Truman State University

Hidden Pasts and Indian Lands: The Dispossession of Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe Lands in Northeastern Missouri

Truman State University (TSU) was established in 1867 under the name North Missouri Normal School and Commercial College. TSU underwent many name changes until 1995 when it received its current name. The college campus is situated in Northeast Missouri on 180 acres of land with an additional 400 acre farm. This land has not always belonged to the college though. Only 37 years before TSU was established, settlers and Indians were both claiming a right to the land.  This essay will explain how we uncovered the Native history of Kirksville and discuss how we used this information to create our website

Allan Greer’s book, Property and Dispossession Natives, Empires and Land in Early Modern North America was the introductory source for the class we took this semester, website, and paper. However, while Greer is an important historian for this time period, his book did not really touch northern Missouri. He focuses on Native lands in a mission settlement in New France, an English settlement in Plymouth, and finally a Spanish settlement in Tenochtitlan/Mexico City. The most closely related tribal information, for this area, in his book comes from how the French operated in their colonial space as French missionaries and traders operated similarly in the space that the  tribes from the Northern Missouri area migrated from. This space,the Great Lakes region, is where the Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe, who are the Native American tribes from this area, were the original owners of this land. This essay, and the corresponding website, will examine the process of the dispossession of their ancestral lands in Northern Missouri and Southern Iowa.

This essay is a companion to the website. Therefore, it will begin with a short description on the best way to navigate through the site. The website is comprised of twenty individual pages. When accessing this website from the Hidden Pasts main page, the reader will be directed to a homepage. The homepage information has a mission statement, access to this essay, links to the three main tribes, and a timeline on the dispossession of tribal lands in Missouri pertaining to the aforementioned tribes. These components are present here as this gives the user a the primary introduction for our site before learning specific details about the area. Each of these items offers more details, such as, information on the tribes movements and why those movements happened, to help introduce the reader to the process of dispossession in Northern Missouri.

After learning background information on each of the three tribes from this area, the user can then follow a chronological order. Items under the Pre-Contact heading will help introduce the location as a native space, before moving on to the next heading First Contact that will discuss how the tribe moves after French traders come into the territory and interactions with settlers moving into the area. Additionally, the Pre-Contact heading information, and all of the other drop down menus, can be accessed in order from top to bottom for users to move on their own from topic to topic. Therefore, the best way to view this website is to navigate the menu from left to right following each page to the next. However, if readers are particularly interested in one type of information, certain pages contain buttons which will lead them to related pages on the website. These buttons are green. Some pages also contain orange buttons; the orange buttons lead to pages that are not part of this website. Instead, the information offered on these pages is usually a more in-depth source used while creating the website. These sources offer the reader on opportunity to dive deeper into the subject since this website acts as an introduction to the subject of dispossession.

Finally, each of the pages contain citations for both the content and pictures. All of the pictures are cited in the caption section while content citations are in the footnotes. Some of the citations, particularly for the pictures, are supposed to include italicized information. However, due to some formatting issues on the website, items that were supposed to be italicized may be found in quotations. There is additional bibliography information available on the sources tab if the reader would like to view all of the items that went into the creation of this website. Not all of the items contained in the bibliography are directly cited on the individual pages, but the information they contain was important to the generation of the website content as a cohesive unit.

Now that this essay has given the reader a brief introduction to the best way to access the content on this website, it will give an overview of the content. As was stated earlier, this website focuses on the process of the dispossession of the native lands, of the Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe, in Northern Missouri. These three tribes, while distinct entities, are all related to one other and interrelated. There is evidence to suggest that these three tribes are all descended from the Mississippian Culture tribe of the Oneota. The Oneota’s lands extended from the Great Lakes all the way south to present day Northern Missouri. We know that the Oneoto lived closed in Northern Missouri, because there are petroglyphs dating back to this time at Thousand Hills State Park, 3 miles from Kirksville.

