The Iowas began as a Woodland culture, but because of their migration to the South and West, they began to adopt elements of the Plains culture, thus culminating in the mixture of the two. The Iowa Nation was probably indigenous to the Great Lakes areas and part of the Winnebago Nation. At some point a portion moved southward, where they separated again. The portion which stayed closest to the Mississippi River became the Iowa; the remainder became the Otoe and Missouria.
The Iowa, or Ioway, lived for the majority of its recorded history in what is now the state of Iowa. The Iowas call themselves the Bah-Kho-Je which means grey snow, probably derived from the fact that during the winter months their dwellings looked grey, as they were covered with fire-smoked snow. The name Iowa is a French term for the tribe and has an unknown connection with ‘marrow.’ Their language is a Chiwere dialect of the Sioux language.
Our mission is “To improve the economic and social quality of life, for our tribal members and the adjacent communities.”
The Iowa Tribe relocated many times during its history; the mouth of the Rock River in present Illinois, the Root River in present Iowa, the Red Pipestone Quarry in southwestern Minnesota, and the Spirit Lake/Lake Okiboji area of what is now Iowa. For many years they maintained a village near Council Bluffs, Iowa, abandoning it because of aggression by the Sioux and a desire to locate closer to the French traders. Thereafter, the Iowa lived primarily near the Des Moines River on the Chariton/Grand River Basin.
With the encroachment of white settlers into western lands, the Iowa Tribe ceded their lands in 1824 and were given two years in which to vacate. Additional lands were ceded in 1836 and 1838, and the Tribe was removed to an area near the Kansas-Nebraska border. The Iowas, once a proud nation whose native lands encompassed an area of the Missouri and Mississippi River Valleys in what is presently Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska, now found themselves with a strip of land ten miles wide and twenty miles long. Subsequent treaties would find this land even further reduced.
The dissatisfaction with their conditions and treatment resulted in a number of Iowa tribal members leaving the Kansas-Nebraska reserve in 1878 and moving to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). In 1883 an Iowa reservation was created there, but Iowas who wished to remain on the land in the north were allowed to do so. Today the two are recognized as separate entities. The Northern Iowa are headquartered in White Cloud, Kansas, while the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma has offices in Perkins, Oklahoma.