How do you think having specialized jobs helped the Ioway people?
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The Ioways at Work

The Ioway Indians (also called Iowa Indians) lived in Iowa before European-American settlers arrived in the 1830s. They lived in villages along major rivers such as the Mississippi and the Missouri.

In this tribe, work was divided between clans. "Every clan, Bear or Buffalo for example, had a special job to do," said Lance Foster, a member of the Ioway tribe. "The Bear Clan would lead people in hunts and also act as police. The Buffalo Clan tended to be farmers. Although everyone planted something, the Buffalo were the leaders."

In the Ioway tribe, specialists worked at different tasks. Some people made arrows and others made drums. "Usually you paid them in something like horses or goods," Foster said. "There wasn't any money. It was all about trade."

Women were the caretakers of families and the farmers who cultivated the fields. "They were considered the heart of the nation," Foster said. "The men were mainly for the defense of the tribe."

Children were given responsibilities when they were as young as 5 years old. Boys hunted birds and rabbits for food. Girls helped their mothers in the fields and learned to sew by making doll clothes. "All children were made to feel good about their contributions," Foster said.

"The most respected people were the ones who worked for the good of all people," Foster remarked.

By 1996 members of the Ioway tribe lived mainly in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma. They worked in a variety of jobs on and off the reservation, but still had responsibilities to the tribe.

"They always try to make time during pow wows, ceremonies and funerals for traditional roles of work," Foster said in a 1996 interview. "Some people cook feasts while others might be responsible for making drums or other objects."

Adapted from original article written by Amy Ruth, The Goldfinch 17, No. 4 (Summer 1996). Iowa City: State Historical Society of Iowa.



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