How does the Meskwaki (Sac and Fox) Indian experience in Iowa compare to the experience of tribes in other parts of the United States?
The first people to live in what we now call Iowa may have arrived some 8,000-10,000 years ago. They lived along the edges of the receding glaciers and hunted large game animals. Gradually, groups began to plant and harvest gardens of corn, beans, pumpkins and squash and gather nuts, berries and fruits to supplement their meat supply. By around 1,200 C.E., corn had migrated along the Gulf Coast and up the Mississippi to tribes in the Upper Midwest who became known as the Oneota culture. They established villages to which they returned for many years after seasonal deer and buffalo hunts.
Europeans Force American Indians West
The arrival of Europeans on the continent had an impact on the Midwest long before permanent settlers came. French and English colonies along the Atlantic Coast displaced eastern American Indian tribes who were forced west to compete with existing tribes. The earliest French and English people these tribes encountered were not settlers competing for lands fur trappers and traders. They brought with them manufactured goods — blankets, cookware, knives, guns — to exchange for beaver, deer and other skins that sold for high prices in Europe.
Internal competition among both American Indian and European sides of the trading partnership led to conflicts. As the French and English battled for control along the Atlantic Coast and in Canada, they made allegiances with tribes. The French clashed with the Meskwaki (sometimes mistakenly called the Fox) and their Sac allies who were forced south from their homelands in Wisconsin and Michigan into eastern Iowa. These tribes became allies of the British against the French and later against the former British colonists, the Americans.
The other major tribe, the Sioux, applied pressure on fledgling American settlements, including the northern regions that would become Iowa, in the 19th century. In 1832, the U.S. government tried to enforce the terms of a treaty that demanded removal of the Sac from their major village Saukenuk on the Illinois side of the river. Chief Black Hawk resisted and returned in the spring with a portion of the tribe in defiance of the government order. In the Black Hawk “War” that ensued, U.S. troops and the Illinois state militia quickly routed American Indian resistance and forced Sac families to flee. The treaty that followed opened eastern Iowa to American settlement and pushed the Sac and their Meskwaki allies into central Iowa. Treaties between the tribes and the U.S. government eventually provided for relocation of the tribes to western lands and the removal of American Indian claim to the land. The Sioux were the last to relocate out of the state in 1851.
Modern Meskwaki Settlement
Iowa has no American Indian reservations, land owned by the U.S. government but occupied by recognized American Indian tribes. In the 1850s, Meskwaki tribal members pooled their government annuity payments and, with the consent of the state government, purchased land in Tama County that became known as the Meskwaki Settlement. The tribe, not the government, owns the land. Many members of the tribe began to return to Iowa where they have lived ever since. The modern Meskwaki Settlement in Tama County maintains tribal schools, courts, police and a public works department. Their annual powwow attracts thousands every year who watch traditional dances and learn about Meskwaki history and culture. Because they are not subject to state laws, the tribe opened a very successful casino that has brought a new prosperity to the Meskwaki. Sioux City is home to another sizable group of American Indians who sponsor a daycare that promotes community activities and services to members of several tribes in the area. American Indians have a significant story in Iowa history and are a vibrant part of the state today.
How did the experience of the Meskwaki (Sac and Fox) in Iowa compare to the experience of the Cherokee in Georgia?
- Tribal Newspaper Article about Cherokee Nation and White Settlers in Georgia, March 4, 1829 (Document)
- U.S. Supreme Court Majority Opinion on Cherokee Nation's Case Against Georgia, January 1831 (Document)
- "Orders No. 25" Report from Gen. Winfield Scott on Removal of the Cherokee from Georgia, May 17, 1838 (Document)
- Deed of Land Sale to Meskwaki, July 13, 1857 (Document)
What was the impact of the Indian Removal Act of 1830 on the American Indian population of the United States?
- Indian Removal Act, May 28, 1830 (Document)
- U.S. President Andrew Jackson's Message to Congress "On Indian Removal," December 7, 1830 (Document)
- Marion, Iowa, Resolution in Response to Indian Removal Act, February 5, 1852 (Document)
- Iowa Law to "Allow Meskwaki to Purchase Land and Live in Tama, Iowa," July 15, 1856 (Document)
- American Indian Reservations in Oklahoma, 1889 (Map)
How did the relationship between the Meskwaki (Sac and Fox) and the federal government change over time?