However, this is a relatively European/western way to look at the ancestry of these three tribes. The tribes themselves each have origin tales about how they came to be related to one another and how they came to live in the Kirksville area. Some of these Creation Stories can be found on the website under the Pre-Contact heading. It is important to note that the stories focus on is the process of migration and hunting as a way to determine where each tribe belongs and the people in them. One similarity between the European/western outlook and the tribal creation stories is that these three tribes also believe that they were related to each other at one time. Some of their creation stories speak about the process of a great tribe being formed at the beginning of time through the combining of seven different clans such as the bear, the beaver, the eagle, etc. Other creation stories speak about how this great tribe split up and sections of it migrated south forming the Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe. This was due to poor hunting and lack of food. This Pre-Contact is the focus of the first major section of the website.

Once the reader understands how the Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe came to be in the Kirksville area and view it as their land, it is possible to explain how their ancestral land was taken from them. Beginning in the mid-1600s the tribes in our area developed trade relations with the French. To do this, French fur traders made alliances with many tribes including the Missouria. The Missouria controlled much of the Missouri River and therefore had control of prime trading routes. However, following the French-and-Indian War, the French slowly lost their foothold in North America.

When the French sold their claim on the land, which became known as the Louisiana Purchase, to the United States government in 1803, the U.S. still needed to make treaties with the Native Americans in order to own the territories that they wanted. This is because the United States-American approach to land was much different than the Native Americans approach or even the French approach. The United States settlers wanted to be able to own land outright while the Native American idea of property rights did not include rights to a specific plot of land. Instead, they had hunting or trapping areas that shifted as the seasons changed. When the United States started trying to parcel off land, it led to many conflicts between the settlers and the plains tribes of the Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe because this interrupted their access to seasonal hunting grounds. This attempt to parcel out land also led to a shift in how the land was viewed. While the Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe viewed rivers as integral to the land, white settlers, other than the French, viewed them as boundary lines. The settlers also created artificial boundary lines to mark their own property which was a foreign concept to the Native Americans of the area. To ensure that the settlers could own the rights to their land, it was necessary to convince the Native Americans that they no longer owned the land. This was done through a series of treaties, though the Native Americans did not always understand what these treaties meant.

There were several treaties made between the Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe tribes and the United States government that forced the tribes onto lands much smaller than what they were used to with very little time to prepare for the transition. In the treaty section of the website, the focus will be on the Ioway tribe and the significant treaties that the U.S made with them. One particular treaty, the Treaty of 1824, caused a significant dispute because it was the first treaty that took land from the Ioway tribe. This land included the entire northern half of Missouri except for what is referred to as the Platte Purchase. This area would later be taken from the Ioway and the Sac and the Fox tribe in the Treaty of 1836. By order of the 1824 treaty, the Ioways were required to move out of the area of present day Adair County/Kirksville by January 1, 1826. In return for the sale of the land, the United States was to pay five hundred dollars, annually, for the term of ten successive years and provide the support of a blacksmith as well as furnishing the tribe with farming materials, cattle, and people to help with the tribe’s agriculture. This treaty was signed by two Ioway chiefs, Mahoskah (White Cloud) and Moanahonga (Great Walker/Big Neck), and the Superintendent of Indian Affairs, William Clark. Moanahonga did not understand the terms of the treaty and stayed in the territory which later caused “The Big Neck War” dispute with the incoming settlers.

Other equally important treaties in the Ioway narrative include the Treaty of 1854 which placed the Ioway tribe in Kansas/Nebraska and allowed the U.S. to build railroads and roads on their lands, and the last treaty made with the Iowa tribe in 1861 which ceded most of the lands that they received in Kansas/Nebraska. Their dissatisfaction over the limited space led some of the tribe to leave to a territory in Oklahoma, that they received during this treaty, and this is the current arrangement of Ioway tribal lands. The Otoe-Missouria also received an allotment of lands in Oklahoma through various treaties with the United States government so portions of both tribes can currently be found in this state.

With the introduction of European settlers to the Americas, Native American tribal life was forced to change. Sadly, the combination of events and treaties between the United States government and the Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe led to them losing all of their land in present day Missouri. However, while there are no federally recognized Native American tribes currently residing in Northeastern Missouri, the tribes have been making attempts to regain their ancestral lands and heritage.

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