Meskwaki Settlement

The Mesquakie Indian Settlement in 1905

L. Edward Purcell wrote about Duren H. Ward's expedition to the Settlement in the summer of 1905. Click on the title to read this article.

Land acquisition in Tama County, Iowa

On July 13, 1857, the Meskwaki purchased their first 80 acres in Tama County. A small band gathered in a summer village on the west bank of the Iowa River, but they scattered in all directions to their winter camps.

Every year between 1857 and 1866, different groups of Meskwaki returned to the Settlement in Tama County, with the majority coming to the area after 1862. The tribe traded 130 trees to obtain funds to purchase another parcel of 40 acres in January 1867.

In 1867, the United States government finally allowed the Meskwaki living in Iowa to receive federal annuity payments for the first time in ten years. By generating income through trapping and by accumulating annuity payments, the tribe was able to purchase additional land between 1867 and 1901.

This expanded the Meskwaki Settlement to almost 3,000 acres. The Settlement stayed the same until 1987, and this area is commonly referred to the “Old Settlement.” The Lincoln Highway (old Highway 30) ran through the original 80 acres, located on the southern end of the lands.

In 1987, the Meskwaki purchased more land, expanding their holdings to 7,054 acres. Although the tribe’s summer village and housing were originally built on river bottom land or along the Iowa River Valley, the tribe gradually acquired land on higher ground toward the north, closer to the relocated Highway 30.

Once the tribe relocated away from the flood-prone areas, the Meskwaki secured housing improvements and other modern amenities. Tribal activities at the Settlement have shifted to the north, where the casino, high school, and newer housing are situated. Pow-wow celebrations continue to be held on traditional grounds to the south.

Click here to see a map showing how the Meskwaki acquired land in Tama County, Iowa.

Click here to read about the South Farm Property.