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The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska
The Iowa Nation’s homelands are centered in the state of Iowa, named after the Iowa (aka Ioway) people, and in portions of surrounding states. Archaeology classifies their ancestral culture as “Oneota,” an Upper Mississippian culture which grew from Woodland roots, beginning in about A.D. 900 and emerging into history through white contact just before 1700, the terminus of their status as caretakers of the pipestone quarries. The Leary Site National Historic Landmark, the second largest Oneota site west of the Mississippi, is located on the reservation. Their ancestors were traders of pipestone and buffalo, middlemen between the cultures of the plains to the west and the woodlands to the east. The Iowa are a Siouan-speaking group, most closely related to the Otoe-Missouria and Hochunk/Winnebago.
In the historic period (1700-1800) they traded with the French and British. They were involved in the intertribal warfare between the Dakota and Sac and Fox, and eventually receded southward from Iowa into northern Missouri, to contest those lands with the Osage. After the establishment of American hegemony through the Louisiana Purchase, a series of treaties were forced on them and aboriginal lands were lost, notably in the treaties of 1824, 1825, 1830, and 1836. The last of this series was also known as the Platte Purchase of 1836, which removed them from the area around St. Joseph to a new reservation across the Missouri, south of the Big Nemaha River and north of the Nemaha, the Halfbreed Reservation, established in 1830 for the mixed-blood children of the French traders and women of the Iowa, Otoe, Omaha, and Sioux nations.
Missionaries accompanied the Ioway on their removal from Missouri, and the mission and villages were established along the Wolf River at Iowa Point. Their Sac and Fox of the Missouri associates were located to the south of the mission and its school (the present day town of Highland was later established near the historic site). They lived here from 1836-1854, joining many other eastern tribes pushed across the Missouri through the Indian Removal policy and laws. Parts of the Oregon Trail led across their lands, and Ioway population continued to decline, through disease, violence, and a low birth rate, until there were only a few hundred left.
In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act drew a line across the northern portion of the reservation, just south of the Nemaha River, thus giving them the improbable name of the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska. In addition, the southern portion of their reservation was sold and opened to white settlement. The tribe moved up to the Nemaha River, where the Great Nemaha Subagency was to be located, while the steamboat town of White Cloud was established and named after the head chief. In 1861, the reservation was further reduced, with the western portion sold to become the new reservation of the Sac and Fox. With the dissolution of the Halfbreed Reservation to the north, some families there came south and intermarried into the Iowa tribe.
In 1861, the Civil War started, and most of the adult men who were fit and able joined the Union Forces. A memorial to the Iowa tribe’s veterans of the Civil War is located near the conference site. After the war, there was renewed pressure by white settlers to sell the remaining reservation lands. Some decided to head south in the 1870s to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) to try and live as their forefathers did; these would become the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma. The other half of the tribe stubbornly decided to stay put here, but realized they would have to adapt and assimilate into the larger society. This change from traditional communal life as a tribe to individual land-holders really took hold with Allotment in 1887.
However, swift trading practices by surrounding nonIndian merchants and lawyers, and a willingness by some tribal members to rent out land to nonIndians soon resulted in loss of much of the reservation lands. Between 1887 and 1941 about 82% of the 1,500 acres of the 1861 reservation’s lands were lost under the patent system, resulting in the present checkerboarded lands, alternating between tribal and non-Native ownership. Another close call for the tribe was during the Termination Era (1950s) when all four tribes of Kansas were slated for termination, but the tribes successfully fought it off.
The Iowa Reservation is located in Richardson County in southeastern Nebraska and Brown and Doniphan Counties in northeastern Kansas. The closest towns are Rulo and Falls City in Nebraska, and White Cloud and Hiawatha in Kansas. As of 2015, the tribe owns a farming operation (corn, soybeans, beef), a gas station and convenience store (8 am-8 pm, Mon.-Sun.), and Casino White Cloud (see). About 400 tribal members live on the reservation and in surrounding communities. There are about 4000 enrolled tribal members scattered across the U.S.; enrollment is based on descendancy from one of the original enrollees.
The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska is organized and chartered under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934. Its constitution and by-laws were adopted in 1978. The governing body is the Executive Committee, which consists of a Chairman, Vice-Chairma, Secretary, Treasurer, and Member. Each serves a three-year term, on staggered terms. The headquarters and tribal complex is about 5 miles west of White Cloud, Kansas.
The tribe holds its annual powwow on the third weekend of every September. It is a popular event drawing tribes from around the region. The Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) sponsors traditional practices like beading, drumming, and language at the Baxoje Wosgaci (Iowa Tribal Museum). The museum (in development) is housed in the CCC-ID Iowa Community Building, built in 1940 of broken ashlar construction by tribal members using local stone, at the end of the WPA era. The building is currently going through the formal nomination process for the National Register.