Historically, the Meskwaki traveled by foot, in canoes, or later on horseback. Artist George Catlin painted the Meskwaki using blankets as sails to move their canoes faster along the waterways and lakes.
The arrival of the horse came relatively late for the Meskwaki, in 1735, but they soon developed a breed of ponies suited to their purposes. By 1900, in an attempt to stop the tribe from roaming the state, the U.S. government shot and killed most of the herd. Read about the Meskwaki use of the horse by clicking here.
Individuals also transported themselves in wagons, on steamboats, on railroads, in motorized vehicles like automobiles and trucks, or by air power.
The Lincoln Highway, one of the first paved cross-country highways, impacted the Settlement since it was built nearby in 1918. As a major conduit for mainstream American life, it brought Iowans and passing tourists to annual pow wow celebrations.
The Stone House was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Indian Labor Division in 1941. Originally intende as a place for automobile tourists to stop, the building functioned primarily as a community center where games, parties, and holiday celebrations took place. Click here to read more about the Stone House.
When the Highway 30 was relocated north of the Settlement in 1955, the souvenir trade and family stands sprung up along the new roadside. By the late 1980s, the tribe had acquired more land toward the north, closer to Highway 30. Tribal activities at the Settlement have shifted to the north, where the casino, high school, and newer housing are located.
Photograph shows Meskwaki gathering on the streets of Tama, Iowa, in 1918, at the time of the construction and paving of the Lincoln Highway. The "L" in the sign refers to the Lincoln Highway and the automobile stands as a harbinger of the future. Nearby, "Lincoln" is spelled out in stylized concrete lettering on a bridge - now on the National Register of Historic Places. Image from State Historical Society of Iowa, Iowa City.