Tribal Newspaper Article about Cherokee Nation and White Settlers in Georgia, March 4, 1829
This article appeared in the Cherokee Phoenix and Indians’ Advocate, the first newspaper published by American Indians in the United States, on March 4, 1829. The article describes the relationship the Cherokee Nation had with neighboring white settlers in Georgia…
U.S. Supreme Court Majority Opinion on Cherokee Nation's Case Against Georgia, January 1831
"Orders No. 25" Report from Gen. Winfield Scott on Removal of the Cherokee from Georgia, May 17, 1838
This report was made by General Winfield Scott on his orders to remove the Cherokee from the State of Georgia. In these orders from 1838, Scott makes clear that the Cherokee are to be treated respectfully, but he acknowledges that conflict might arise because of either…
Deed of Land Sale to Meskwaki, July 13, 1857
This deed is for the sale of 80 acres of land to the Meskwaki. After petitioning the Iowa legislature, the Meskwaki were granted permission to purchase land in 1857. The purchase of land by an American Indian tribe in 1857 was unusual. Unlike other tribes who were removed…
Indian Removal Act, May 28, 1830
This document, more informally known as the Indian Removal Act, fulfilled President Andrew Jackson’s belief that removing all American Indians west of the Mississippi River would make the country safer. Congressional approval opened the way for the next step: moving tribes…
U.S. President Andrew Jackson's Message to Congress "On Indian Removal," December 6, 1830
This source is an excerpt from President Andrew Jackson’s annual message to the U.S. Congress in 1830. This message was sent to Congress in December of 1830, several months after Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. The document details Jackson’s feeling about removal…
Iowa Law to "Allow Meskwaki to Purchase Land and Live in Tama, Iowa," July 15, 1856
This document is a law enacted by the Iowa General Assembly permitting American Indians to buy land in Iowa. The Act was passed in 1856. The following year, the Meskwaki purchased land in Tama County, Iowa. The Meskwaki were the first American Indian tribe to purchase land…
American Indian Reservations in Oklahoma, 1889
This map was created by the Office of Indian Affairs in 1889. It shows the location of American Indian reservations in the modern state of Oklahoma. The Cherokee occupy the large northeast section of the map. The Sac and Fox tribes, who did not move back to Iowa, are in…
"Evolution of Homes on Sac and Fox Reservation," Date Unknown
Lands Assigned to American Indians West of Arkansas and Missouri, 1836
This map was created by the Topographical Bureau to show the assigned territory of tribes west of the Mississippi. The assignments were made as a result of the Indian Removal Act in 1830, which gave the president the authority to create and assign tribes to certain areas…
"The Musquakas of Tama County" Essay from The Annals of Iowa, 1870
This article appeared in The Annals of Iowa in 1870. The removal of American Indians west of the Mississippi had begun 40 years earlier. Not all of the Meskwaki left Iowa to settle in Tama County. The author, John Doe, visited the Meskwaki in Tama County in 1855.…
- The Goldfinch: Iowa History for Young People, Volume 3, Number 4, April 1982
This Iowa history magazine for children was published quarterly by the State Historical Society of Iowa from 1975-2000. Each issue focuses on a theme and this particular volume highlighted American Indians in Iowa.
- The Goldfinch: Iowa History for Young People, Volume 13, Number 3, February 1992
This Iowa history magazine for children was published quarterly by the State Historical Society of Iowa from 1975-2000. Each issue focuses on a theme and this particular volume highlighted American Indians in Iowa, specifically the history of the Meskwaki.
Iowa Core Social Studies Standards (8th Grade)
Listed below are the Iowa Core Social Studies content anchor standards that are best reflected in this source set. The content standards applied to this set are elementary-age level and encompass the key disciplines that make up social studies for eighth grade students.
|SS.8.18.||Explain how the physical and human characteristics of places and regions influence culture.|
|SS.8.19||Explain how push and pull factors contributed to immigration and migration in early American history.|
|SS.8.21.||Analyze connections among early American historical events and developments in broader historical contexts.|
|SS.8.23.||Explain multiple causes and effects of events and developments in early American history.|