The Ioway Indians: Britain's Ally In The West?

By Michael Dickey
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Arrow Rock State Historic Site


The Ioway Indians or Pa-ho-dje as they called themselves, have often been credited as being the only tribe west of the Mississippi River to actively support Great Britain during the War of 1812. The question arises if this was actually the case and if so, to what extent did they support the British? Basic information on native cultures and their history is always helpful in gaining insight into their conduct during the war. This is especially true in understanding the relationship of the Ioway and British. Unfortunately, there is little documentation available presenting the Ioway point of view in their own words.

The Ioway were of Chiwere Siouan linguistic stock as were the Otoe, Missouria and Winnebago whom the Ioway fondly referred to as their Grandfathers. These people were direct descendants of the Oneota culture, which had dominated much of the area between Lake Michigan and the Missouri River valley prior to European contact. One of the premier Oneota sites in Missouri is now located within Van Meter State Park.

In an 1836 letter to President Jackson, the Ioway described the former boundaries of their territory. No Indian of any other tribe dare build his fire or make a moccasin track between Missouri and the Mississippi Rivers, from the mouth of the calumet (Big Sioux), upper Iowa and Des Moines Rivers, without first having obtained the consent of the Ioway nation of Indians. In fact, this country was all theirs and had been for hundreds of years. This claim is supported by archaeological and historical evidence although the Ioway certainly could not dominate the entire area at any given time. Other tribes frequently intruded upon this domain.

The Ioway were located in extreme southeastern South Dakota at the time of earliest European exploration. They began migrating to the southeast as the Dakota Sioux and Cheyenne began moving onto the Plains from the upper Mississippi Valley. Their main villages were located on the Des Moines and Iowa Rivers by the early 1700s. By 1789, smallpox and warfare had eliminated the Missouria as an independent tribe, effectively leaving the Ioway in possession of the Grand River and lower Missouri River valleys.

Ioway culture of the 18th and 19th contained a mixture of both plains and woodland elements. Very early French documents identified the Ioway as buffalo hunters. In the early 1700s they acquired horses which facilitated their seasonal buffalo hunts on the plains to the west. The Ioway used a modest form of tipi while on their seasonal hunts, at least during the 19th century. Oval bark covered wigwams and long houses formed their semi-permanent villages and hunting camps. The women practiced modest agriculture, growing a variety of maize, beans, squash and pumpkins. This was supplemented by the seasonal gathering various nuts, berries and roots. In many respects the Ioway material lifestyle was similar to other prairie-plains tribes such as the Sauk, Kansa, Otoe and Osage.

The Ioway were always a small tribe, with various French, Spanish and early American documents giving their warrior strength somewhere between 200 to 400 individuals. Roughly this means that even at their peak population, the tribe never numbered more than 800 to 1,600 members. Despite their small numbers, the Ioway were a warrior society and not easily intimidated by more numerous foes such as the Osage, Pawnee and Dakota Sioux. They were not reluctant to fight with their close kinsmen the Otoe and Missouria either. As with all prairie-plains tribes, warfare was not only for protection of the home territory, it provided an avenue for males to achieve manhood and status within their social structure.
Although the women were seldom active as warriors, they did support the men in their war endeavors.

With the exception of the Winnebago, the Ioway were generally on the friendliest terms with the Algonquin-speaking Sauk and Fox. This relationship which began in the early 1700s, is considered one of accommodation move than of active cooperation. Being few in number, the Ioway needed allies and sometimes joined with the Sauk and Fox in fights against other tribes. During a series of wars with the French in the early 18th century, the Sauk and Fox briefly retreated to central Iowa where they received shelter from the Ioway. However, in later years as the Sauk and Fox pushed west of the Mississippi on a more permanent basis this generally amicable relationship was sometimes strained to the point of bloodshed.

The Ioway had been fairly reliable allies and trading partners with the French. However, beginning in the late 1740s, Britain attempted to undermine Indian loyalty to France by sending traders into the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. As a result of this activity, the Ioway killed two French traders in 1755. However, with war underway for the control of the North American continent, France pardoned the killers in order to recruit the tribe for service against the English. In the assault against Fort William Henry in New York, General Marquis de Montcalm was able to count among his Indian allies, The Ioway of the Western Sea.

