Baxoje Ukiche (Ioway Nation)

Baxoje Ukiche
(Ioway Nation)

Pi ramanyi ho!
(Walk in a good way!)

Iowa Leaders

Rediscovering the Landscape of the Ioway
(Tanji na Che)

The Iowa Tribe was fortunate enough to have an historic preservation grant for the purpose of conducting an oral history. A series of questions were developed to assist in conducting the interviews. Elders were asked to share their memories which were placed on an audio recording, and were given an honorarium. In addition, photographs were gathered and genealogical information. It is our hope that future generations will be able to visit the Iowa Tribe library and hear the voices of their great, great grandparents and see family and historic photos as well. An important element of the Bah-Kho-Je culture is the Wa-Kah, or story telling sessions in which tribal members gathered during the winter to share stories.

In the earliest historical period of 1600, the Ioways, descendants of the Oneota, were in the area of the Red Pipestone Quarry in southwestern Minnesota.  In 1730 they were found living in villages in the Lake Okoboji and Spirit Lake Region of Northwest Iowa.  They moved south to the vicinity of Council Bluffs, Iowa.  In the middle of the 18th century, part of them moved up the Des Moines River.  The remainder established themselves on the Grand and Platte Rivers in Missouri.  In treaties, they ceded their claims to lands in Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota.  The Treaty of 1836 assigned part of them to a reservation along the Great Nemaha River in Nebraska and Kansas.  Later part of the Ioways moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.  The original Iowa Reservation in Oklahoma was established by Executive Order dated August 15, 1883.  The Iowa Nation was now divided into two tribes.  The Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma are the Southern Iowas, and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska are the northern Iowas.

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.

The Iowas began as a Woodland culture, but because of their migration to the south and west, they bgan to adopt elements of the Plains culture, thus culminating in the mixture of the two. The Iowa Nation was probably indgenous to the Great Lakes ares 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.


Dore and Wahredua
Rabbit and Muskrat
Legend of the White Plume

The Iowa tribe belongs to the Siouan linguistic family. While the Iowa seemed to move often they generally remained within the boundaries of the state that still bears their name. In their early history, they located on a western tributary of the Mississippi River and later moved into the northwestern/Iowa Okoboji Lake district as far as the Red Pipestone Quarry, even to the Big Sioux River. The Red Pipestone Quarry was across the Iowa line in southwest Minnesota. Indians from the entire region travelled to obtain the red stone for their pipes, giving name to the surrounding area and the future site of Pipestone National Monument. In the nineteenth century, they encountered the Dakota warriors and were defeated by Black Hawk in 1821. In about 1850, an Oklahoma tract held by the Iowa was granted to them in severalty. Other Iowans were allotted lands extending from the Platte River of Missouri through western Iowa up to Dakota country.

Long ago, near what is now Iowa City, lived a flourishing Iowa Indian tribe. The Chief of the Iowas was very proud of his daughters. He was secretly hoping for one of them to marry the handsome hero White Plume, so called because he always wore one in his black hair.

One day, the Chief smeared his daughters’ faces with charcoal and took them into the woods for them to fast and pray that one of them might attract the White Plume. The girls were most unhappy, crying until all the animals heard them and came running to find out what was the matter.

Each animal in turn asked, “Am I the one you are looking for?”

“What do you do for a living?” they asked. “What animals do you kill for your food?” In this way they learned the nature of the animals. When the girls said, “No, you are not the one,” that animal ran away.

On another day, a man came wearing a white plume. He announced, “Surely I am the one you are seeking. I hunt for deer, elk, bear, turkey, and all the other good things you like to eat.”

Without hesitation, Older Sister decided to marry the man who- wore-the-white-plume. Next morning, Younger Sister said, “You have married the wrong man. Today the real White Plume will come.” Older Sister was very cross and declared emphatically that she was certain she had married the true hero, White Plume.

In the middle of that day, birds began to chatter and sing, “White Plume is coming! White Plume is coming!” Even the meadowlarks, whom the Iowas say are really persons in disguise, were broadcasting loudly, “White Plume! White Plume!” Finally White Plume arrived.

“I believe that I am the one you have been seeking,” he said to the two sisters.

Older Sister did not believe him, but Younger Sister welcomed him warmly. That same day, the two men each claiming to be White Plume went hunting. The real White Plume killed bear and deer, soon returning with his game.

