and justice matters were handled by a council. The "Business Chief" was called Mah-tah-e-qua, or "leader." They were opposed to education because they didn't want their children to grow up mean like white children.

Indians can express themselves in writing, and often wrote to acquaintances in other areas. What is interesting about their original native language is, that it contains no "swear words." Indians had to learn English in order to use profanity. The worst thing an Indian could call another native in their language was "dog" or "fool," and either name was a deadly insult of "fighting" words.

(From website)

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