Before the end of the French and Indian war, trade items became scarce owing to British blockades at sea. French posts were abandoned and what men and materials were available were sent to campaigns in the east. By wars end in 1763, British traders had established headquarters at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin a crossroads for tribes from the Great Lakes, northern plains and Mississippi valley. This location gave the Ioway easy access for the Ioway to English trade goods. In the brief but violent uprising of Chief Pontiac in 1764-65 against the British, the Ioway along with the Sauk and Fox chose to remain neutral and await the outcome, rather than jeopardize trade relations.

In 1764, the Louisiana Territory and with it, the Ioway homeland, passed from control of France to Spain. However, a Spanish report dated 1777 noted that, the Ioways traded only with the English. In 1778, several Ioway headmen traveled to Montreal to affirm their loyalty to their British Father the king. During the American Revolution, forces under George Rogers Clark captured British outposts in the Illinois Country disrupting British efforts to arm the Ohio valley tribes. A party of Sauk and Ioway warriors appeared at Cahokia, apparently scouting American strength and intentions.

Since Spain had allied with the Americans in the Revolution, British officials in Canada decided to retaliate by attacking Spanish St. Louis on May 26, 1780. Nearly 1,000 Indians composed of Ioway, Sauk, Fox, Winnebago, Menominee and Sioux participated mainly because the British offered better-made trade goods and were more generous in gifts than Spanish officials. St. Louis was well fortified and the Sauk may have even tipped Spanish officials off to the impending attack. The attack failed and afterwards, the Ioway and Sauk remained outwardly friendly to the Spanish, who were military too weak to chastise the Indians.

The Ioway became highly successful in playing Spanish, American and British interests against each other. In so doing they secured the best terms in trade and gifts as the different powers competed for their loyalty and fur harvests. Britain wielded the greatest influence and the Ioway soon became the middlemen between British traders and the tribes on the Missouri River. By 1800, the British had established treading posts directly in the Ioway villages on the Des Moines and Iowa Rivers.

The effect of the British trade on the Ioway is graphically illustrated in William Clarks journal entry of June 27, 1804. In speaking of the Kansas or Kaw Indians he writes, they once lived 24 leagues higher than the Kansas (River) on the south bank of the Missouri and were more numerous, but they have been reduced and banished by the Sacs and Ayaways (Ioways), who being both better supplied with arms have an advantage over the Kansas though the latter are no less warlike than themselves. The Ioway were at the high tide of their power and prestige. Their influence in regional affairs belied the small size of their nation, thanks in part to British firearms.

In 1803 the United States had secured the Louisiana Territory from France but this important event had no impact on the Ioway and their trade with the British. In October of 1805, they held their first official talks with the United States, then attempting to broker peace between the warring tribes of Upper Louisiana. In December, territorial governor General James Wilkinson reported that the Ioway, Sauk and Fox were certainly disposed for war and beyond all doubts are excited by their traders from Canada.

To combat British influence emanating from Canada, a delegation of Ioway, Osage, Sauk, Sioux and other tribes were sent to meet President Thomas Jefferson in January of 1806. Jefferson plainly told the Indian headmen that the English, the Spanish and the French were gone never to return and that a Father would come to live among them, oversee them and settle their quarrels. This Father was Nicolas Boilvin, a French-Canadian employee of Auguste Chouteau the St. Louis fur trade baron. Boilvin was fluent in several Indian languages and extremely knowledgeable of their habits and customs. In addition, he was loyal to the new American government making him indispensable to the Indian Service.

Boilvin established his base in a Sauk village at the mouth of the Des Moines and he was instructed to frequently visit the towns of the Ioway. In spite of his presence, the Ioway openly continued to trade with the British in their villages. In fact, the Ioway frequently attacked boats descending the Missouri River, robbing traders and trappers of peltries and goods destroying what they could not carry off. Even though Boilvin was aware that stolen material was being traded he could do nothing about it.

On July 22, 1807, Colonel Hunt at Fort Bellefontaine reported, a powerful association of all Indians between the lakes and the Missouri was formed for commencing a war on the frontiers of the U.S. The Ioways only we are told withhold themselves from this threatening combination. The others are ready to strike as soon as their corn is harvested. Although the war did not materialize, the report was a harbinger of things to come. The Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and his brother Tenskawata The Prophet had initiated their attempt to build a formal coalition of Indian tribes to stop further white encroachment.

The restraint of the Ioway to the Ioway can be partially attributed to the presence of four licensed American traders among them that year. Some elements within the tribe apparently did not want to jeopardize their newfound trade with the Americans. Thus a small fissure appeared within the tribe over the issue of whether to trade with Great Britain or the United States. One of these traders was French-Canadian Denis Julien who had traded with the Ioway as far back as the late 1790s.

