Native American Tribes: The Meskwaki


Figure 1.-- This cabinet card portrait shows a group of seven Native American boys in the military-style clothing of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BOIA) Schools. This school was in Ward 104, located in Toledo Iowa. It is undated, but the mount style anc color suggests the ealy 1900s, probably about 1900-05. The studio was Clara Ensminger, Toledo, Iowa. Duren H Ward took photographs in the Meskwaki settlements located in the same area, many before 1905. They are now archived in the the Iowa State Archives contains many identified pre 1905 identified photos assembled by him during his expedition to the settlement. Toledo is located in Tama County Iowa, the home of a Meskwaki settlement. We are not sure, however, that these boys are Meskwaki. The BOIA schools we believee were boarding schools located away from tribal areas so the U.S. Government could better acculturate the children. Thus these boys may be fom other tribes, only the school was located near the Meskwaki settlement. Hopefully reades will know more about this.

The Meskwaki are a Plains Tribe who called themselves 'the Red-Earth people'. They are sometimes referred to as the Fox. This originted when the French in Canada confused a clan nane with the tribal name. They are closely linked to the Sauk/Sac. The Meskwaki also call themselves the 'Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa/Meskwaki Nation'. They originated in what is now southern Ontario around the Great Lakes and thus can also be called an Eastern Woodland people. The Meswaki appear to have coalesced in the St. Lawrence River Valley. Other Eastern Woodland tribes also moved west on to the Great Plains, pressued by both other Native American people and the Europeans/Americans. The French were able to maintain amicable relations with most of the tribes in Canda. The French interest was the fur trade. The Meskwaki were an exception. They defended their territory vigorously. The Fox Wars with the French were particularly bloody. The Meskwaki grdually moved west and south into what is now the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa. Eventually the Meskwaki moved south into the tall grass prairie of the American Midwest. The Louisiana Purchse brought the Meskawaki under the jurisdiction of the United States. Louis and Clark did not encounter the Sauk/Fox, but they did encounter the Missouri Indians who had recently been displaced from the north by the Sauk/Fox (1804-06). Trouble with the Meskwaki began at this time. A Sauk war party attacked a boat of the Missouri Fur Company. They killed or captured several Osages on board who were being trnsported to St. Louis to negotiate with U.S. Government representatives (Spring 1804). The British-armed Sauk and Fox warriors represented the principal military threat to the American settlements in the Missouri and Illinois Territories during the War of 1812. Eventually the Meskwaki seem to have been better accepted by American settlers than many other tribes. At a time when many tribes were bein forced into the Jndian Territory, the Iowa legislature passed an unprecedented law permitting the Meskwaki to purchase land and stay in the state (1851). Thisas donecbecause Federal authorities insisted that the Meskwaki people could not legally own land because Indians were not U.S. citizens. The Federal Government did not restrict European land purchases, but wanted to pressure Native Americns to move on to reservations. The Meskwaki took advanage of the Iowa state law and purchased their first 80 acres in Tama County (1857). That same year, many Meskwaki people moved to the settlement and started frming. The U.S. government attemoted to force tried to force the Meskwaki back to a Kansas reservation to the southwest by withholding treaty right annuities. The developing Civil War (1861-65) probably prevented Federal authorities from pursuing the issue more dilagently. After the War, the Federal Government began paying the Treaty payments to the Meskwaki.








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Created: 9:14 PM 11/22/2014
Last updated: 6:44 PM 10/4/2017