Meskwaki and Duren H. Ward

This program features documents, artifacts, and several dozen photographs collected by Duren H. Ward in 1905 during a research expedition to the Meskwaki Settlement near Tama, Iowa. The photographs include portraits of people of the tribe, houses, activities, and other scenes illustrative of life at the Settlement at that time. The Settlement is notable in Iowa history for being the only occasion when a group of Native Americans purchased land and lived upon it as legal owners. After their removal to a reservation in Kansas in 1847, dissatisfaction with conditions there led to their return to Iowa in 1857. The then governor James Grimes acted as trustee for the tribe and signed the first deed of purchase. The Meskwaki have added to their land holdings, and have continued to live on the Settlement along the Iowa River in Tama County until the present time. Most people are familiar with their annual "Pow Wow," held on the Settlement each August.

Duren James Henderson Ward was born in Canada. He was educated at Hillsdale College, Harvard University, and received his Ph.D. from Leipzig University. In 1902 he became a minister of the Unitarian Church in Iowa City and a founding member of Iowa Anthropological Association. He authored several articles about Iowa archaeology and led expeditions in the Iowa River Valley including a 1904 visit to the Meskwaki Settlement. University professors, the Iowa Anthropological Association, and the Board of Curators of the State Historical Society of Iowa cooperated on a 1905 study of the Meskwaki Settlement and its people. The State Historical Society of Iowa furnished $200. Professor B.F. Shambaugh, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board of Curators of the State Historical Society of Iowa endorsed the project, as did the governor of Iowa, Albert Baird Cummins. President George Maclean of the University of Iowa appointed Ward a lecturer in anthropology at the university.

Ward, assisted by Leroy Elliott, spent two months at the Settlement in July and August 1905. He commissioned J.S. Moore, a well-known Toledo, Iowa photographer, to take portraits of several of the tribal leaders on August 14, 1905. Ward also borrowed a number of photographs from Ha-she-ta-na-kwa-twa (George Moran), who had been tribal secretary for eighteen years prior to Ward's visit. Other photographs were borrowed from John W. Lamb, the successful Tama attorney who had argued a Meskwaki school case in federal court. In addition, it is likely that Ward and his assistant, Leroy Elliott, themselves took pictures on the Settlement.

When Ward returned to Iowa City in the fall of 1905, he submitted his report to the State Historical Society's Board of Curators and asked that the photographs be preserved. The Board approved funds for this purpose. In order to illustrate the lectures he planned to give on the tribe, Ward had Lucy M. Cavanaugh of Iowa City make one hundred lantern slides from the photographs. The Society sponsored, in conjunction with the Anthropological Association, a two-day program of lectures and presentations on the Meskwaki in February 1906. Ward lectured on the tribe and illustrated his talk with the lantern slides. Both Benjamin Shambaugh and Professor George T. Flom contributed papers. The final day was highlighted by the presence of several members of the tribe.

There are over one hundred photographs of the Meskwaki people and the Settlement obtained by Duren H. Ward during his 1905 visit. The Ward Photograph Collection is an appealing and informative record of the tribe. Selections from the total number may be viewed in the Photograph Gallery.

The other results of Ward's stay were also impressive. He not only met with many individual Meskwaki but also collected and compiled extensive information. He hired a local stenographer and two interpreters, sought interviews with all tribal leaders, had transcriptions typed, and created one of the earliest oral history collections at the State Historical Society of Iowa. Another of the results was the systematic table of land purchases, which was compiled from the county records. Using the table, Ward had Leroy Elliott draw a map of "Mesquakia," Ward's term for the Settlement. It was probably the first such map.

Working with the tribal council, Chief Push-e-to-ne-qua, Agent Malin, the Presbyterian missionaries, and many Meskwaki heads-of-household, Ward put together a complete census of the tribe. This list showed every member as of the summer of 1905, their birthdates, family relationships, and in some cases biographical information. While the list may have smoothed over many of the nuances of Meskwaki kinship, it was a major achievement.

Ward also enlisted the help of several of his University of Iowa colleagues, notably Professor Flom, a trained linguist and Pro­fessor of Scandinavian languages at the University of Iowa. Flom joined Ward for a few days during the summer and accompanied him during two subsequent fall visits. Together they drew up notes on the Meskwaki language and compiled a word list. The Meskwaki had long been able to write their language in a system of notation, which probably had been learned from the French. The writing was a form of verbal transcription, which re­corded the sounds of the spoken tongue and changed as rapidly as did the spoken language.

In order to preserve history from the Indian point of view, Ward requested the secretary of the tribal council, Cha-ka-to-ko-si, to write a manuscript history of the tribe. The result was a twenty-seven page document written in the Meskwaki sylla­bary. After their return to Iowa City, Ward and Flom published the manuscript.

(Adapted from News for Members, State Historical Society of Iowa, Spring 1982.)