During the winter of 1801-1802 Julien had provided stiff competition to British trader Thomas Anderson. It was costly to send trade goods from the Ioway village on the Des Moines west to their hunting grounds on the Missouri River. To save the costs of sending outfits up the Missouri, Julien and Anderson agreed to wait for the hunters to return to the Des Moines in the spring. However, Julien sent a boatload of merchandise up the Missouri to the hunting grounds in an attempt to undercut Anderson but was betrayed by one of his employees who informed Anderson of the deception.

In March of 1808, Ioway, Sauk, Fox, Menominee and Winnebago warriors visited the Prophets village on the Wabash River. This was an alarming development for the Americans who viewed this activity as a British rather than an Indian initiative. The actions of General William Henry Harrison, who had secured millions of acres of Indian lands by dubious means, were conveniently overlooked as reasons for Indian agitation. Louisiana Territorial Governor Meriwether Lewis employed the aid of trader Julien to influence the Ioway in favor of the United States. Juliens wife Catharine was an Ioway, which helped him gain favor in the tribe.

At this time, Sauk and Ioway relations were strained as the Sauk had killed several Ioway on the Des Moines River. Boilvin feared a war between the tribes, which he predicted would render navigation on the upper Mississippi River extremely dangerous. While Boilvin was charged with keeping the peace between warring tribes, he was deprived of the only tools he had for doing so. In May, Governor Lewis ordered Boilvin to cease the Indian tradition of paying for the dead. Boilvin used government funds to buy trade goods to pay for the deaths in one Indian nation caused by another, thus making atonement and avoiding inter-tribal war. Lewis also said that if any tribe went hostile, no traders will be permitted to bring them merchandise and they will be deprived of means of making war or defending themselves. Lewis measure only assured that British and not American traders would continue to influence the Indian tribes.

American-Ioway relations soured in June of 1808 when two traders were killed on the Missouri near the Grand River. The nation is not known but the Ioways are suspected wrote Governor Lewis to Secretary of War Henry Dearborn. Eventually, two Ioway warriors were arrested and bound over for trial. A large number of the tribe arrived in St. Louis where they beseeched and harassed Lewis and General Clark to release their tribesmen.

The warriors were placed on trail for murder on July 23 and found guilty. In a new trial in August, the court ruled that the men could not be tried as the Ioway had no treaty relations with the United States and the incident occurred on Indian land, which had not been ceded to the U.S. Therefore, the court ruled the incident had occurred outside its jurisdiction and the laws of the United States. Governor Lewis vehemently disagreed with the court decision and ordered the two warriors to be held in jail anyway.

In June of 1809, an Ioway was shot and killed near Cahokia Illinois. A hunting party had been in the area for some time and was accused of stealing and killing some hogs. The incident further served to heighten the tensions that existed between the Ioway and the United States. When the two warriors escaped from jail in August, territorial Secretary Frederick Bates openly expressed relief saying the escape was fortunate for themselves and for us.

One of the escaped warriors was Mahaska or White Cloud, painted by Charles Bird King during a visit to Washington D.C. around 1825. White Cloud was the son of a chief by the same name. During his visit to Washington, he recalled his long imprisonment and related that he had killed one of the traders in self-defense. Mahaska became an important chief in the tribe, as did his own son. After his escape from prison, Mahaska led a war party against the Ioways ancient enemy, the Osage. The purpose of the raid was to help regain his status within the tribe. He took three scalps during this raid and was wounded in the ankle. He hid from the Osage under a log in a stream until he could finally make his way across the Missouri River and back to the Des Moines village.

In a gesture of conciliation to the Ioway tribe for Lewis jailing of the warriors, President Jefferson sent papers and a medal to Hard Heart a prominent headman. In effect this recognition elevated Hard Heart to the status to a chief. Secretary Bates felt that Hard Heart was vicious and undeserving of such recognition. Jeffersons action abrogated Ioway traditions of leadership. Inadvertently or not, he had increased the factionalism that was already arising in the tribe over the issue of trading with the British or the Americans.

The Hampshire Federalist newspaper of Springfield Massachusetts reported a serious clash between the Ioway and Osage in its January 4, 1810 edition. Fort Osage, November 8th 1809 - On the 4th of this instant a hunting party of the Osage tribecrossed the Missouri River, from the fortthey were surprised by a party of Ioways [sic] who killed one man and two women, and another man is missing, supposed to be killed some distance from their campOn the following day a Missouri Indian from the Ioway Village called over the river for a canoe at the garrison, one of the defeated party knew him and said he shot at and chased him in the attackCaptain Clemson sent for the Missouri Indian and interrogated him closly [sic] suspecting him as a spyhe said it was the wish of the Ioways [sic] to cover the grave of the dead with presents, and be at peace.

