The Meskwaki traded for centuries before first contact with Europeans. Along with the arrival of fur trappers, came Jesuit priests and explorers, frontier settlers, and increasing pressure from the French and American governments. This exchange between cultures altered Meskwaki lives irrevocably.
Once active in the Great Lakes region, the tribe migrated westward and by the 1700s dominated waterways from Prairie du Chien to St. Louis. They established lead mines near Dubuque long before the Spanish granted permission for Julien Dubuque to mine for lead.
The fur trade involved trading animal pelts or fur for blankets, guns, kettles, and other trade goods from the traders. There were trapping seasons when the Meskwaki hunted for the fur of beavers, muskrats, otter, fox, raccoon, skunk, and other animals of that group.
John Gilbert operated a trading post near Poweshiek's village, south of present day Iowa City. There were several other trading posts and Indian agencies established in Iowa in the pioneer period. The Sac and Fox asked Iowa's territorial governor to monitor the accounts of some traders who were suspected of cheating the tribe out of money.
Click here to learn more about hunting fur-bearing animals and small game.
Click here to learn about Meskwaki relations with the French.
Source for illustration: Drawing by Ruth Irish Preston from the Lemuel B. Patterson albums, State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City.