These Native Ways
The tribal tradition is that at one time the, Ioway Otoe-Missouria were one with the Winnebago. And somewhere up towards the northeast, they separated. And the Winnebago stayed because there was a lot of good fishing areas up there, the stories say and that then the people came down this way. At some point the Ioway separated.
They named the State of Iowa after the Ioway, and yet Ioway is not the name that they use. The name they use in their language is Báxoje. And, some people said that it meant “Gray nose”. One Otoe elder said that when they came back up on them that it was winter time, and that the smoke holes, through the top of the lodges, there was snow over the lodges. And, that smoke and soot came down and discolored the snow on top, making it look like gray. So when they first came back and reunited with them, they referred to them as the Gray Snow People. And that’s literally, that’s what it means: Bá is “snow”; and xóje is “gray”. Báxoje .
The Missouria became known as the Missouria because the early, Anglo explorers already named the river Missouri. And since they were living by the river, they were called the Missouria People. I have since learned that the name Missouria is from the language of the eastern tribes, such as the Illini, Miami, Peoria and Delaware. It means “Boat Makers”, as in dug-out canoes, for which these latter tribes named them. Their own name is: Ñút^achi, meaning: Reside where the River Forks. The Missouria by the late 1700s were pretty much decimated by smallpox and intertribal warfare.
I believe it was the Osage or Sac & Fox who attacked the remaining diminished village and pretty much annihilated them. There were about a hundred survivors that just scattered and the majority of them swam across the Missouri River and joined the Otoe, ’cause that was their closest relations. But, it was said that some of the survivors also joined the Osage, the Kaw, and whoever would give them refuge. And so this occurred in the year of 1798.
And from that time on, the people were always known as the Otoe-Missouria. And they had at least three main clan leaders, the Missourias. There was the Bear clan, the Buffalo clan and the Eagle clan remaining among the Missouria. The Otoe and the Ioway have seven clans altogether.
These grandsons I have , I had a ceremony for them and they got Bear clan names.
But there’s nobody left. Nobody has the authority to give Clan names. But as the elders have died off, why different ones have kind of stepped up and gone forth and to do these things.
Your initial prayers, you just say, well, tell that you’re going to go forth and do this for your relatives–the best way you know how. If there’s any mistakes in there, you pray: Take these mistakes, and put blessings and knowledge in place of those mistakes.
And they had said this in all their prayers, them old folks would always say, they would say along the same line: “Warúthange ha^ú n na wawágibewi re”. In other words, “if I make a mistake, throw it away for us”. That’s what they would say. And in place put knowledge and blessings in place of that mistake”. That’s the only thing what you can do..
There was a family twenty years ago that were Beaver clan. And they wanted to have some Beaver clan names given to their younger members. So, during the Powwow, they gathered, they put out invitations, different ones came.
They just kind of reestablished the old Ioway and Otoe culture as best they could. And, they reinstituted, like the Iróshka Wókigo–Iroshka Society. And, and a lot of the former ceremonies that they used to have in, up there in Kansas and Oklahoma. But up here what’s left up here (Kansas) was acculturation or amalgamation up here. So they wanted to stay Ioway, and they did pretty much be pure, “Báxojehsji”. You know, true Ioway. So about a dozen families migrated South to Oklahoma Indian Territory and became the Oklahoma Ioways.
The Bear clan was the leading clan, and that Bear clan and their affiliates (affiliated clans) took the lead in Autumn and in the Winter. And then, in the Spring when they heard a certain frog called “Peshke”, it’s a littlegreen frog, tree frog. When they heard that voice, by then, they knew it was time for the Buffalo clan and their affiliates (clans) to take over for the Spring and Summer Seasons. So they were the two leading clans.
Once I went to a workshop and someone there was a Native fellow who spoke. And, he made this quote that somebody said. He said like, “In every generation there’s certain individuals will have a certain innate kind of compelling interest to pursue those kind of traditional things”.
I not only researched as much as I could on language and things that had been done in the past, but I went to the elders and got other recordings directly from them. I simply did learn about it ’cause it was interesting to me. Later on, as I got married and had family, I wanted these things for my family. I started to have a further understanding and deeper appreciation for them, that these were things help bless one’s life and that of the children to go on.
This one grandson. This one, he’s twenty-one. When he was really young he was abandoned. That’s the way it was. So he was left with a Ponca grandfather. And the Ponca grandfather was unable to keep him. One day, I was, had an inspiration. I said got the family to go down to Oklahoma and see how they’re doing, cause I knew they had been left with him, the grandpa. He had prayed that he wouldn’t have to give him up to the welfare, and so, he thanked Wakanda for my unanticipated arrival.
