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Iowa Time Machine: Red Rock Line - May 1, 1843

Iowa Time Machine : On May 1, 1843, the US government required the Sauk and Meskwaki to remove beyond the “Red Rock Line” and into central Iowa. Part of a long process of dispossession, the move opened a greater portion of eastern Iowa to American settlement while pushing the state’s Indigenous peoples further west.

An Algonquin-language people located throughout the upper-Midwest during the pre-American era, the Meskwaki fought the French for nearly forty years to start the 1700s. Allying with the Sauk to fend off extermination at the hands of the French, the Meskwaki eventually moved out of the Great Lakes region to settle in today’s Iowa and Illinois.

The Sauk and Meskwaki also fought against American incursion, choosing to ally predominantly with the British during the War of 1812. In the aftermath, treaties in 1825 and 1830 at Prairie du Chien started the removal of the Sauk and Meskwaki from east of the Mississippi River. Although some leaders, like Wapello, advocated for accommodation of American driven changes, others including Black Hawk fought back. After the Black Hawk War of 1832, treaties during the 1830s and early 1840s ultimately sought to dispossess the tribe and push them into Kansas.

In 1842, the Sauk and Meskwaki signed a treaty for “The New Purchase.” The north–south boundary line stood along the "painted or red rocks on the White Breast," river, near where it flowed into the Des Moines River. The line also stood near the “Peace Tree,” a giant sycamore well known to Indigenous inhabitants and settlers alike. 

After a forced departure from Iowa during October of 1845, the American official overseeing the arrival in Kansas recorded only 20% of the tribe arriving by the end of the following year. Other military reports record finding groups numbering as many as 200 hidden throughout Iowa during the decade to follow.

In 1856 the Iowa General Assembly passed a measure allowing the formal return of the Meskwaki to the State of Iowa, opening the door to the initial land purchase on July 13, 1857. A settlement owned by the sovereign Meskwaki people (not a reservation owned by the federal government), the Meskwaki return to Iowa marks an important moment in the state’s early history. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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