The other hunter brought back only a few rabbits. Again and again the two men hunted, each returning with the same kind of game as before.

In a few days, the Chief of the Iowas came to visit his daughters. When he judged the results of the hunt, he was convinced that the first man who married Older Sister was an imposter. The Chief believed that the man who was the good provider was the real hero, White Plume.

Older sister began to have some doubts about her husband, and asked, “Why do you not kill larger game for us?” Her husband gave a poor excuse, “I do not think the larger game provide such good meat.”

Again the two men hunted together, arriving in a valley where they paw a raccoon. The imposter tricked White Plume into chasing the raccoon into a bog. Now it happened that the imposter had the power to change people; so he changed White Plume into a dog.

Later when the imposter returned to his lodge with the dog following him, he announced, “I found this dog in the woods. White Plume must have hunted in a different direction.”

That night the dog slept in the lodge of Younger Sister. She fed him and made a comfortable place for him to sleep. Next day she took the dog with her into the woods to look for White Plume.

The dog soon killed a sleeping bear and other animals. Together the girl and dog hunted many times, always with success. One day when they were alone in the woods, the dog said to Younger Sister, “Take me to a hollow log and put me in it, then help pull me out at the other end.” This she did. From the other end of the log she pulled out the real White Plume!

When the two of them returned to the lodge, the imposter said to the real White Plume, “You must have been lost in the woods.” White Plume’s answer was casual but pleasant. Later he told his wife, “Some time, I will even the score.”

In a few days, the two hunters started out for more game. White Plume killed a buffalo. They built a campfire, intending to camp there for the night. A sudden snowstorm came upon them. “Watch yourself,” said the imposter. “This kind of a moon will burn your clothes.”

That evening, they told many stories at the campfire, after which they prepared their blankets for a good night’s sleep. Later in the night, White Plume called out to the imposter, but hearing no response, he quietly exchanged his own clothes, which he used for a pillow, with those of the imposter.

Much later in the night, the imposter awoke and stole the clothes from under White Plume’s head and tossed them into the fire.

Next morning was bitter cold. White Plume grabbed for his clothes but they were not under his pillow. “Brother, my clothes are gone,” he shouted, shivering with cold.

“Did I not tell you that this is the moon that burns your clothes?” said the imposter. Then he reached for his own clothes, only to discover that they were White Plume’s clothes! The imposter had burned his own clothes!

Soon they started for home, with White Plume in the lead dragging the frozen buffalo. Somewhere along the way, the imposter must have frozen to death.

White Plume returned to his wife and Older Sister. He supplied them well with plenty of meat for the entire winter. Then he told them and the Chief of the Iowas that he was really an eagle.

“When your supplies run low, I shall return. When your Iowa hunters wish plenty of game, always they should wear an eagle’s white plume in their hair,” said White Plume with this parting blessing. Instantly he became a beautiful large eagle and flew far away.

Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma
RR 1, Box 721
Perkins, OK
(405) 547-2402


by Lance Foster

Enrolled member of Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska

The Pasnute stood against the wind
His tusks gleaming, his horns gleaming
The ones in the water
His bones in the ground
The ones who came found his bones
They could not find him

They could not find the ones in the water
The wind moved always
they did not see
A fishtrap can not catch him
And the mountains were blackened by cold and fire
They did not see

Pahin Tache nahe mahan
hithreje etawe dahahaje, he etawe dahahaje
wahu etawe mahada
se’e hunye wahu uware
irogrenye skunyi
nyidanye irogrenye skunyi….

It is all very wrong
as the Creator makes it so
but let us defend our people, our land, our ways
Or we will truly be dead
The Pahin must stand against the wind
for it is his way
or he is not Pahin
Hintuka, winat’undatan
Grandfather, pity us
dagure lagunstada, se’e ke
whatever you want, that is how it will be
Ho, chugre broke mintawe, heeehan

To the others:
We don’t want you
go away
we do not want what you have
we are poor
go away

I write this in mind of my ancestors in whose land i stand
and especially for Manyixange
The Ioway patriot
Pi ramanyi ho!

Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma
335588 E 750 RD
Perkins, Oklahoma 74059


Iowa Language

Indians in the War

The Iowa


Digital Library Collections

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