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Chapter 11

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Ioway to Iowa

Irving Berdine Richman

published by
The State Historical Society of Iowa

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Chapter 13
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

 p207  The Red Barrier Falls

Vision and Exodus
Exodus and Return

 p209  Vision and Exodus

'I was lying in a state of partial slumber', says Lucius Langworthy of Dubuque in 1836, 'and dreamed that . . . I found myself in a spacious public square. In the centre of this area stood a splendid building, embellished with cornices and porticos. On approaching nearer, I heard proclamation, in a stentorian voice — "Hear ye! hear ye! The Legislature of the State of Iowa will now commence its third session!" . . . Suddenly I awoke: my pleasing vision was dispelled, for I found myself still pressing a straw pallet in my mining cabin'.148

This same year (1836) a vision also befell the Indian. What the Indian foresaw was a city on the Iowa, and he saw it with a sense of humor. Urged in council by Henry Dodge, Governor of the Territory of Wisconsin, to relinquish ceded lands on the Iowa, the Sauks and the Foxes replied: 'My father, we have to laugh — we require no time to move — we all left the lands already, and sold our wigwams to Chemokemons (white men). . . . There are already four hundred Chemokemons on the land, and several hundred more on their way moving in; and three days before we came away, one Chemokemon sold his wigwam  p210 to another Chemokemon for two thousand dollars, to build a great town'.149

Between 1836 and 1861 the Barrier keeping Iowa red, fell and fell fast. It fell before four repeated surges of the white tide. The first surge (1836) blotted out 'Keokuk's Reserve' of four hundred square miles on the Iowa River. The second surge (1837) compelled the ceding of the second Black Hawk Purchase, or, as it was called from its shape, 'Breech Clout Purchase', including 1,250,000 acres. Then (1842) came the penultimate surge, the one before which the Red Barrier was breached beyond hope.

After 1837 the Sauks and the Foxes (Keokuk's lieutenants, the so‑called 'money chiefs', excepted) stood firm in rejecting overtures for more of their dwindling heritage. Money? There was a way by which the Sauks and the Foxes might come by it without parting with more land. Had not the Governor told them that enterprising whites were plotting to entrap some of their nation and take them to Europe for exhibition?

'When we all get ready to sell', the Indian said, 'it will be time enough to do so'. They were ready by September, 1841. It was proposed to send them into what later was to be southwestern Minnesota (former home of the Ioways), the headwaters of the Des Moines  p211 River west of the Blue Earth. But the Indians were divided. The land, the Foxes said, was a poor one. Why so? It was a land filled with buffalo and Sioux. What a chance for the youth of the Sauks and the Foxes to kill both Sioux and buffalo!

On October 11, 1842, a treaty was secured transferring to the United States all the Sauk and Fox lands left in Iowa.150 On this occasion the Iowa Territorial Gazette observed of the Sauk and the Fox individually that they were 'perhaps the finest looking Indians on the globe — of large, athletic and perfect forms and most graceful carriage'.

Ultimately two tribes were to remove beyond the Missouri into Kansas; but until May, 1843, they might keep the lands east of a line running 'due north and south from the Painted or Red Rocks' of the Des Moines — Jolliet's pierres sanguines. Lands west of this line they might keep till October, 1845. The Foxes (it was otherwise with the Sauks) could not give Iowa up. Wapello was dead. By 1850 Poweshiek, too, was gone. There remained of the Red Barrier in Iowa none but the Dakotas — the Sioux. They held the country about the Big Sioux River and along the Neutral Ground and down the Des Moines. This country they yielded in 1851.

The Sauks and the Foxes had shed tears on leaving  p212 Illinois. After 1842 scenes of grief were enacted by them along the Des Moines. What is more, after the expiration of the year 1845 and the removal of the Sauks and the Foxes to Kansas, the Foxes began drifting back. There came, too, from time to time, Potawatomi and Winnebagoes, but only to exact food and to wail at the graves of their dead. In 1855 James W. Grimes, Governor of Iowa, wrote to President Franklin Pierce to call attention 'to the unquiet condition of the frontier settlements of this State, occasioned by the inroads of Indians . . . wandering bands of Winnebagoes, Sioux, Pottawattamies, Omahas and Sacs and Foxes. . . . In the months of October and November they begin to draw near the settlements, that they may have facilities for pilfering from the whites in the winter months, when their own stock of provisions will be exhausted'.