While it might appear that Indians killing Indians would be of little interest to American citizens, it was in fact newsworthy. Such incidents generated fears of an Indian war that could spill over into white settlements and involve federal troops. Such a war could also push the Ioway even closer to the British in seeking arms and assistance. A similar report of the Otoe killing an Osage near the fort also made the paper that day.

In July of 1810, emissaries of The Prophet openly courted the Ioway, exhorting them to strike the Americans when given the word. Boilvin smoked the pipe with them and worked hard to keep them out of Tecumsehs alliance, despite having few resources to back his words. For the moment, the Ioway decided to avoid conflict with the Americans and instead escalated their conflict with the Osage. This action demonstrates the difficulty the Shawnee brothers and the British had in overcoming blood feuds and traditional rivalries to forge an Indian alliance.

George Sibley the factor at Fort Osage reported on clashes between the Osage and Ioway in his diary. The Ioway paid a price for escalating their fight with the Osage.

Monday March 11th 1811 100 men set off in a body to War against the IowaysLieut. Brownson sent a party of soldiers to set them across the river in the Public Boat.

Tuesday March 12th 1811 another War party set off from the Osage Village against the Ioways of about 45 men consisting of about an equal number of Osages & Missouris, led by a distinguished warrior of the Missouri named Cheohoge or hole in my house. Their plan is to attack the enemy by surpriseLieut. Brownson sent them across the River, and they immediately set out on this march.

Tuesday March 19th 1811 in the evening all the Osages returned from war, and brought 8 scalps and one horse taken from the Ioways (2 men, 5 women, 1 child killed.)

Wednesday March 27th 18119 horses were discovered crossing the Missouri just above the Factory driven over it was Supposed by some Hostile Indians whose design it appears to have been to take them off about 100 Osages immediately crossedand in a short timereturned with all the horses.

Monday May 7th 1811 Last night at about 11 Oclockalarm among the Osagessentinels discovered three strange Indians stealthy [sic] approaching the campSans Oreille had made his way into my sleeping Room and stood beside holding the head of the slain Indian in one hand, and a blazing torch in the otherI was quickly dressed and over at the camp: and there found the Osages in a temper far more Savage than I had ever before believed them one shewed [sic] me a leg one a hand another a finger foot strips of skinThe slain man was recognized as a distinguished Ioway war Chief.

The Ioway sometimes accompanied by the Sauk or even Winnebago began setting up ambushes for the Osage. Sans Nerf, a Big Osage Warrior complained to Sibley at Arrow Rock in November of 1813 about this situation. We do not like Fort Clark (Ft. Osage) for very good reasons. The road between that place and our village is nearly as long as the road to this place, and is a very dangerous one to travel. Our enemies lay in wait for us when we go there to trade and have killed several of our people.

Even though the United States and Ioway nation was officially at peace, the Ioway and Americas key Indian ally the Osage were now in open warfare. Many tribes viewed the Osage as American pets prompting jealousy and resentments. Indeed, the Osage received a measure of respect and treatment seldom extended to other tribes by the U.S. Further complicating the situation was the fact that U.S. army troops were aiding the Osage in the conflict.

Just two weeks after president Madison declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812 a Kickapoo emissary of The Prophet implored nine tribes gathered at on the Rock River, to join them in the struggle. The Sauk chief Non-Waite simply replied that the Americans provide the Sauk with everything they need. The Ioways responded We are near neighbors to the Sauk. We have no wish to be at war with them. Our American Father (Boilvin) gives us good counsel. Whatever the Sauk agree to, we shall also. A large delegation of Indian leaders had been en-route to President Madison when war was declared. The headmen present probably lacked the authority to formally commit to war. Still many of them sympathized with Tecumseh and the British and small raids were initiated on the frontier.

The first hostile act attributed to the Ioway occurred in late May of 1812 when several horses belonging to Robert Hancock, a resident of the Boones Lick settlement, were stolen. In February 1813, a rumor began circulating that the Ioway were joining 1,200 to 3,000 hostile Indians gathered at Green Bay waiting for a British supply ship. At the same time, French-Canadian traders acting as spies for the United States reported that the Sauk, Fox and Ioway were divided between peace and war. Their assessment was undoubtedly the most correct of the many rumors, fears and beliefs about the Indians that circulated during the entire war.

