Meskwaki Anthology




From the desk of Johnathan L. Buffalo




Ne-ka-to-ka-de-a  “One Claw”


The Meskwaki had a horse-oriented culture after European contact, but never became a “Plains” type of tribe in regards to their relationships with the animals.  Noticing the hoof, the Meskwaki called the horse Ne-ka-to-ka-de-a from the root words “ne-ko-ti”, for the number one, and “a-ska-da” for claw or fingernail.


The Meskwaki received the horse (standard and pony) after settling in Iowa in 1735.  By the 1750’s and early 1800’s Meskwaki warriors traveled south to Santa Fe, New Mexico and north to the Mandan villages in South Dakota to trade, raid, or buy horses.  Over the years, the Meskwakis bred certain ponies to develop particular kind of ponies that best suited the tribe’s purposes.  This breed of ponies, similar to Appaloosas, was unique to the tribe and different from other lines of American Indian ponies.  In time the tribe was keeping very large horse herds.  The horses remained with the tribe during their removal to Kansas and came back with them to Iowa when the tribe returned.  After settling down in Tama County, their herds numbered 700 ponies and horses.  During this time the Meskwaki used the horse when traveling to their winter camps.  By 1900, in an attempt to stop the tribe from roaming the state, the U.S. government shot and killed most of the herd.  By World War II the last Meskwaki ponies and horses were gone.



[Article from a local newspaper, c. 1950]





Three Indian horses strayed out on highway 30, 3 miles west of Tama, Wednesday, about 6:15 p.m.  One was hit by a car, which was damaged in the amount of $75.  The horse ran away apparently uninjured.


Leland Gibson, 26, LeGrand laborer, was driving the auto, a 1947 Plymouth coupe, going east.  He could not stop in time to avoid hitting the horse, according to the sheriff’s office report.


The Indian Settlement will soon have a reputation for breeding very tough horses.