Saturday, October 6, 2018

The People

The Two-Leggeds, the People, lived in family groups, bands and villages across the Great Island, the Earth. They spoke variations of the Language. Those that lived closest to each other, spoke the closest variations, while those very far away varied more, maybe a harder g became a k, or an ah became an oh, but the Language was still the Language.

There were the People Of This Place and the People Over There. Sometimes, the People We Like and the People Who Annoy Us, But all were The People, all relatives. Their lands stretched over the wide world, and they moved about woodlands, rivers, lakes and prairies.

Occasionally the People encountered other Two Leggeds, whose speech was unintelligible, and maybe their customs were different, but they could be traded with, married, and sometimes squabbled or feuded with. They were those Other Ones. When one of the People went to live with them, their children and grandchildren learned those languages and ways, and in a few generations were those Other People. And when one of the Other Ones came and lived with the People, then their children and grandchildren learned the People’s Ways and they became the People too.

Things were traded far and wide, both by neighbors and kin swapping goods and stories, and by traveling traders from way far off, who had even more strange stories and goods, some almost unbelievable, yet there the goods showed the truth of what they said. Pelts and claws of animals and colorful feathers of birds the People of This Place had never seen before. Stones like the Sky. Black glossy stones dark as night, but at the same time one could hold them up to the sky and one could see the Light right through them. And they could be shaped into the most unbelievably sharp tools; but they could also break so easily. Other small stones the color of light, of fire, that was soft and could be shaped into just about anything, like the fiery glance of a Thunderer.

Things came and went through hands very quickly, because to hoard and hide things showed an evil heart, and one was measured as a Person by what one did and what one gave, not what one had.

When People lived in a Place for a long time, they knew it and became it, they merged with a location as Home. They were the People of this Place, they made marks on that Place as Home: scratches, carving into or painting at  special places on cliffs and bluffs and entrances into the Mother, and making heaps of earth in shapes simple and complex. They had special relationships with Places and the Other Persons who lived in those places, Four Leggeds and Wingeds, and those relationships with All Our Relatives shaped those heaps of earth too.

Sometimes new ideas arrived, new ideas, some were tried, some were too strange; some worked and some didn’t. Planting new things, corn, beans and squash, with their own requirements and ceremonies, but which grew less successfully the farther into the Cold North, so the people there kept with the older Wild Rice ways, and the Corn People and Rice People traded to taste different things, which was enjoyable and kept friendships going.
Occasionally people had visions and experiences which brought new insights and relationships with the Mysteries of the world. New Ceremonies and new shapes and directions of very Old Ceremonies.

People far away had been far away so long, when they traveled, they began to find Those Ones’ ways of talking hard to understand anymore, though they knew they were related.
Thinking from far away drifted north up the Great River at times. Some People accepted these new ideas, and some did not care for them. The People drifted apart in their dialects of the Language, and began to think of each other as different in their ways too. Which was a little suspect, a little annoying.

Winters became colder and longer, and people looked more inwards, and friendships sometimes began to fray. New alliances and boundaries of Us and Them. Sometimes it was hard to remember we were all The People.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

BI PESGE ETAWE (bee-PAY-skeh-EY-tah-way) THE FROG'S MOON (2016: March 10 - April 7).

Months? While people want to know the names of months in our language, to really understand you have to get away from the calendar you are familiar with, which was arranged by the Romans and perpetuated today (echoes of the Roman Empire!) Traditionally, the original Ioway calendar (and that of most tribes) was based on the cycles of the moon (month comes from the word "moon", as in "many moons ago"). A month went from the New Moon, through the Full Moon and ended with the dark of the Moon. So how can you tell what cycle the moon is in? By the direction the crescent is pointing. You can look up at the moon and think of the English word "DOC" (what's up doc?) to remember the cycle. The waxing crescent (moon is getting fuller) is the curve in the letter D (like a backwards C). The O is the full moon. The waning crescent (going to the end of the month, getting smaller) is the C.

So what month is this? The moon cycle varies from year to year, as does the solar calendar. That's why for the solar calendar you are familiar with, there is a Leap Year, every 4 years, to make up for the extra days in a solar year. But the moon calendar makes up for it in a different way, by adding a month every few years. Some cultures did that around midsummer and others did it in midwinter. It seems our people did it in midwinter, adding an extra Bear Jumping Month every couple of years, the way the U.S. calendar adds a Leap Year every couple of years. That's the reason for Big Bear Jumping and Little Bear Jumping: The Little Bear Month is the extra month every few years. For now, don't worry too much about it.