In April of 1813, a son of Hard Heart appeared at Fort Madison and asked Captain Stark for aid and permission to fight the pro-British Sauk and Fox. Stark reported, The Ioways deserve every assistance and I hope they will receive it. It is a just war on their part and I am inclined to believe it is unavoidable. Undoubtedly, Hard Heart led a faction of pro-American Ioway, but the actual size and extent of his following is difficult to determine. Hard Heart himself stayed with the Otoe during part of the war possibly because his authority as a true chief was questioned. The factionalism that existed among the Ioway and a lack of concise written records makes it difficult to track the movements, activities and loyalties of the various tribal bands.

Generally, there appears to be two main Ioway villages at this time, one on the Des Moines and the other on the Iowa River. The village on the Iowa River may have represented the pro-British faction of the tribe, since it was relatively close to Prairie du Chien, the main base of British operations in the Mississippi valley. Colonel Robert Dickson of the British Northwest Company operated in the area with impunity. He was able to exert considerable influence over the local tribes with gifts and generous trade terms, something that Nicholas Boilvin was unable to do due to the miserliness of the federal government.

The next documented event of Ioway hostility occurred on July 4, 1813. The house of William Ewing on Sandy Creek in St. Charles County was plundered and several horses stolen and about eight acres of corn were destroyed. A French trader named Francis Le Sieur later stated in a deposition that he saw Ewings property and horses in an Ioway camp on the Mississippi on or about July 16. Ewing had briefly been the American envoy to the Sauk, Fox and Ioway, just prior to Nicolas Boilvins appointment. Ewing had not helped U.S. relations with the Indians and William Clark forced him under a cloud of suspicion.

The federal and territorial governments in the West recognized the strategic role of Prairie du Chien in controlling the Indian tribes in the upper Mississippi valley. With a view of eliminating the Indian threat, William Clark personally led an expedition upriver and captured Prairie du Chien, establishing Fort Shelby on the site. Clarks stern treatment of the Sauk Indians on the way upriver had cowed the Indians and without their support the British militia fled Prairie du Chien without firing a shot. Clark left a gunboat named for him, The Governor Clarke moored off the fort and he returned to St. Louis intending to send back reinforcements. For the moment it appeared that Clark had succeeded in his mission of neutralizing the northern Mississippi tribes.

Reinforcements of Rangers and regular troops headed upriver and were soon involved in what British Colonel William McKay called the most brilliant action fought by Indians since the commencement of the war. On July 22, allied Ioway, Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo attacked six armed keelboats above the mouth of the Rock River. One Ioway who had traveled with Colonel McKay from Michilimakinac, chopped a hole in a boat firing into it until he expended all his ammunition, at which point he jumped in the river and swam ashore. This warriors presence with McKay may be an indication that others from the Iowa River village had been supporting the British in campaigns around the Great Lakes. The armada lost one boat and beat a hasty retreat when the fleeing The Governor Clarke appeared on the scene bearing news of the fall of Fort Shelby to a force of British and Indians.

Clearly, the threat on the western frontier was heating up. Incredibly, Clark reported, The Greater part of the Sacs, Foxes and Ioway nations still profess friendship. At the same time Robert Dickson, now back in business at Prairie du Chien reported, the Sioux, Ioways, Winnebagos and Rock River Sacs are for war. These statements illustrate the general confusion and uncertainty that reigned on the frontier during the war. The Indians themselves were clearly divided in their allegiances. However, based on the documentation available, it would appear that the British held an edge in influence among the upper Mississippi tribes.

In September of 1813, Clark persuaded the friendly portion of the Sauk and Fox to settle on the Missouri River near Little Moniteau Creek. I have also sent for the Ioways directing them to pass across the Missouri where a trader will be situated to trade with them Clark wrote. Part of the Ioway left their village on the Des Moines and settled along the Chariton River, north of present-day Glasgow. Clark estimated his maneuver would keep 1,000 warriors from aiding the British. His assessment was overly optimistic since only 1,500 1,700 Indians in total actually responded to his call.

Sauk and Fox warriors under Black Hawk had grown disgruntled with the British campaigns in the eastern Great Lakes and returned to their villages in the fall of 1813. In the spring of 1814, they turned their attention closer to home, the Missouri frontier. Sporadic raids began occurring particularly in the isolated Boones Lick settlements in the far west. The situation became so threatening that the government trading houses located at the Arrow Rock bluff and Little Moniteau Creek had to be abandoned. If any Ioway were involved in these raids, they were acting in concert with the Sauk and their individual presence was not noted.

