The Meskwaki people are of Algonquian origin from the Eastern Woodland culture areas, historically located in the St. Lawrence River Valley (Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa).
During the Fox Wars (1701-1742), the Sauk and Meskwaki allied together moving southward from Wisconsin to Iowa, Illinois and Missouri. In 1842, a final removal treaty was ordered for both tribes to a reservation along the Osage River in the “Indian Territory” of present-day Kansas. The goal, take Native land while confining and controlling Indigenous people. But many Meskwaki remained here and many longed to reclaim their Iowa woodland homeland.
Using strategic diplomacy and with support from neighboring settlers, Tribal leaders lobbied Iowa lawmakers and by July 1856, the state proclaimed the Meskwaki could remain in Iowa indefinitely. The next year, in 1857, the Tribe bought 80 acres of land now called the Meskwaki Settlement. By generating income through trapping and trading, the Tribe continued to purchase additional land. By 1867, the Meskwaki Settlement had expanded to almost 3,000 acres. Today it exceeds 8,100 acres and is the largest employer in Tama County.
Because Meskwaki ancestors had the tenacity and foresight to purchase this land, the Meskwaki Settlement is not, and has never been, an Indian Reservation. It is private property, a sovereign nation. The only one of its kind in the United States.
July 13th is the day set aside to reflect and celebrate that rich heritage. The Settlement is the end result of efforts that began by our People to have a home in order to grow crops, raise children and continue in the rich culture and traditions passed down from generation to generation. On this day, we honor our ancestors, those who came here before us, fought to stay, and endured, as well as thank our community, friends and neighbors who supported us along the way.
On May 27, 1992, Meskwaki Tribal Council passed a resolution commemorating July 13, 1857 as the official Meskwaki National Holiday. Through proclamation they exclaimed…
“Whereas, the Mesquaki Nation of Iowa were the only Indian Tribe to purchase land in Iowa for the establishment of the Mesquaki Indian Settlement on July 13, 1857, and
Whereas, the Mesquaki Nation of Iowa is forever grateful for the foresight and spirit that the tribal leaders who purchased the original lands had for the future of the Mesquaki Nation, and
Whereas, the Mesquaki Nation of Iowa shall always recognize the significant contribution of the original founders and families of the Mesquaki Indian Settlement, and
Whereas, the Mesquaki Nation of Iowa has been and will be able to thrive on their original homelands comprising the Mesquaki Indian Settlement due to the original founders and families who purchased the land, and
BE IT RESOLVED, that the Tribal Council of the Mesquaki Nation of Iowa hereby proclaim the date of July 13, 1857 as a significant date in the Tribe’s history and the Mesquaki Nation will always honor the significant contribution the original founders and families made for the tribe by declaring this date a Meskwaki National Holiday from this date forward…”
To learn more about Meskwaki history, visit our website at www.meskwaki.org/about-us/
In celebration, a special Proclamation Powwow was held at the Meskwaki Powwow Grounds on Tuesday evening, July 12th and Wednesday, July 13th, 2022. A huge success, see all the photos from the event.