The 1837 Ioway Map

Introduction

The 1837 Ioway Map (known sometimes as No Heart's map) was created by one or more unnamed Ioway Indians, for a meeting that took place on October 7, 1837 in Washington DC.

Illustrated on the map are villages and travel routes of the Ioway, plotted on lakes and rivers within an area of nearly a quarter of a million square miles of the Upper Midwest and eastern Great Plains. But the map also illustrates the movements of the Ioway throughout time, from their traditional place of origin at the estuary of Green Bay in present-day Wisconsin about 1600 AD through their journeys between the Wisconsin woodlands and the plains of eastern Nebraska for the next 237 years.

1837 Iowa Map

The History of the 1837 Ioway Map

The map, drawn in black ink on two large sheets of paper, was presented at a U.S. government-hosted council designed to persuade several midwestern tribes to agree to land cessions and new treaties. The council included members from the Sac, Fox and Ioway tribes, and government officials from the US Indian Commmission. At stake was the money to be derived from the land cessions; the Sac laid claim to what the Ioway said were their traditional lands and the map was made to prove Ioway ownership.

Attending for the Ioway delegation was the leader Na'je Nine or Non-chi-ning-ga (translated as No Heart of Fear), who introduced the map saying "This is the route of my forefathers. It is the lands that we have always claimed from old times. We have the history. We have always owned this land. It is what bears our name." 

The map played a central role in the Ioway presentation of evidence. During the meeting, No Heart and fellow delegate Ñiyu Mañi or Neo-Man-Ni (Moving Rain or Walking Rain or Raining) indicated several of their villages, dating from their earliest days on Lake Pepin and Green Bay to their days on the Des Moines River during the French and Spanish occupations. Further, they argued, the names of the rivers were Ioway names, not Sac or Fox, who as current residents vied for ownership of the land between the rivers. 

The Ioway ultimately lost their claim to the Sac. Although the Sac leader Keokuk did not dispute the history illustrated on the 1837 Ioway Map, the Sac were the current inhabitants and the US government sided with them. 

This remarkable document is no less than an illustrated history of the Ioway people between 1600 and 1837. 

Sources

Green, William. 2001. Plate 18: Ioway Indian Map of 1837. In An Atlas of Early Maps of the American Midwest: Part II. ed., W. Raymond Wood. Illinois State Museum, Springfield.

Martha Royce Blaine. 1995. The Ioway Indians. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.