When passing through the Boones Lick settlements in August, a keelboat belonging to Manual Lisa reported that the Indians freely roamed the countryside while the settlers were shut up in their forts. Lisa, a powerful St. Louis fur trader had just been appointed Subagent to the Tribes of the Missouri by William Clark. He wielded considerable influence among the Missouri River tribes and had successfully checked Dicksons attempts to influence those tribes. When he reached his headquarters near Council Bluffs, Lisa invited the powerful Teton Sioux to meet with him in council the next spring. Clark and Lisa planned to turn them against the pro-British Santee Sioux, Sauk, Fox and Ioway.

In the interim, Lisa persuaded the Omaha to attack the Ioway and they soon presented him with two Ioway scalps. The Otoe refused Lisas exhortations to attack their kinsmen, saying vaguely that some time in the future would be better for them. Perhaps the presence of Hard Heart and his band had something to do with their refusal. Regardless of their tribal factions, the Ioway were not fighting with each other. Again, the exact situation within the tribe is unclear. The Ponca on the other hand eagerly agreed to send out a war party against the Ioway early the following spring.

The factionalism within the Ioway nation prevented them from fully supporting the British cause. It generally served to weaken the tribe as a whole. Now they found themselves preoccupied with defending themselves from their western neighbors. The ability of the Ioway to militarily threaten American settlements had been severely diminished.

In the spring of 1815, Lisa held his council with the Teton, unaware, as most in the western territories that the war had officially ended the preceding Christmas. In his council, Lisa promoted the virtues of loyalty and adherence to the United States. The Teton accepted Lisas reasoning and following their protocol asked for permission to visit Governor William Clark in St. Louis. A band of nearly 700 men and 90 women set out on the journey, promising Lisa that they would attack any pro-British Indians they encountered along the way.

The pro-American Ioway village on the Chariton River lay directly on the route from Lisas post to St. Louis. In June of 1815, the Teton reached the area and destroyed the Ioway corn fields along the Chariton River. They killed twenty-four Ioway people and captured two more whom they eventually turned over to Lisa. The question arises if the Teton had mistaken this village as hostile or if in fact this pro-American village had perpetrated hostilities that might have warranted the attack.

On April 4, 1815 a force composed of Sauk, Fox, Ioway and a few Winnebago attacked the small isolated settlement of Cote sans Dessien opposite of the mouth of the Osage River. They killed at least five white settlers and partially looted and burnt the settlement. They were unable to destroy the main blockhouse due to the diligence of the women in putting out the fires set to the roof. The Indians finally retreated when a burning powder magazine exploded, killing fourteen Ioway and Sauk warriors.

On the 14th of the same month, Captain Sarshall Cooper, a prominent leader in the Boones Lick settlement was killed inside Coopers Fort. There are several versions of the account of his death but they all agree that he was shot through a hole in the log chinking. The question remains as to who actually did it. The recollection of Judge Joseph Thorp, if true, directly attributes Coopers death to an Ioway: two young bucks, one an Ioway about 19 years old, and another A Sauk about 22, came to the fort after dusk. It was in the spring of the yearWherever they could see a light they picked holes with their knives to find a place big enough to shoot through. They finally found one, and it happened to be right opposite the heart of Capt. Cooper, the man they were after, for they knew the house he lived in. They fired and the ball took effect in his side. He sprang to his feet, exclaiming Lord have mercy on us and died. The rascals told afterward that they ran some twenty yards or thirty yards from the walls of the fort and listened until they heard the squaws crying, and then they knew they had done what they came for. The young Ioway who did the shooting always called himself Captain Cooper. I often saw him after the war. He was a good-looking buck and took great pride in his name. If you got into a chat with him he would soon let you know, Me Captain Cooper.

There is actually no way of knowing to which Ioway village the perpetrators might have belonged. They could have come from the pro-American village. Even within the pro-American factions of various tribes, some individuals harbored anti-American sentiments or simply changed sides at an opportune moment. The appeal of gaining honor in war could also become too strong of a temptation for the young men and the chiefs simply could not restrain them. Warriors undoubtedly passed freely between both villages to visit their family and friends and such visitors could have been involved in the strikes.