So what Ioway month is it now? It is Bi Pesge Etawe (bee-PAY-skeh-EY-tah-way): The Frog's Moon (Moon-Frog-His/Its/Hers) (2016: March 10 - April 7)
Indian New Year starts with the greening of earth we see around us, and the first thunder; this marks the end of storytelling season. Some say the first thunder wakes the frogs from their winter sleep in the mud. When the Frogs begin to sing and thunder comes, this starts new year.

Now that storytelling season is over with, it is time to switch gears to new subjects. I am going to start getting back to studying plants and birds on the Iowa reservation here in Kansas and Nebraska, and will be sharing some of what I learn here, and hope others get into birds and plants too.

Both our traditional culture and science can teach us a lot. While there is a cultural focus on edible and medicinal plants, it's important to get to know as many as possible: trees, brush, flowers, because they all depend on each other as do we on them. And it's fun to watch the birds, not just to learn to identify them, but to learn about their behavior and bird language. We can share what we learn about our birds and plants in the Baxoje Wosgąci: Iowa Tribal Museum and Culture Center group, and think about what exhibits might help us learn about them and how they related, and still relate, to our Ioway culture and life today, keeping both us and our land healthy and alive.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bioregional Animism of the Great Nemaha Country (Northeast Kansas, Southeast Nebraska, Northwest Missouri), part 1

When I lived in Montana, I developed information on the bioregion and spirits of place there, based on the ecology and biology of the region (bioregion, or ecoregion) and the ancient traditions of the indigenous peoples of the region. Those posts and background can be read about here.

Now I am going to take those principles and apply them here, to the Iowa Reservation specifically and the Big Nemaha Country and its associated Missouri River Valley segment. This is a different kind of challenge, because although it is much smaller than all of Montana, it is in portions of three different states: northeastern Kansas, southeastern Nebraska, and northwestern Missouri. Sources are at the end of this post.

1. The primary focus is the land within the 1861 boundaries of the Diminished Iowa Reservation, or the Iowa Reservation we know today, bounded on the north by the Big Nemaha River, which are the same as the boundaries today, but are heavily checker boarded as to actual ownership, much of our reservation alienated and lost to nonIndians due to the Dawes Allotment Act of 1887.

2. The secondary area is the land of the original 1836-1861 boundaries of the Iowa Reservation, which extended further south, past Highland, KS. The purpose of the concern with these lands which were lost is that we have old village and burial sites within this lost portion of the reservation. Associated towns include White Cloud, Rulo, Falls City, Hiawatha, and Highland.

3. The lands directly north of the Big Nemaha will be addressed as well, for two reasons. First, those lands were part of the Nemaha Halfbreed Tract, a reservation for the mixed-blood descendants of French fathers and Indian mothers of various tribes, including the Iowa, which existed from 1830-1860. After that reservation was extinguished, many of the people married into the families on the Iowa Reservation just across the river, to whom many were already related. Second, those lands north of the river are part of the bioregion. Some locations in the Halfbreed Tract include Barada and Indian Cave State Park.

4. Finally, because this is a natural geography that underlies the cultural geography, a broader sense of the natural setting in which the reservation was located, centered on the hydrogeography of the Big Nemaha River, its tributaries and its outflow into the Missouri River. After all, while the cultural history of the indigenous people reflects the beliefs associated with this land, the rivers form the primary organizing structures of this bioregion. And across the river in Missouri, the Platte Purchase country was the home of the Iowa just before we were removed to our reservation, and the tribe still has interests in that country as well.


Physiographic Region according to the Kansas  Geological Survey:
"Glaciated Region - This area is bounded by the Kansas and Blue rivers. There are rounded hills and broad valleys with glacial deposits of quartzite on some of the hills."


EPA Ecoregions:
"Western Cornbelt Plains, including Missouri Alluvial Plain, Nebraska Kansas Loess Hills, Glacial Drift Hills." In Kansas this extends south past Atchison, all the way to Leavenworth. Complete information from :

47. Western Corn Belt Plains

47d. Missouri Alluvial Plain [Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri]
Square Miles: 559
Physiography: Glaciated. Level floodplain alluvium. Riparian wetlands largely drained.
Geology: Alluvial deposits over Cretaceous sandstone and shale (Carlile shale through Dakota sandstone) in the north, and Pennsylvanian shale, sandstone, and limestone to the south [The latter is the case here].
Potential Natural Vegetation: Northern floodplain forest: cottonwood, green ash, boxelder, and elm, with lowland tallgrass prairie: big bluestem, prairie cordgrass, switchgrass, and sedges.
Land Use and Land Cover: Intensively farmed for corn and soybeans. Transportation corridor with most areas drained by surface ditches, land grading, or protected by dams or levees.

