349 Meskwaki Road
Tama, IA 52339
QUICK AND EASY FACTS
Adrian Pushetonequa, chairman
Jon Papakee, vice-chairman
Tony Waseskuk, treasurer
Dirk Whitebreast, secretary
Donald Wanatee, Sr.
THE STORY OF THE MESKWAKI TRIBE
The Meskwaki are of the Algonquian origin from the Eastern Woodland culture area. The language spoken is the same dialect as the Sauk and Kickapoo. The tribe has been historically located in the St. Lawrence River Valley, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa. The tribe’s first European contact was in 1666.
In 1830 Native Americans and European Settlers started moving into Tama County, Iowa as the Black Hawk War concluded. Relationships were tumultuous at the time. But as a new generation of foreign-born immigrants from German and Czech countries came to Iowa creating the first permanent settlements, relationships developed. Curiosity and a need to understand each other led to settlers learning a little of the Meskwaki language and the Meskwaki learning a little German so they could communicate. Relationships became a two-way street as they enriched each other’s lives in areas such as: harvesting nature, healthcare, and commerce.
When the federal government mandated the Meskwaki relocate from Iowa to Kansas in 1845, these relationships also led to the settlers of Tama County, Iowa protecting and hiding Meskwaki tribal members. Ultimately the new generation of foreign-born immigrants became prominent men not only within the communities but in the state of Iowa was well. This led Iowa to becoming one of the first states to grant permission for Native Americans to buy land.
In 1857 the Sac and Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa (Meskwaki) purchased 80 acres of Tama-land on the bluffs of the Iowa River for its natural beauty and resources, as well as peaceful rural qualities. In recent decades economic development milestones accelerated with the erection of the Meskwaki Bingo Casino Hotel and Convention Center. It is the biggest full service casino in Iowa and the biggest employer in Tama County. Most recently the tribe also acquired Pinnacle Bank and Trust to form the foundation of an economic development diversification portfolio. Today the Tribe owns approximately 7,778 acres and has a sovereign nation and settlement designation making a unique distinction between Meskwaki and most other tribes who live on reservations.
Every year in mid-July the tribes of Northern America gather in Tama County, Iowa for Proclamation Day. Non-tribal members also get a special invitation into the Meskwaki culture the first weekend in August with the annual Pow Wow. Historically this event celebrated the “Green Corn Dance” but today it offers an opportunity to congregate, remember and learn from the past, celebrate traditional regalia, music and dancing, eat traditional foods, shop traditional crafts and extend a hand of friendship.