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Native American tribes in Civil War Era Iowa
nessataleweaver wrote in little_details
time/place: 1860's USA.

I'm writing a gaslight fantasy set in the 1880's, and one of my characters was adopted as a toddler/pre-schooler by a Native American tribe during the 1860's; he was primarily raised by the tribe's shaman, who taught him how to use an unusual magical talent. The character is from Iowa in the original fandom, so I thought I should stick to it if possible... but I can't figure out what tribe that would be!

I've googled Native American tribes and Iowa history, and found that a number of tribes were around... but the stuff I've come across seems to all be around the Great Lakes, and I was hoping for something around the Plains area.

Also A) this character is white; if the tribe historically did things like torture captives, that crosses them off the list. B) the Trail of Tears (1830's) hasn't happened, or only on a much smaller scale, due to the Native Americans possessing powerful earth magic; while the tribal lands have shrunken considerably, most of the tribes are still wherever their ancestral lands are. C) I'd really like a tribe that still has at least records of their language available, because I'd like the character to use some phrases (mostly endearments and swear words!) with his magically bonded partner.

the stuff I've come across seems to all be around the Great Lakes, and I was hoping for something around the Plains area.

Iowa is not exactly next door to the Great Lakes, so that's unusual!

Have you investigated this page at all?

Your fundamental problem is that in the real world, by the 1830s, various Native American tribes had been moving into and out of the upper Midwest since the fur trade became a thing - meaning, since the late 17th and 18th centuries. In various places, groups trying to corner the fur market drove out pre-existing groups; then, after the 1780s, multiple groups were shoved westwards by Americans and moved into or passed through the region, only to be displaced by later groups and then the Americans. Identifying the "real" natives of the region is pretty much impossible.

Given your brief description, I'd suggest picking one of the more historically powerful groups in or near the region, and saying that it had established and kept control of the area since [choose a date].

You might consider the Dakota Sioux, that was part of their territory (nomads).

I know a bit about the Native Americans who lived along the Missouri River, though mostly in Nebraska (the west bank of the river). Wikipedia tells me that the Omaha moved to the Missouri Valley from the Ohio Valley in the 17th century, thanks to pressure from the Haudenosaunee (more commonly known as the Iroqouis*). I remember the Omaha language was offered as a course at the University of Nebraska, so there might be material online to help you.

The Otoe were another tribe in the Missouri Valley.

(I also recall that in the 17th century, escaped horses made it across the Great Plains, there was a giant change in Plains cultures once they domesticated horses, so it might be impossible to disentangle that from the ripple effect of settlers out east.)

* I don't know if this would have happened in your universe; the Haudenosaunee were east enough that they would have been interacting with European settlers at that point.

if the tribe historically did things like torture captives, that crosses them off the list

In that case, he definitely should not be raised by Europeans.

Most Iowa tribes were settled or semi-settled farmers, i.e. they lived primarily in earth lodges, but used tipis on extended hunting trips at certain times of the year. You are not going to find Plains-style nomads there to any significant degree. If that's definitely what you're looking for, your most likely bet is the Dakota, who sometimes ranged that far south and were reported in Iowa during the period you're looking for, but they lived primarily to the north, in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

As someone else mentioned, tribes were being shoved in and out of Iowa by pressure from other tribes and European settlers for decades (centuries, really) before the Civil War era, so it's hard to say what really classifies as a "native" tribe of the state.

For example, the state of Iowa is named for the Iowa (aka Ioway) tribe but they sold their lands in Iowa in the 1830s to the US government and moved to the Kansas/Nebraska border. Their relatives the Ho-Chunk were also historically found in Iowa, but were devastated by disease during the 18th century, to the point that only a few thousand individuals survived as of the mid-19th century.

Around the same time the Iowa left, the Meskwaki (aka Fox) were pushed into Iowa from the Great Lakes region, and they maintain a presence there to this day. The Meskwaki's allies the Sauk (look up "Black Hawk" for more on their history in this period) were also in and out of the region during the early and mid-19th century.


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