The historical legacy of the eastern prairies between the Mississippi and Missouri rivers in the 1830s is dominated by a series of violent confrontations between Indians and the U.S. Army. Though the “Black Hawk Wars” involved just a few of the Indians living along the Mississippi River watershed, these conflicts epitomize commonly held understandings of Indian-white relations in the region: a violent clash of cultures in which Indians valiantly, but unsuccessfully, fought against American expansion. Contradicting this binary, Iowa Indian leaders understood that their communities had potentially much to gain from aspects of white expansion. The primary purpose of this article is to look beyond circumscribed definitions of Indian-white relations and to illustrate how the Iowa used an assortment of political, economic, and social tactics to help shape their rapidly changing world. Confronting declining wildlife resources, the Iowa began reshaping their economies toward what they hoped would be a more stable agricultural future while initiating diplomatic relations with American agents to help mitigate recurring and more immediate tensions with powerful Indian adversaries.

This content is only available as a PDF.