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The Iowa of Oklahoma

The Iowas, pronounced I-O-Ways, get their name from a Sioux word, "ayuhwa" that means "sleepy ones". According to legend and tribal history, the Iowas were once residents of the lower Great Lakes region and were one nation with the Otos, Missourias and Winnebagos.

Supposedly, the Iowas split from the Winnebago by following the buffalo herds to the mouth of the Iowa River. Later still, the Otos and Missourias split with the Iowas and headed west. The Iowa remained in the area around where the Iowa River meets the Mississippi (ENAT, 102-103). Even before the white man appeared, the Iowas were forced to move because of pressure from other tribes. By 1700, the Iowas lived in southwestern Minnesota near the site of Pipestone National Monument.

This was a major quarry for Native Americans because it was and is an important source of Catlinite, the soft, carvable deep red stone that is used in the making of the pipe tips for Calumets. Trade amongst Indian nations in this precious material extended from the quarry region to both coasts even as early as the time the Iowas arrived there. With the influx of whites, the Iowas moved south to what is now the Kansas and Nebraska area. Some Iowas remain in those two states to this very day. In 1883, the bulk of the Iowa nation was moved to Oklahoma. The flag of the Iowas that reside in Oklahoma is red. It bears the tribal seal in the center (seal provided by Annin & Co., Roseland, NJ). On top of the seal in black letters is the name "Iowas of Oklahoma". Within the seal are two symbols common to many Native American peoples, the headdress, which appears in light blue, red, white and black and the peacepipe in black. Below these two items is a black representation of an old plow recalling the agricultural basis of tribal life in Oklahoma. The circular seal represents and Indian shield and from it hang four eagle feathers alluding to the four prime directions, a recurring theme in Indian symbolism.

Behind the shield and visibly sticking out from either side is a ceremonial lance decorated with streamers. These streamers, as well as those hanging from the calumet appear in yellow. The color of the streamers brings together the four primary colors in Native American art, the black, yellow, red and white. These colors are said to represent the four races of man and the four prime directions of the compass. With its use of color and its chosen emblems the flag of the Iowas may be the most typical of all Native American flags.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603