47e. Loess Hills and Rolling Prairies [Missouri]

47f. Rolling Loess Prairies [Missouri]

47h. Nebraska Kansas Loess Hills [Kansas, Nebraska]
Square Miles: 3333
Physiography: Glaciated. Deep, rolling loess covered hills. Perennial streams.
Geology: Loess mantle with underlying calcareous glacial till on Pennsylvanian shale, sandstone, and limestone.
Potential Natural Vegetation: Tallgrass prairie: big bluestem, Indiangrass, switchgrass, and little bluestem. Scattered oak hickory forests and some floodplain woodlands along rivers and streams: bur oak, basswood, black walnut, green ash, plains cottonwoods, and willows.
Land Use and Land Cover: Principally in cropland except on the steep slopes, which are in trees and pasture. Corn, soybeans, small grains, and alfalfa are typical crops.

47i. Glacial Drift Hills
Square Miles: 6460
Physiography: Glaciated. Rolling low hills. Perennial streams.
Geology: Loess and clay loam calcareous glacial till. Loess is variable. Generally loess depth decreases with distance from source rivers. Pennsylvanian shale, sandstone, and limestone and Permian shale and limestone.
Potential Natural Vegetation: Tallgrass prairie with cottonwood dominated forests along floodplains and oak hickory forests on bluffs.
Land Use and Land Cover: Predominately cropland on the flatter loess hills with main crops of wheat and corn, and some areas in grain sorghum, soybeans, and alfalfa. Pastureland is more extensive on till soils.

47m. Western Loess Hills (Missouri)


The land cover today is almost entirely used for agricultural cropland and pasture, with some tracts in conservation (CRP), and some remnant portions so rugged and dissected through erosion they are considered nearly useless for anything other than hunting.

However the potential vegetation does remain in these eroded areas, though much has also been logged or damaged through invasive plant species. Potential vegetation of the bioregion includes Floodplain Vegetation, Oak-Hickory Forest, Tallgrass Prairie, and mixtures of these.



Sunday, September 13, 2015

This Week: 200th Anniversary of the 1815 Treaty Between the Ioway and the U.S.

Know Your Treaties. This week, on Wednesday Sept. 16, is the 200th Anniversary of our 1815 Treaty with the United States. This Treaty signed at Portage des Sioux, Missouri, established peace and friendship between the Iowa Tribe and the U.S. after the War of 1812, in which the Iowa fought with the majority of the Sauk (such as Black Hawk) and others like Tecumseh of the Shawnee on the side of Great Britain against the Americans. They knew the ultimate goal of the Long Knives (Mahi-Xanye: Knife-Big, the Indian name for the cavalry swords), the Americans, was their lands. The British had tried to stop the American settler advance at the Appalachians. This is why we chose the British side, and how we came to lose everything.

A few Iowas had remained loyal to the U.S. by joining the pro-American Otoe in Nebraska during the war. In 1809, the President of the U.S. had recognized Hard Heart (an alias of White Cloud I, father of White Cloud II) as the Ioway's head chief, because of his loyalty to the U.S.  Hard Heart (not No Heart, his brother) was father of White Cloud II. The U.S. rewarded this loyalty by appointing/recognizing White Cloud as Head Chief of the Iowas, although the Iowa were traditionally led by a council of many clan chiefs/elders who held various offices to promote equality and a balance of power.

IMPORTANT: This treaty effectively put the Ioway under the power of the U.S. through creating a head chief loyal to the U.S. and this was the beginning of the head chief idea.

Full text of the Treaty of 1815:

TREATY WITH THE IOWA, 1815 (Treaty of Portage des Sioux (Missouri))

A treaty of peace and friendship, made and concluded at Portage des Sioux, between William Clark, Ninian Edwards, and Auguste Chouteau, Commissioners Plenipotentiary of the United States of America, on the part and behalf of the said States, of the one part; and the undersigned, King, Chiefs, and Warriors, of the Iaway Tribe or Nation, on the part and behalf of the said Tribe or Nation, of the other part.

The parties being desirous of re-establishing peace and friendship between the United States and the said tribe or nation, and of being placed in all things, and in every respect, on the same footing upon which they stood before the war, have agreed to the following articles:


Every injury, or act of hostility, by one or either of the contracting parties against the other shall be mutually forgiven and forgot.


There shall be perpetual peace and friendship between all the citizens of the United States and all the individuals composing the said Iaway tribe or nation.


