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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.
Meskwakies originally lived in the lower peninsula of Michigan. In 1667, when the French first met the tribe, they were living in villages along the Fox and Wolf rivers in east-central Wisconsin. Hunting parties ranged into northern Illinois, however, and by 1700 Meskwaki hunters frequently hunted bison on the prairies of northern Illinois.FUR TRADE in northern Illinois and Wisconsin that the French sent several expeditions against the Meskwaki villages. SAUK at Green Bay. After 1733 the Meskwakies and Sauk lived together, first in Wisconsin, then in the lower Rock River Valley of northwestern Illinois, and finally in Iowa. MISSISSIPPI RIVER village sites in 1829 such as Galena, Savanna, and Prairie Du Chien. In 1832 a treaty forced the Meskwaki out of their Iowa-side Mississippi River villages such as Dubuque, Bellevue, Clinton, Davenport, and Burlington. In 1836, the Meskwaki were also forced to leave their eastern Iowa villages of present-day Iowa City and Cedar Rapids. (2)
By order of Article III of the 1842 Treaty, the Sauk and Fox were to leave Iowa by October 11, 1845 to lands in Kansas assigned to them. The treaty terms allowed for a gradual relocation process of two steps taking place over a period of three years. (3)
The first move in 1843 was to be to the western part of the ceded land past a boundary called “Painted Rocks” or “Red Rocks” and the second move was to be across the Iowa border into Kansas by the 1845 deadline. However, the actual removal process was not a smooth transition due to repeated treaty violations by the Meskwaki, who kept returning to old village sites in the eastern part of the state. Government Agent John Beach threatened the Meskwaki with full military action, indicating that one way or another the tribe would be “gone” by October 11th. After antagonizing Agent Beach with delays, the Meskwaki march began on October 8th, but not in the same orderly manner as the Sauks. The Meskwaki rapidly left in very small groups fifteen minutes apart. This made it very difficult for the military to keep track of who had left, which direction they headed, and how intact the groups stayed during the course of the journey. Agent Beach discovered that by early winter of that same year, only one-fifth of the Meskwaki population was reported at the Kansas “Osage River” reservation. (4)
Members of the tribe played an important role during WORLD WAR II. The "Code Talkers" spoke in their own language over open channels since the Germans had no one capable of interpreting them. Nearly 70 years after eight Meskwaki men were trained to use their native language to provide secure battlefield communication, members of the Tama-based community accepted the Congressional Gold Medal on behalf of their ancestors. (5) Today, people from the Meskwaki settlement near Tama, Iowa, form part of the modern Native American community.
1. "Meskwaki History," Online: http://www.msswarriors.org/history/MeskinteractiveCD1/Pages/Culture/HistoryHomePage.htm
2. Buffalo, Johnathan L. "Meskwaki Anthology," Online: http://www.msswarriors.org/history/MeskinteractiveCD1/Pages/Culture/Anthology/BuffaloTreatyof1842.htm
5. Lynch, James Q. "Meskwaki ‘Code Talkers’ Receive Congressional Gold Medal," Cedar Rapids Gazette, March 28 2014, Online: http://thegazette.com/2013/11/20/meskwaki-code-talkers-receive-congressional-gold-medal