A settler's family near the Iowa River beheld one of the scenes with which the breaking up of a race is so wistfully charged. 'One night', says the account, 'my grandmother awoke and saw Indians coming in single file over a nearby hill. They came slowly and silently in the moonlight, the only sound being the tinkle, tinkle of the tiny bells hung round their ponies' necks. This land had once been an Indian graveyard'.

 p213  Exodus and Return

The Sauks and the Foxes who in 1845‑1846 quitted Iowa for Kansas numbered some twenty-three hundred souls — five or six hundred of them warriors.

But to look around and about —

Indian Agent

The first Indian Agent for Iowa, or rather for the Sauks and the Foxes, was (in 1806) Nicolas Boilvin. He was to 'make the Sacque Village [site of Montrose], at the Rapids of the Mississippi, above the mouth of the River Lemoin', his principal place of residence. Boilvin was to 'procure Garden seeds, peach and other fruit stones, and apple seeds. . . . Nurseries [were to be] planted with fruit trees; for the purpose of distributing the most useful seeds and trees among such of the Chiefs as will take care to cultivate them'.151 These instructions to Boilvin, do they cast doubt upon the priority at Montrose of the horticultural work of Louis Tesson?

The young Sauk and the young Fox were slow at English. The young Winnebago (there was an Indian school on Yellow River)152 learned English readily. 'What were my surprise and delight', writes Willard  p214 Barrows, an Iowa surveyor, 'when I inquired [in the Winnebago dialect] of a sprightly lad about twelve years of age, and who had come into the cabin alone [in the Neutral Strip], what he called the victuals that were then cooking in the kettle, to hear him answer in plain, unbroken English, "Why, it is pork and beans, and I shall want some bread and potatoes to eat with them when they are done." His dark, keen eye twinkled with the answer, and he burst into a fit of laughter, half hiding his face through shame that he knew so much of the white man's language'.

A little Winnebago maid wrote in English the following on Spring: 'In a little while all the Indians will come back and fix their wigwams with new bark. I like to go and live in a new bark wigwam. . . . A great many school children have died. When any one dies they paint their face, then dress them very fine and bury them. Then they take goods and put it on the grave; and if it is a woman, the women gather them together and play games; if it is a boy, the boys gather themselves together and play. . . . They say the white people when they die go to one place and the Indians go to another place'.

But the Sauks and the Foxes?

When in 1840 it was proposed to establish for them a 'pattern farm' their answer was that they did not  p215 understand the matter. All that they had heard about it, they said, was that the money to pay for it was to come out of their annuities and that the farm 'was meant only for them to look at'. They didn't want to look at it. They wanted the money it would cost. Education (including the white man's religion) they fancied still less. Kitche-Waleshi — 'very, very bad!' Keokuk pronounced it with scorn.153

The Trader

In Territorial Iowa it was the trader who ruled the Indian. His means were two: whiskey and credit. Did the Indian relish whisky? Not at all, says surveyor Barrows. 'It is no welcome beverage to him, for they do not love the taste of it, but its effects'. And the effects! 'Blows with hatchets and knives made the blood flow on all sides; and all the place resounds with frightful yells and cries. They bite off each other's noses and tear away their ears; wherever their teeth are fixed they carry away the morsel. The father and the mother throw their babes upon the hot coals or into the boiling kettles. They commit a thousand abominations — the mother with her sons, the father with his daughters, the boats with their sisters. They roll about on the cinders and coals and in blood'.

Regarding the Indian and whiskey, we have interesting  p216 testimony from the Indian Agent, Joseph M. Street. Street finds the trader George Davenport 'of more liberal and extensive views than [traders to] the Winnebagoes'. It is true that 'his enmity to God [Davenport was a Universalist] will render it difficult to christianize the Indian in his life-time. (Yet) He won't sell them liquor except in the interior of their country and then sparingly. . . . If they drink they lose their blankets, guns, traps, and health, and frequently their lives. This is a dead loss to him. . . . By selling goods of a superior quality at a moderate profit he secures the confidence of the Indians . . . and they will not lightly act differently from his wishes'.

