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Iowa History Daily: April 5 - Lewis & Clark & Indigenous Iowa

Iowa History Daily: On the evening of April 5, 1804, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark sat down to write speeches inviting representatives from the Báxoje (Ioway) and Yanktonai to Washington D.C. As the Americans prepared for their famous journey up the Missouri River. Written at the expedition’s winter camp at Wood River, Illinois, Lewis entrusted the messages to Des Moines River trader Lewis Crawford.

“Last night wrote the Speaches, to the Aiyous [Iowas] & [Yanktonai Sioux?]....Send by Mr. Crawford Some queries reletive to the Indians, and Vocabulary also some instruction &c.” recorded William Clark in his journal entry for April 6, 1804. Crawford, an Agent of the Northwest Company, worked with Jean Baptiste Faribault who operated a post often referred to as Redwood and located roughly two-hundred miles from the mouth of the Des Moines River. Crawford served as the company’s agent at the Des Moines confluence with the Mississippi.

Faribault’s records suggest the “Ayouwais” lived roughly forty leagues up the “Demoin” in a village of roughly eight hundred people. In 1803, the trader estimated he traded $3,800 worth of merchandise with the Ioway in exchange for $6,000 worth of “deer skins, principally, and the skins of black bear, beaver, otter, grey fox, raccoon, muskrat, and mink.” Faribault annually made a trip from his post likely near the modern day site of Des Moines to Crawford’s post, at which point the two likely exchanged the letters from Lewis & Clark.

Before the expedition embarked up the Missouri during May, Lewis also gave instructions to Captain Amos Stoddard to keep an eye out for a delegation of Ioway who might arrive in St. Louis in order to advance on to Washington D.C. “A deputation from a large band of Sioux and Ayawas nation, residing on the river Demoin, may be shortly expected to arrive here with this view [to visit Washington City]; they have been invited to this place by me thro’ the Agency of Mr. Crawford for the purpose of going on to the seat of General Government,” wrote Lewis on May 16, 1804. The Ioway did not immediately accept the offer to journey east to the American capitol, but did send representation to St. Louis for treaty proceedings in 1805. The treaty served to establish boundaries between tribes throughout the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 while also asserting American sovereignty. Following the War of 1812, where parts of the tribe allied with the British, the Treaty of 1815 again asserted American sovereignty over the Ioway. In 1824, Ioway leaders White Cloud and Great Walker finally fulfilled the initial request by Lewis & Clark to visit Washington. The leaders signed the Treaty of 1824, selling most of the northern-half of Missouri. Additional treaties in 1825, 1830, and 1836 resulted in further dispossession of Ioway lands while pushing the tribe further west.

In 1837, Ioway leaders Na’je Nine (Non-chi-ning-ga) and Ñiyu Mañi (Neo-Man-Ni) to assert claims over traditional lands in Iowa. Na'je Nine presented a detailed map of the lands and implored the Americans: “This is the route of my forefathers. It is the lands that we have always claimed from old times. We have the history. We have always owned this land. It is what bears our name.” The government chose to side with the current occupants of the lands, the Sauk and Meskwaki, in spite of the detail provided by the Ioways leaders. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaHistoryCalendar #IowaOTD


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