Creation Stories of the Ioway and Otoe-Missouria

The Ioway

The Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe tribes are descended from the Winnebago (Ho-Chunck). The Winnebago are from the Northern United States, particularly the Great Lakes area. Many of the origin tales for this overarching tribe say that they worked their way down from the North, and as they traveled they ran into food shortages. When the shortage was particularly bad, certain groups within the larger tribe would split off and travel to a new area. This is what happened with the Ioway, Missouria, and Otoe. They left the Winnebago and the Great Lakes region and settled throughout current day Iowa and Missouri.

These three current day tribes had similar origins and subsequently similar origin myths/tales. The tribes are said to be made up of clans such as the Bear, Beaver, Elk, Eagle (Thunderbird), Buffalo, Pigeon, and Owl. One website that told about the Ioway’s creation story said that the Bear Clan is mostly made up of descendants of the White Cloud family which is named after Chief Mahoskah (White Cloud) who was a major Ioway Chief in the 1800s. Since many of the Ioway stories and artifacts that have been mentioned on this website are about Chief Mahoskah (White Cloud), it is possible that the Ioway from this area are part of the Bear Clan. Additionally, it seems that most of the Mahoskah (White Cloud) family settled in the Kansas Nebraska tribal lands.

There are many origin narratives for the Bear Clan with 12 different ones listed on one site. One of the most consistent parts of the tales is that the Bear Clan members actually started out as bears and were transformed into humans. They were/are also the soldiers of their people; they protected them and policed the other tribes. Additionally, the Bear Clan is connected to the day and the earth. Elements such as colors (blue) and directions (north) are used in the stories to signify this connection. Some histories also say that they were the leaders of the tribe or that they were secondary leaders after the Thunderbird Clan which was considered to be the most powerful.


Dieterle, Richard L. “Bear Clan Origin Myths.” The Encyclopedia of Hočąk (Winnebago) Mythology, 3 March 1999, Accessed 29 October 2018. 

Foster, Lance. “The Clans.” Ioway Cultural Institute: Culture: Traditions, Accessed 29 October 2018.

“The Ioway Tribe – People of Iowa.” 2018, Legends of America, 2018, Accessed 29 October 2018.

The Otoe-Missouria

While there are several tribes that have been in the Adair County are whether that be for trading or overlapping hunting areas, two tribes of these tribes, after an outbreak of smallpox, became one tribe. This is the Otoe-Missouria tribe. The story is about the seven surviving clans of the tribe. These clans are the Bear, Beaver, Elk, Eagle, Buffalo, Pigeon, and Owl. This is just one version of their creation story. 

The Creation Story Summarized: 

The beginning of this story starts with the land being nothing but water. This water created all things such as the plant and animal life. It is from this water that the Bear Clan emerges. As they rise, they notice that they are not the first clan to arrive, and they plan to kill this other tribe when they discover it is the Beaver Clan. The Beaver Clan, who is known to be diplomatic, suggests that they live in harmony and the Bear Clan agrees. Time passes and these two clans come across the Elk Clan who they desire to kill, but the Elk Clan also convinces the two clans to allow them join with them. They later agree to become brothers. A sky clan comes through the air and notices these three other tribes. This would be the Eagle Clan. The Eagle Clan approaches the three clans and the clan grows again. 

After this growing period, the clans begin to share their knowledge that had once only belonged to their individual clans. This was done in order to better the group as a whole. The clans determined that they needed to learn how to live and for such knowledge they called upon Waconda who is known as the Creator. They gained knowledge that became sacred and rights that are associated with a sacred pipe. Later, the Bear, Beaver, Elk and Eagle Clans come across a group of other clans. These were the Buffalohead (now referred to as Buffalo), Snake (now extinct), Owl, and Pigeon. This new set of clans were the owners of the sacred pipe that Waconda had gifted to them, and they offered it to the Bear, Beaver, Elk, and Eagle Clans. This was refused at first until the Bear, Beaver, Elk, and Eagle clans softened and accepted the pipe. They then make a similar gesture to these new clan members and so they joined together and everything could begin. 


“Otoe-Missouria Creation Story.” The Otoe-Missouria Tribe, 2017, Accessed 30 October 2018.