However, it does seem highly unlikely that the Teton could have known about the Cote sans Dessein attack and Sarshall Coopers death. Furthermore, by June the peace treaty between the U.S. and Great Britain was widely known and the peace commissioners had begun circulating the word to Indian tribes to gather at Portage des Sioux to sign a peace treaty. The Teton were traditional enemies of the Ioway and they probably cared less whether the village they attacked was pro-British or pro-American. The incident was likely just a random opportunity for the Teton to pay back on old enemy.

Still, during the summer of 1815, the Ioway stepped up horse stealing raids in the Boones Lick settlements. Possibly, they were intent on replacing stock lost in the Teton raid. William Reid filed the following deposition with William Clark in 1825 recounting one of the raids. after the settlers were notified of peace and the Ioways and other Indians had gone down to Portage Desou [sic] to treat with the Commissioners appointed by the United States, David Jones, Stephen Turley, Thomas McMahan and this deponent, who had removed to Cooper's Fort during the war, believing that their property would be safe, brought their horses across the river into the bottoms below the Arrow Rocka mare of Henry Ferrils worth about sixty dollars, and a small horse, belonging to Braxton Cooper, was stolen from Coopers Fort. This deponent and others examined the trail of the Indians and were convinced that they had crossed the river, and heard them shooting in the bottom, where the horses had been put, viz. Below the Arrow Rock. This deponent and a party of men crossed the river next morning, and found an Indian trail leading up the Missouri, towards the mouth of the Chawton [sic] (Chariton); and they also found pens or pounds in the bottom, which the Indians had made and driven the horses into for the purpose of catching them. This deponent and his party followed the trail until they became satisfied that they had stolen the horses, and were making for the Ioway village. When the Ioway chiefs returned from the treaty at Portage Desiux [sic] they agreed to deliver up the horses; and this deponent, Herman Gregg and Braxton Cooper, went with the Chiefs and Interpreters to the Ioway village; and this deponent there saw in their possession Henry Ferrils mare, Braxton Coopers horse and a sorrel mare of David JonesThis deponent further saith, that some of the Ioway Chiefs offered to deliver some of the horses, and did bring up the sorrel mare of H. Ferril, and Braxton Coopers horse, for that purpose; but a party of Indians made pursuit and retook the mare and Cooper saved his horse by running him away from them.

Seventeen Ioway headmen led by Hard Heart signed the treaty of peace and friendship at Portage des Sioux on September 6, 1815. On October 15, the treaty commissioners, William Clark, Auguste Chouteau and Ninian Edwards reported, The Ioways are very desirous of coming more closely under the protection of the U.S. and for this purpose wish to cede part of their lands in order obtain annuitiesThis is a spontaneous offer on their part The issue of spontaneity on the Indians part is questionable. The Sauk and Fox cession of 1804 and the Osage cession of 1808 resulted in hard feelings once they understood what had been lost. Much of the land they had ceded was also claimed and hunted on regularly by the Ioway. Furthermore, until the outbreak of the war, the Ioway had been resisting further Sauk and Fox intrusion on their domain.

The Ioway may have been under pressure to make the cession due to the Lisas actions among the Missouri tribes. Lisa reminded Clark after the war, your excellency will remember that more than a year before the war broke out, I gave you intelligence that the wampum was carrying by British influence along the banks of the Missouri, and that all the nations of the great river were excited to join the war. They did not arm against the republic; on the contrary they armed against Great Britain and struck the Iowas [sic] the allies of that power. When peace was proclaimed, more than forty chiefs had intelligence with me; and together, we were to carry an expedition of several thousand warriors against the tribes of the upper Mississippi, and silence them at once.

There is a possibility that both factions of the Ioway were not represented at Portage des Sioux. The treaty itself gives no indication that this was the case. However, the Rock River Sauk under Black Hawk themselves remained recalcitrant and did not sign the peace treaty until May of 1816. In 1816, the Ioway were still living in the separate villages on the Chariton and Iowa Rivers and one more event occurred, perhaps the last one with a direct connection to the War of 1812.

