For decades the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki) have kept their culture private. You could catch glimpses at the annual Pow Wow festival or a few panels on display in the lobby at the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel. But in 2011 the Meskwaki Museum formally opened at the Tribal Headquarters campus under the direction of historian Johnathan Buffalo and invited non-tribal members to learn more about the Meskwaki culture. It features artifacts, utensils, photographs, documents, art, bead work, and other items passed down from the Tribe through the years as well as objects donated from Tribal members and non-Indians. The Meskwaki museum is a part of the group of projects that earned Tama County an Iowa Great Places designation. Remind me – what are the EDIES.
HOW WE DID IT: The mission of the museum is to educate the general public for a better understanding of the history and culture of the Meskwaki Tribe and to preserve cultural resources for the tribal community itself. In less than a year the cultural center has established a location and basic museum design of display in order to provide access to those resources.
HOW WE GOT THE IDEA: Since the 1940’s the tribe has expressed a desire and need for a space to keep, care for, and share cultural resources. At last, after 70+ years that is becoming a reality.
OUR GREATEST CHALLENGE: The greatest challenge has been to find a suitable building that would be available and appropriate right here on the Meskwaki Settlement.
HOW WE OVERCAME IT: With much patience and faith in making a museum a reality, a building became available. Alternative museum exhibit space were previously utilized but now everything can be found under one roof, excluding the exhibit at the casino hotel area.
ADVICE TO OTHERS: Do not give up on a dream or working toward goals. With patience, dedication, and persistence they can be realized.
WHAT IS NEXT: We are going to be working on professional design, exhibitions, and events into the coming year and beyond. Expansion of a small library and our museum collections is always happening and the museum and the public who visit benefit from generous donations of books, artifacts and monetary donations given by individuals.
For more information on the Meskwaki Nation go to their website and listen to a radio interview about the museum on Wednesday, February 1, 2012 at 8:45 a.m. on Radio Z95.5FM.
Photo by Midge Horton [left to right: Stephanie Snow, Johnathan Buffalo]