So impressed with the fair dealing of Davenport was Agent Street that in 1838, in making report to Washington, he advocated a return to the discarded factory system. 'The only hope', he said, 'I can entertain of a benefit to the Indians is in the exclusion of all white men, but one trader [of the Davenport type], from the Indian country, whose goods and prices should be controlled by the United States agent'. Either this, or let 'the United States take the trade into their own hands and exclude all traders'.154

New Forts

The early forts of Iowaland (1816‑1827), forts Howard, Crawford, Armstrong, Fort Snelling, Osage, Atkinson  p217 (Nebraska), Leavenworth, stood, as we have seen, on the Ioway periphery — the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. With 1834 there began to take rise a new set of Iowa forts: Fort Des Moines No. 1 (site of Montrose), Fort Atkinson (Winneshiek County) 1840, Fort Sanford (near the present Fairfield) 1842, Fort Des Moines No. 2 (site of Des Moines) 1843, and Fort Clarke, later Fort Dodge (site of Fort Dodge) 1850‑1851.

The new forts were not of the periphery but of the heart of Iowa along the river Des Moines. The problem they were designed to meet was that of the despoiling American himself.

Military Roads

The early Iowa forts were to have been connected by 'military roads'. Such roads to connect the new forts on the Des Moines River were likewise projected. One, authorized by Congress in 1839, was to extend from Dubuque through Iowa City to the Missouri boundary. Another, also authorized in 1839, was to extend from Burlington towards Agency City, near the present Ottumwa. As for the Dubuque road, it took origin as a furrow traced by the plow; but the archetype was the great National Road over which surged the white tide. At the Dubuque end was built the monastery of the Trappist monks vowed to ideals  p218 of silence; and at the Iowa City end, the State Capitol vowed to ideals not of silence. Best of all the road might be haunted. Roads often were. List the tale of 'Toll Gate Molly and Drovyer Peter King'.

Then Molly she toss'd up her nose

and tuk the drovyer's toll,

But Peter he goes and hangs hisself

that neither unto a pole,

And Molly says, says she, I wish

I'd been his wife,

And Peter he come and haunted her

the rest of all her life.

Return of the Foxes

The Foxes began a movement back to Iowa in 1853. They were torn by heartbreak. 'They returned', says an observer, 'because the government was teaching them, on their Kansas reservation, some of the rudiments of civilization, such as wearing clothes, raising cattle and living in houses, all of which they stubbornly resisted'. Their manner of life, the observer says, 'is still [1899] as exactly what it was four hundred years ago as the limitations imposed by the white man will permit'.155

The returning Foxes fixed themselves on the Iowa River in Tama County. Their dead, we are told, were  p219 reverently borne from distant places and buried with solemn and impressive ceremonies on the bluff in plain view of their new home, and the warriors fell on their knees and kissed the earth in gratitude.

One day three Meskwaki (Fox) Indians walked into the Governor's office in the Old Stone Capitol building. Looking up, the Governor (James W. Grimes) asked 'What do you want?' The chief drew from beneath his blanket a bag of money. Placing it on the table he said, 'Count 'em!' The Governor emptied the bag and counted the money. The Governor then said, 'Seven hundred and fifty'. The Indian responded, 'White Man count seven fifty. Indian count seven fifty'. The Governor inquired, 'What are you going to do with the money?' The chief replied, 'Buy land'. The Governor asked, 'What do you want to buy land for?' The chief replied, 'White Man buy land, White Man business. Indian buy land, Indian business'. — So relates Peter A. Dey of Iowa City.

Their plan was to buy land. This they could do only by consent of the State. Consent in 1856 was obtained; and in consideration of one thousand dollars, eighty acres were conveyed by the owners to 'the Governor of Iowa and his successors in office in trust' for the purchasers (certain Fox Indians named in the document).156

 p220  For a dozen years eighty acres was all the land in Iowa which the repatriated Foxes possessed. At the end of this period (1866‑1867) they numbered two hundred and sixty-four souls. They were crowded and miserably poor — they were referred to as 'unspeakably dirty dog-eating savages'.

