A statewide project equipping K-12 educators to teach Iowa history using primary sources

Teaching Iowa History Logo

Home » Bibliography » Ioway Native Americans

Ioway Native Americans

The Ioway Native Americans (also known as the Iowa Tribe), were the first tribe to live within Iowa, and are credited with the naming of the state. Beginning as the Oneota Indians, the larger tribe split into several smaller groups, one being the Ioway. The Ioway society was formed around clans similar to families (ex: Bear Clan, Buffalo Clan, Wolf Clan, etc.) wherein each clan was responsible for a different necessary element for survival. For example, the Thunder clan was responsible for warfare of the Ioways. One clan may be dedicated to health, and another for religious ceremonies and matters. Located along major waterways (Mississippi River, the Upper Iowa River, the Iowa River, the Missouri River, the Big Sioux, the Grand River, the Des Moines River, Okoboji Lake and Spirit Lake), the Ioway built villages that helped them create a successful society, including homes, sweat lodges, food-drying racks, cooking areas, work areas, hide-scraping racks, pottery pits and gardens. Although the tribe had a home village, they also travelled and relocated often to following migrating animals. During the summer, the tribe lived in bark houses called nahaci. In the winter, they lived in mat-houses, called, chakirutha, that were made from layers of sewn cattail leaves and kept the tribe warm from the harsh weather. When on one of the two annual buffalo hunts, Ioways stayed in chibothraje (tipis made from buffalo hides). By living in large agricultural villages during the summer and moving to hunt in the surrounding forest and plains during the winter, the Ioway Indians were able to survive on a large, varying diet The tribe hunted animals such as buffalo, deer, elk, black bear, turkey, raccoon, turtle, and fish. Crops were also grown including corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, and sunflowers. In addition to hunting, the tribe were also gatherers, finding food such as mushrooms, greens, nuts, and berries. Women were responsible for the farming, while men hunted and made tools. Similar to food, clothing changed depending on the season and gender. During the summer, women wore a deerskin dress, with porcupine quillwork or beads. A man would wear a loin cloth or "breechcloth" to keep cool in the summer heat. During the winter, a buffalo robe or blanket would help one stay warm. Men also wore headdresses to signal power or leadership in the tribe. The style of hair worn by the Ioway Indians also had important significance. If a woman or man wore their hair in two braids, it signaled that they were single, while one braid meant they were married. A popular style for men was a mohawk style that consisted of shaving the head with a single braid called a "scalplock" down the back. Porcupine hair, deer tails, turkey beards, or feathers could be tied into the hair as decoration. The significant leaders of the Ioway included Mahaska I (White Cloud I), his brother No Heart, and Moanahonga (Big Neck or Great Walker) who were responsible during the early 1800s treaties. Between the years of 1804-1838, the Ioways were forced to defend ownership of their land against the Sauk, Meskwaki and Sioux. Maps were presented by Chief No Heart in a 1837 treaty that proved the location of the Ioway's villages, but the United States ruled in favor of the more powerful Sioux, Sauk and Meskwaki tribes. In 1836, the Ioway tribe was moved to a reservation in Kansas. No Heart agreed to the removal, but Big Neck refused to leave his homeland and fought until his death. A second reservation in Oklahoma and Nebraska became home for some Ioways in 1880. Today, two groups of Ioway remain: Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma.
U.S. Chronology
Iowa History Eras
Relational Notes
Resource is related to the following objects, which can be found by searching the catalog number in the advanced search section: Catalog #: 2018.029.002- Cradleboard 2018.039.003- Arrowhead 2018.039.002- Pottery 2018.039.004- Axe Head 2018.039.006- Brooch