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Ioway Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Ioway Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Ioway language and culture pages for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Ioway pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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   Ioway Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Ioway"? What does it mean?
Ioway is pronounced "eye-oh-way." It comes from the Sioux name for the tribe, which meant "sleepy ones." In their own language, the Ioway called themselves Baxoje, which means "gray snow."

Where do the Ioways live?
The Ioway Indians are original people of
Iowa and southwestern Minnesota. The Ioway Indians were forced to leave their homelands in the 1800's for reservations in Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. That is where most Ioway people are still living today.

How is the Ioway Indian nation organized?
There are two Ioway Indian tribes today. One is in Oklahoma and the other includes land in both Kansas and Nebraska. The Iowa Indians of Kansas and Nebraska live on a reservation, which is land that belongs to the tribe and is under their control. The Oklahoma Ioways live on trust lands. Each Ioway tribe has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, Ioway Indians are also US citizens and must obey American law.

What language do the Ioway Indians speak?
The Ioway people speak English today. In the past they spoke their native Chiwere language, which they shared with the neighboring Otoe and Missouri tribes. Only a few elders still remember the Chiwere language today. But some young Ioway people are working to learn their ancient language again. If you'd like to know an easy Ioway word, "aho" (pronounced ah-hoe) is a friendly greeting used by men and boys, and "aha" (pronounced ah-hah) is a greeting used by women and girls.

What was Ioway culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma. On their site you can find information about the Ioway people in the past and today.

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How do Ioway Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Ioway children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Here is a picture of a hoop game played by Plains Indian kids. Older boys also liked to play lacrosse. An Ioway mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back. Here is a website with baby board pictures.

What were men and women's roles in the Ioway tribe?
Ioway men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Ioway women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Only men usually became Ioway chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Ioway homes like in the past?
Most Ioway Indians lived in settled villages of round earthen lodges. Ioway lodges were made from wooden frames covered with packed earth. When Ioway men went on hunting trips, they often used small buffalo-hide tipis (or teepees) as temporary shelter, similar to camping tents. Unlike other Plains Indian tribes, though, the Ioways were not migratory people, and did not use tall teepees for their regular houses. Here are some pictures of lodges like the ones Ioway people lived in.

Today, Native Americans only put up a tepee for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for housing. Most Ioways live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Ioway clothing like? Did the Ioways wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Ioway women wore knee-length shirts with poncho-style shirts or longer deerskin dresses. Ioway men wore breechcloths with leather leggings and usually went shirtless. Like most Native Americans, the Ioways wore moccasins on their feet. Here is a website with pictures of Native American moccasins. In cold weather, they also wore long buffalo-hide robes. Later, Ioway people adapted European costume such as cloth dresses and vests, which they decorated with ribbon applique and beadwork. Here is a site about Ioway Indian clothing, and some photos and links about Native Indian clothing in general.

Ioway Indian men did not traditionally wear a war bonnet headdress like the Sioux. Frequently they wore turban-like hats made of otter fur or cloth, with a few feathers sticking up from the back. Ioway warriors usually shaved their heads completely except for a scalp lock (one long lock of hair on the back of their heads). Sometimes they added a porcupine roach to make this hairstyle more impressive. Ioway women wore their hair either loose or braided. Both men and women wore Native tattoo designs and also painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.

Today, some Ioway people still have moccasins or a buckskin dress, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.

What was Ioway transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Ioway Indians didn't live near the ocean, and when they went fishing, they usually fished from shore. When they traveled over land, the Ioways used dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to help them carry their belongings. Here is a website about Indian travois. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.

What was Ioway food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Ioways were farming people. Ioway women worked together to raise crops of corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, and sunflowers. Men hunted deer and small game, fished in lakes and rivers, and took part in seasonal buffalo hunts. The Ioways weren't migratory people, so they didn't hunt buffalo as often as other Plains Indian tribes, but buffalo meat was still an important part of their diet because they acquired it in trade from other tribes. Here is a website with more information about Native agriculture.

What were Ioway weapons and tools like in the past?
Ioway hunters used bows and arrows. Fishermen used fishing spears and basket traps. In war, Ioway men fired their bows or fought with war clubs and spears. Here is a website with pictures and information about Plains Indian weapons.

What other Native Americans did the Ioway tribe interact with?
The closest Ioway ally was the Otoe tribe. These two tribes spoke the same language and sometimes intermarried. The Ioways also traded regularly with other tribes of the Great Plains and the Western Plateau. Other Indian tribes especially liked to trade for Ioway pipes. These tribes usually communicated using the Native American Sign Language. After Europeans arrived, Ioway traders were known for trading beaver pelts and other furs to the French.

The Ioways also fought wars with other tribes. Plains Indian tribes treated war differently than European countries did. They didn't fight over territory but instead to prove their courage, and so Plains Indian war parties rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other's villages. Instead, their war customs included counting coup (touching an opponent in battle without harming him), stealing an enemy's weapon or horse, or forcing the other tribe's warriors to retreat. Some tribes the Ioways frequently fought with included the Pawnee and Kansa.

What are Ioway arts and crafts like?
Ioway artists are famous for their pipe carving, woodworking, and parfleche (decorated rawhide containers.) Here is a photograph of an Ioway pipe.

What kinds of stories do the Ioways tell?
There are lots of traditional Ioway legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Ioway Indian culture. Here is the saga of two mythical Iowa-Otoe brothers. It is very long, but perhaps your class might like to read just the first section. Here's a website where you can read more about Iowa mythology.

What about Ioway religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Ioway life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Ioway people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Ioway traditions or this site about Native American Indian religion in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
There are not many books about the Ioway tribe written for kids. You may enjoy Great Walker, a short biography of an Ioway leader. For older readers, The Ioway Indians is a good book on Ioway culture and history. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American children's books. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Ioway Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Ioways

Ioway Indian Tribe
An overview of the Ioway people, their language and history.

Ioway Language Resources
Ioway language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Ioway Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Ioway tribe past and present.

Ioway Words
Ioway Indian vocabulary lists.

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