The Ioway Indians in the War
by Richard Williams
Numerous Indian nations participated in the War of 1812 and the activities and accomplishments of many of these nations are well documented. We know much about the Shawnee, Miami, Delaware, Iroquois, Ottawa, Ojibwe, Dakota, Menomonie, Winnebago, Sauk and Fox. But, there were other Indian nations who participated in the war and of these we know much less. One of these lesser-known nations is the Ioway. The Ioways were always a small nation, having little influence on the nations surrounding them, but the War of 1812 had a devastating impact upon them.
Their name Ioway is a corruption of a Dakota word borrowed by the French, Ayuhwa, which means "sleepy ones" in the Dakota language. The Ioway word for themselves is Pahodja, which means "dusty noses" in their own language. They were known as the Nez Perces or pierced noses by the fur traders. This is not to be confused with the true Nez Perces of the far west. They were also known as the Nadouessioux Maskoutens or Dakota of the Prairies by the Algonquin peoples.
Tradition states that they along with the Oto and Missouri were once a part of the Winnebago nation. There are strong linguistic ties amongst these four groups. The Ioway-Oto-Missouri separated from the Winnebago and moved into Illinois. At some time they crossed the Mississippi River and eventually divided into the three separate nations. The Ioway moved quite often in the early historic period, being recorded as living on the Iowa River, the Pipestone area of Minnesota and probably as far east as the Blue Earth River, the Big Sioux River and the banks of the Missouri River near Council Bluffs. In the late eighteenth century their villages were found on both the Iowa and Des Moines Rivers. The Ioways had some trade connections with the Spanish out of St. Louis but most of their traders came from Mackinac via Prairie du Chiens. Jean Baptiste Faribault traded with them on the Des Moines River from 1799-1802 (See the May 2000 issue of the Mudduck for Lisa Krahn's article). Thomas G. Anderson traded with the Ioways in 1801-1802.
Their first American contact was with Captain Amos Stoddard in 1803 on the banks of the Des Moines River. He reports their population as 200 warriors and their families. They had recently been attacked by a smallpox epidemic and the nation was dealing with Sauk and Fox and Dakota intruders upon their lands. Ioway lands were being traversed by numerous Indian nations heading north and east to establish trade relations with English fur traders. Lewis and Clark mentioned their lands and said that they were at war with the Kansas Indians. Zebulon Pike's map of 1805 puts one Ioway village on the Des Moines and one on the Iowa rivers. He gives the Ioways 300 warriors, 400 women and a population of about 1400 people. He also states that they own 250 firearms. The Ioway nation consumed about $10,000 worth of trade goods each year and produced about 300 packs of fur for the English traders.
It was felt at this time that the Ioways were inclined to war along with the Sauk against the Americans and arrangements were made to have a delegation of Ioways, along with other nations visit the "Great White Father" in Washington. They arrived in January of 1806 and had a long council with Thomas Jefferson. Also, in 1806 they received their first American Indian Agent, Nicolas Boilvin. Even with an American agent living close to them, the Ioways continued to trade with the English out of Prairie du Chiens.
In 1808, some Ioways were on the Wabash River in Indiana to listen to the words of the Shawnee Prophet, Tenskwatawa. At this time the Ioways appear to be in conflict with the Sauks and were suffering intrusions by the Dakota along the Des Moines River. There was general unrest amongst most of the tribes living west of the Mississippi River. Numerous traders were attacked, plundered and in some cases killed. The Ioways were blamed for at least two of these murders. Two of their men were arrested, tried and convicted in St. Louis. President Jefferson recommended the execution of only one. This caused much unrest amongst the Ioway nation. The convicted warriors eventually escaped.
At the same time the United States had a falling out with the Osage people and Governor Lewis declared an open hunting season for other nations upon the Osage. The Ioways appreciated this because they had been long time enemies of the Osage. The Ioways attacked the Osage for years after this.
Fort Madison was constructed in 1808 on the Mississippi River above the Des Moines. This was intended to bring an American influence among the Ioway and Sauk Nations. The Sauk planned to attack the fort but the garrison was warned by an Ioway warrior and the attack was aborted.
By 1811, the Ioways were intensely involved in lead mining, to the point that Agent Boilvin said that they only hunted now to eat, they made their money from the lead. When war was declared in June of 1812 there was a nine Indian nation council held at the Rock River Sauk village. At this meeting, the Ioway stated that they wished no war with the Sauk and that they were satisfied with the Americans, but would do whatever the Sauks decided to do. The Ioways continued to attack the Osage especially in the area around Fort Osage, eventually driving the Osage away from that fort.
In 1813, there were rumors that some Ioways were at Green Bay eager to receive weapons and ammunition from the British. At this time there seems to have been a split among the Ioway people, some favored the English and some the Americans. The same was true among the Sauks. It may be that the Ioways on the Ioway River favored the British, while those on the Des Moines favored the Americans. The Osage people were given permission to attack any pro-British Indians but were told to leave the Ioway alone. Some Ioways asked for permission to attack the Sauk, the Ioway nation seems to have been in quite a state of turmoil. Some of the Ioways resettled on the Missouri River to get out of the way of the conflict. The Des Moines River Ioways seem to have become active at this time on the side of the British. Ioway warriors participated in the attack on the keelboats at the Rock River Rapids in 1814. They also participated in the attack on the village of Cote sans Dessain in Missouri. 14 Ioways and Sauks were killed here.
Governor Clark appointed Manuel Lisa as a sub-agent for the Missouri River tribes in 1814. He advised the Indian nations that traded along that river to attack the pro-British Ioways, Sauks, Foxes and Dakota. The Omahas attacked the Ioway, annihilated a party and presented their scalps to Lisa. The Poncas also promised to attack the Ioways. The Otos thought about it, but decided to put it off. The Ioways were being attacked from the south and the west and in their divided condition they had a hard time resisting these attacks.
In 1815 Lisa talked some of the Nakota and Lakota people into attacking the Ioway. A war party of 742 men and 92 women invaded the Ioway lands. They met a party of Ioways in June and killed 24 of the 26 members. The other two were delivered over to Lisa as prisoners. They then proceeded to destroy all the Ioway crops along the Chariton River. Unfortunately for these Ioways, they were the people who had declared their loyalty to the Americans.
The Ioways signed a peace treaty ending the war on September 16, 1815. Mutual forgiveness was granted and prisoners were to be returned on both sides.
After this time the Ioways began giving up their traditional lands in a series of treaties. They were no longer numerous enough to contest their lands with the Sauk and Dakota and found it advantageous to be rewarded for their lands from the American government. Gradually they gave up all their claims to land in Minnesota, Missouri and Iowa. They settled for a time in Nebraska, then in Kansas and eventually moved to Oklahoma, where they still reside.
The War of 1812 was the only time the Ioways made war on the Americans and in the long run it cost them not only some lives, but their lands and eventually their traditional way of life.