Indians of Iowa

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United States > Iowa > Indians of Iowa

The name Iowa is derived from an Indian word meaning: "this is the place" or "the beautiful land".

Various field offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs -- superintendencies, agencies, Indian schools, and others --created records of births, marriages, deaths, adoptions, censuses, schools, land allotments, probates, and other miscellaneous records. Many of these records are available only at the originating office, if that office is still operating. Some of the original records have been transferred to the National Archives or to its regional archives.  The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has microfilm copies of some of these records.

Tribes and Bands of Iowa

Many of these tribes or bands lived in or had only minimal association with the area now known as Iowa. Some of them are only mentioned in treaties as parties to the cession of land in Iowa to the federal government. [1][2]


As identified in the National Atlas of the United States of America, the following reservation names in bold are current federally-recognized reservations.[3]

  • Keokuk Reservation (or Keokuk Reserve) -- a small reserve for the Sac and Fox Indians, 1832-1836, following the Black Hawk War, after which they were removed to later reservations.
  • Sac and Fox Reservation-- established in 1867 -- Federal reservation located in Tama County, Iowa, under the jurisdiction of the Sac & Fox Agency. Tribe: Sac and Fox (also known as Mesquakie).
  • Omaha Reservation -- primarily located in the southern part of Thurston County, Nebraska, but a portion extends into Monona County, Iowa. See Indians of Nebraska for additional information.
  • Winnebago Reservation -- mostly located in Thurston County, Nebraska but there is a small segment in Woodbury County, Iowa, just east of the Missouri River. See Indians of Nebraska for additional information.


Agencies were created as an administrative division of the federal government to manage Indian affairs with the tribes, to enforce policies, and to assist in maintaining the peace. The names and location of these agencies may have changed, but their purpose remained basically the same. Many of the records of genealogical value were created by these offices.

  • Winnebago Agency [4]
  • Raccoon River Agency
  • Turkey River Subagency 1842-1846

Half-Breed Tract

In the early 1800s, a tract of land was set aside by the federal government in Lee County, Iowa for the descendants of French fur trappers and other Europeans who had inter-married with Native Americans. These individuals were called "half-breeds." Thus the tract of land came to be known as the "Half-Breed Tract." Similar tracts were established in Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.


Records of the Indian Tribes of Iowa may be found in the National Archives or in the Regional Archives of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in Lenexa, Kansas.

Records Depositories

The primary records holders are the originating offices of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and of the respective tribes. Some of those records have been transferred to the National Archives or its Regional Archives. Some original and/or microcopied records have been collected by universities, historical societies, museums, and individuals.

Family History Library

Many Indian records have been microfilmed and copies are housed at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. To find American Indian records in the Family History Library Catalog look in the Subject Search under the name of the tribe, such as:

Fox Indians | Potawatomi Indians | Sauk Indians

For further information on American Indians, see:

Iowa History Reference Guide [5] Pages 22–31 list books and articles about the various American Indian tribes, agents, treaties, and the half-breed tract in Iowa.

You can also look in the Locality Search in the Family History Library Catalog under:


Iowa Superintendency 1838-1849

Web Sites

See Also

Iowa - History for a calendar of events
Iowa - Military - Forts


  1. Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Washington D.C.: Smithsonian Institution. Bureau of Ethnology. Bulletin #30 1907.
  2. Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Smithsonian Institution: Bureau of Ethnology, Bulletin #145
  3. Isaacs, Katherine M., editor. Omni Gazetteer of the United States of America. U.S. Data Sourcebook, Volume 11 Appendices. Bureau of Indian Affairs List of Indian reservations, Appendix E, Indian reservations. Omnigraphics, Inc., 1991
  4. Hill, Edward E. The Office of Indian Affairs, 1824-1880: Historical Sketches. Clearwater Publishing CO., Inc. 1974.
  5. Petersen, William John. Iowa History Reference Guide. Iowa City, Iowa: State Historical Society of Iowa, 1952. (FHL book 977.7 A3p; computer number 241027.) This bibliography includes sections about American Indians, immigration, land, government, courts, military, schools, churches, businesses, history, and biographies. It is arranged by subject and has an index.