The contracting parties do hereby agree, promise, and oblige themselves, reciprocally to deliver up all the prisoners now in their hands, (by what means soever the same may have come into their possession,) to the officer commanding at St. Louis, to be by him restored to their respective nations, as soon as it may be practicable.


The contracting parties, in the sincerity of mutual friendship, recognize, re-establish, and confirm, all and every treaty, contract, and agreement, hereto fore concluded between the United States and the said Iaway tribe or nation.

In witness whereof, the said William Clark, Ninian Edwards, and Auguste Choteau, commissioners as aforesaid, and the aforesaid king, chiefs, and warriors, have hereunto subscribed their names and affixed their seals, this sixteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and fifteen, and of the independence of the United States the fortieth.

William Clark
Ninian Edwards
Auguste Choteau

Ranoingga, the little pipe, his x mark
Wohomppee, the broth, his x mark
Wyingwaha, or hard heart, his x mark
Shongatong, the horse jockey, his x mark
Wongehehronyne, or big chief, his x mark
Nahocheininugga, without ears, his x mark
Wonehee, or the slave, his x mark
Conja, the plumb, his x mark,
Hahraga, the forked horn, his x mark
Chahowhrowpa, the dew-lap, his x mark
Eniswahanee, the big axe, his x mark
Manuhanu, the great walker, his x mark
Washcommanee, the great marcher, his x mark
Chapee, the pine buffaloe, his x mark
Wyimppishcoonee, the ill-humoured man, his x mark
Okugwata, the roller, his x mark
Ishtagrasa, grey eyes, his x mark

Done at Portage des Sioux, in the presence of--

R. Wash, secretary to the commission
Samuel Solomon, interpreter
Dl. Bissel, brigadier-general
Maurice Blondeaux
R. Paul, C. C. T.
Louis Dorion
Samuel Brady, lieutenant
Dennis Julien
Geo. Fisher, surgeon, Illinois regiment
Jas. McCulloch, captain
P. Choteau, agent.
Jno. W. Johnson, United States factor and Indian agent

Saturday, June 27, 2015

This Old House

This ole house once knew my children
This ole house once knew my wife
This ole house was home and comfort
As we fought the storms of life
This ole house once rang with laughter
This ole house heard many shouts
Now she trembles in the darkness
When the lightnin' walks about

Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer
Ain't a-gonna need this house no more
Ain't got time to fix the shingles
Ain't got time to fix the floor
Ain't got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend no window pane
Ain't gonna need this house no longer
I'm a-gettin' ready to meet the saints

This ole house is a-gettin' shaky
This ole house is a-gettin' old
This ole house lets in the rain
This ole house lets in the cold
On my knees I'm gettin' chilly
But I feel no fear or pain
'Cause I see an angel peekin'
Through a broken window pane

Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer
Ain't a-gonna need this house no more
Ain't got time to fix the shingles
Ain't got time to fix the floor
Ain't got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend no window pane
Ain't gonna need this house no longer
I'm a-gettin' ready to meet the saints

Now this ole house is afraid of thunder
This ole house is afraid of storms
This ole house just groans and trembles
When the night wind flings its arms
This ole house is a-gettin' feeble
This ole house is a-needin' paint
Just like me it's tuckered out
But I'm a-gettin' ready to meet the saints

Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer
Ain't a-gonna need this house no more
Ain't got time to fix the shingles
Ain't got time to fix the floor
Ain't got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend no window pane
Ain't gonna need this house no longer
I'm a-gettin' ready to meet the saints

And my old hound dog lies a sleepin'
He don't know I'm gonna leave
Else he'd wake up by the fire place
And he'd sit down, howl and grieve
But my huntin' days are over
Ain't gonna hunt the coon no more
Gabriel done brought in my chariot
When the wind blew down the door

Ain't a-gonna need this house no longer
Ain't a-gonna need this house no more
Ain't got time to fix the shingles
Ain't got time to fix the floor
Ain't got time to oil the hinges
Nor to mend no window pane
Ain't gonna need this house no longer
I'm a-gettin' ready to meet the saints
I'm ready to meet the saints

Saturday, April 4, 2015

My Bones will be Mountains

My bones will lie here in the dark
for a million years
Joining the darkness
Joining the rock
Until they are no longer bones
But rock
And an eon from now
The roiling and turning of the earth
will push that rock
into the light of the sun
And my bones will be mountains.

-Lance Foster, 4/4/15

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Birds have been restless the last week or so… Good news, went outside, sunny and nice, and a beautiful voice filled the air…I looked and saw a bright red bird in a tree...Mr. Cardinal (wayinye-shuje) is singing his courtship song!