With 1867 the lot of the Foxes in Iowa grew better. Congress authorized a distribution pro rata of the annuities of the tribe. They were thus enabled to purchase more land and by 1877 were the owners of six hundred and ninety-two acres. By 1883 their holdings had increased to thirteen hundred and forty acres. By 1894 these holdings, on both sides of the Iowa River, were twenty-eight hundred acres. By 1908 the State of Iowa effected a transfer of the legal title of the Fox lands to the United States, reserving only the powers of eminent domain, taxation, and judicial jurisdiction. The United States made the Secretary of the Interior trustee, instead of the Governor of Iowa; and trustee the Secretary of the Interior remains to this day.

In 1895 there was organized in Tama County an Indian Rights Association. It was the period when the Foxes were yet under stigma as 'dirty and dog-eating savages.' Charles A. Eastman, educated Dakota, was invited to visit the Foxes and address them. Eastman came and spoke, urging the advantages of civilization.  p221 The reply was this: 'We have heard what you say. We understand. I hope you will be sincere in your new life and continue. But as for us, we are Indians and will always be Indians. . . . So in future years, when you . . . come back to us we will show you by our life, that you too were once an Indian'.157

In 1899 at Tama a government training school was opened. As the date set for the opening drew near, writes the School Superintendent, 'the opposition instead of diminishing became more intense. The chiefs, members of the council, and head men, were especially determined in their opposition. When the annuity payment was made over one hundred refused to receive it, mainly because they had been made to believe that if they did so, they thereby gave the government the right to place their children in school'. A midnight council was held. Present only, besides the agent and school superintendent, were the chief, Pu‑she-to-ni‑kwa, an interpreter, and four Indian policemen. The agent made a strong appeal. He spoke of the deplorable condition of the children of the tribe, and facing the Chief, charged him with responsibility. The old man listened in silence to the end. Then quickly rising and advancing into the center of the room, his eyes flashing and his voice trembling with emotion, he said: 'My friend, the Musquakies have always been friends to the white people, but they will not accept your  p222 school. You may come and kill us, but we will not give you our children'. And he stalked into the dark.

The outcome at Tama was in the main the triumph of the school. Fox youth (Young America) did not wholly share the feeling of their elders. One child, son of a medicine man, came contrary to the will of his father. Two girls — one the daughter of Chief Pu‑she-to-ni‑kwa — were placed in school by the agent, but they were angrily demanded back. The girls, said the Chief, might be put in jail; but in school — never!158

The Author's Notes:

148 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. VIII, p394.

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149 George Catlin's North American Indians, 1857, Vol. II, p721.

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150 Eighteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, Pt. II, p778.

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151 Wisconsin Historical Collections, Vol. XIX, pp314, 315.

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152 Bruce E. Mahan's Old Fort Crawford and the Frontier, pp202, 208, 214, 216, 217.

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153 The Iowa Journal of History and Politics, Vol. XV, p434.

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154 Ida M. Street's article embodying the letters of Joseph M. Street in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. VI, pp373 et seq.

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155 Bicknell's The Tama County Indians in the Annals of Iowa (Third Series), Vol. IV, pp196 et seq.

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156 Rebok's The Last of the Mus-Qua-Kies in the Iowa Historical Record, Vol. VII, pp305 et seq.

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(p433) 157 History of the Indian Rights Association and the Founding of the Indian Training School, p22.

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158 History of the Indian Rights Association and the Founding of the Indian Training School.

By 1925 the number of Meskwaki or Fox Indians living at Tama was 363. They owned 3600 acres of land, valued at $364,450. Two day schools were maintained at government expense with free lunches for the children. Instruction was in English and during the years 1923‑1924 there was an average attendance of thirty at the two schools. A Presbyterian missionary furnished such religious instruction as the Indians would permit. — Ruth A. Gallaher's The Tama Indians in The Palimpsest, Vol. VII, pp44 et seq.

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