“Ioway” tour explores IC Native American history


Iowa City locals recently learned about the “Ioway.”

University of Iowa students enrolled in the Native Histories and Endurance in the Midwest organized a Native American walking tour on May 1.

The tour — called “Ioway” — was a 1.74-mile route that featured 15 historical sites related to Native American history in Iowa City.

“ ‘Ioway’ is a reference to the Ioway tribe that occupied Iowa in the 1800s,” said Nick Brown, a UI American studies visiting assistant professor and the instructor of the course.

Roughly 30 people gathered in the Pedestrian Mall near the Black Hawk Mini Park, where the tour started.

UI senior Abby Peeters presented the history of the park and how it was greatly affected by urban decay and renewal after World War II. After countless buildings in Iowa City were destroyed, Project Green was founded to support historic buildings and sites.

It wasn’t until 1979 that the space was turned into an official city park in which a mural of Black Hawk was painted.

The mural of Black Hawk served as a constant reminder to promote respect for the Earth, but was removed in the 1980s when the building on which the mural was painted was remodeled.

A second presentation went into detail about food and gardening, and how the Native American practices feature the importance of knowing the connections between where food comes from and how it gets onto plates.

Along with Black Hawk’s impact on Iowa City and Native American’s history with hunting and gardening, leaders of the tour also educated people about Native American Powwows, one of which the UI hosts nearly every spring.

Powwows come from the green corn dance and are used to unify tribes, as well as play games and celebrate Native American culture.

There are 49 American Indian students at the UI in the spring 2015 semester, down from more than 140 six years ago.

UI junior Carly Ward said she believes events such as the tour and Powwows are important because America is a melting pot, and such events make for better understanding of different cultures.

“We could communicate better, get to know each other better, and immerse ourselves in different cultures,” she said.  

Because the tour took place in such a concentrated area of Iowa City, the Native American presence was subtle but prevalent.

The literary walk in downtown Iowa City features plaques from two famous Native American authors — Black Hawk and Ray Young Bear.

The history of Native Americans spread from these locations to many more, including the Old Capitol, Macbride Hall, and the Iowa River.

Some history is even embedded in the street names people come across every day downtown.

“I do think it’s really important to think about the names we use all of the time and to be aware of some of the injustices that get embedded in these place names,” she said.

Steinkraus said while there are some places named after Native Americans, she doesn’t believe they are as prominent as the ones named after white settlers or leaders. 

“Often, those histories are a little covered up, and often, that’s because there hasn’t been full restitution made to Native American people,” she said.

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