In May of 1816, Robert and John Heath were engaged in salt making at the Boones Lick salt springs. On the 28th, John Ferril was at the salt works when John Heath came in and reported that two Negro men were missing, and he supposed killed or taken by the Indians. They searched the area and found a campsite nearby with scraps of deer hide, hog meat and a cane fife which Ferril kept. A small company of men pursued the same Indians, and routed them near the Buffalo Licks, on the Grand Charlatan (Chariton) where they were encamped; none of the Indians were seen nor were the negroes seen, but the Indians fled with such precipitation that they left their leggins, mockasins, [sic] bows, arrows, and chopping axes, and a water jug of the negroes

A few days after the two slaves had disappeared, Ioway trader Denis Julien and his men arrived at the Boones Lick from the Grand River. Ferril told them what happened and about the cane fife. On of Juliens employees Martin Dorian, told Ferril, that the Ioways had a cane fife he should know if he saw it. Dorian described the fife minutely and perfectly, and when it was shown to him, said it was the fife of the Ioways; that he had known for a long time past, that there was a party of ten Ioways had gone out at that time, supposed to hunt on the Charlatan [sic].

Except for the chopping axes and water jug found in the Indian camp, no trace of the two black men, named Henry and Nat, was ever found. Based on the depositions of the Boones Lick settlers, everyone appeared less concerned about the well being of the missing men than they were about the Heath brothers monetary loss, which totaled $1,400.00.

Fear of reprisals by the settlers for this incident may have finally precipitated the abandonment of the Chariton village. Major Stephen Long reported in 1817 that the majority of the 1,200 Ioway people were settled along the Mississippi. The following year, Potowatomie Indian agent Thomas Forsyth reported that the Ihowai were once again located in their old village on the Des Moines River.

After the 1816 incident at Boones Lick, the Ioway presence in Missouri was limited to hunting expeditions. Ioway influence and importance in the Missouri Territory began to wane rapidly. The war initiated by Manual Lisa between the Omaha and the Ioway in 1814 continued unabated until 1821. In 1824, the Ioway tribe entered into treaty negotiation with United States that resulted in the loss of most of their land in Missouri. In 1829 white settlers on the Chariton River attacked a band of Ioway on their way to meet with William Clark in St. Louis. The resulting tragedy was the so-called Big Neck War but in a true display of justice, a frontier jury absolved Chief Great Walker and his followers of any wrongdoing. The Ioway were settled on a small reservation north of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas and ceded their last remaining tract of Missouri land in the Platte Purchase of 1836.

In conclusion, it appears that at the opening of the 19th century, the Ioway are solid British allies. However, a fracture developed within the tribe owing to American trade and by the beginning of the War of 1812 there were divided loyalties although it is unclear as to the size and extent of these factions. However, a slight majority of tribe appears to have supported the British during the war. Although the Ioway alone were too few pose a major military threat, they could mount effective guerilla raids and act in concert with other tribes. The disposition of the Ioway was a concern to William Clark and other frontier officials. In 1825, Clark calculated the dollar amount of property losses in Missouri attributed to the various Indian tribes during the war. He ranked the Ioway third at $2,950.00, significantly behind the Winnebago and far below the Sauk and Fox.

The factionalism brought about by the war had a devastating effect on Ioway society as it did on many tribes. The end of the war in 1815 signaled a vast increase in westward immigration and settlement. Simultaneously, the importance of Indian tribes to the United States as allies and trading partners declined. Now the Indians were simply an obstruction to be removed. In 1810, the Ioway had been a powerful force in regional events, claiming thousands of square miles of territory. By the 1830s, they were confined to a small reservation and visitors commented on their diminishing numbers, increasing dependence on government largesse and victimization by white whisky peddlers.

The northern Ioway tribe still has a small reservation at Whitecloud, Kansas. The southern Ioway have an agency at Perkins, Oklahoma. In recent years the Ioway have made significant efforts to recover and preserve their language and heritage. The Ioway also has been a leader in the efforts to repatriate the burial remains of Native Americans.


The Ioway Indians by Martha Royce Blaine, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman OK 1979.

Missouri Historical Review, April 2001 Denis Julien: Midwestern Fur Trader
By James H. Knipmeyer. State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia MO.

Historical Iowa(y) Settlements in the Grand River Basin of Missouri and Iowa by Timothy E. Roberts and Christy S. Richers, Missouri Archaeologist volume 57, December 1996

Ioway History and Treaties compiled by Lance Foster, member of the Northern Ioway Nation, 1997

The History of Missouri, Vol. I by David March, PHD, Lewis Historical Publishing, New York and West Palm Beach, 1967.

The Sac and Fox Indians by William T. Hagan, University of Oklahoma Press Norman OK. 1958

The Osages by John Joseph Mathews, University of Oklahoma Press 1932, Norman OK.

Diary of George C. Sibley May 7, 1808 to September 3, 1811, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis MO, transcript courtesy of David Bennett

Hampshire Federalist, Springfield Massachusetts, Thursday January 4, 1810, David Bennett collection