A couple years ago, the grandson went back to Oklahoma. And he took to the streets, got to partying and all, all the kinds of temptations out there.
Anyway, it came to pass about a year and a half ago he was driving with his buddies, and they were all drinking and partying, and then, anyhow he had a one-car accident. And he went through the windshield. And when they got him on the operation table he died. And they put those electric clamps on him. And they brought him back to life.
And ironically, he told me later on, he said, “Grandpa, few days later I was in a sweat lodge.” And he said: “It was just ironic.” And then he said the way those people run sweat lodge down there, in Concho area, they have, they have four doors (open the lodge door four times during the prayer).” And he said, “Each time they open, everybody was looking with great shock at me.” He said, “because apparently I was covered, my head was, had gone through the windshield, covered with lots of scabs and stuff, but that sweat lodge was causing that to start peeling off. And it was as if I was being healed at that very moment. Everybody knows a sweat lodge is a healing. But we don’t expect it to occur immediately. And that seemed to be occurring immediately. And everybody was just shocked and in awe that this was happening. They were, they were, witnessing this.”
So anyway he finally made his way back up here. And I said, “Now, perhaps you understand why I had old people pray over you when you were a little guy. Why I had your naming, that there would be spiritual guardians in your path.” I said, “You didn’t come back to life just for nothing.” I said, “It’s for you now to discover what your mission is. What it is, because you’re not here just to have a second chance. There’s a reason.”
And as it was, that he explained further that through that Summer, three of his best buddies were killed in car wrecks. And he thought, “Why them, and not me?” And I said, “Yes, exactly, why them and not you? So you returned.” And I said, “Now, you’ll understand why we’ve done these things, you know.
“You always said these things we did, these Native ways, prayer ways and that were something that your generation had no interest.” I said, “We didn’t do them for nothing. We’re not trying to keep culture going. We’re doing it because, to help us in this everyday life. It has a purpose. It’s not just a cute little uh, custom. We’re doing it because there’s some deep spiritual meaning behind this. Yeah, and there’s truth.” So, it all took on a new, a very new perspective. And he, it made him to quit drinking and quit smoking and all like that.
Oh, about four or five years ago. One of the old ceremonies that our folks had was what the Lakota people call a “Hunka” ceremony, the Making of Relatives. Which is probably the most formal way of making relatives. Well, I did this once when my son, who was growing up, he’s now in his mid-thirties. And I did this for him, down in Oklahoma with a Sac and Fox boy. And then I had an inspiration to do this (again) for this grandson I’m telling you about.
So, there was an Arikara boy he went to school with him here, and so I took this inspiration and talked to his parents about it. I said, “This is a thought that came to me. I’m going to share it with you, and if, if you are willing to accept it, I’m going to go ahead with it. I’m not asking you to assist with cost, or anything. I’m just saying if you’re willing to do it, that’s what I’m doing. My plan is to go back up to South Dakota and get this old elder who did it the first time, and bring him back down here.” And so, they said, yes, they would not only go with it, but they’d try to help out the best they could.
And, so, we brought this old elder down from Little Eagle. And I had to go and get him because the Lakota still have maintained the essence of that ceremony. It used to take four days, but they still maintain the essence of it. And the, a few vital songs. So this old elder came down and performed this ceremony for this grandson I’m speaking of and this here, other young son, the boy who is Arikara-Hidatsa. We made the two brothers, and therefore, another grandson to me and the family.
And so, we did that. And I, I explained to him. I said, “You did all these things and as it was, they became extended family, and when you first came back that’s who you stayed with.”
And, it’s where these old Sacred Bundles have become, passed to disuse into artifacts because, like for instance, they say for the Buffalo Hunting Bundle. We don’t go out and hunt buffaloes. So we don’t have a use, and so there was no need to continue to learn that. And that’s the way lots these different things have fallen to disuse.
And, and where is Native culture to go from here, is that you have to make it have current value and application. Make it have some meaning, an essence, some usefulness. And it’s only through trying to keep those ceremonies and things such as I’m trying to explain to him. That I said, “Getting an Indian name wasn’t just getting an Indian name. It was asking those attributes of the ancestors who had that name before you, to bring all those good attributes to you, and at the same time to form a connection with them. Thus, they would watch over you, and protect you, and….”
What else could I say? “All I know is, you survived that wreck.”
An oral historian, tribal scholar and storyteller, Jimm GoodTracks is Ioway/Otoe. His Grandfather was Hartico of the Bear clan. His mother was from the Pigeon clan. His Mother was married to a Pawnee who was one of the leaders of the Native American Church.
Otoes were the first people to meet Lewis and Clark in Eastern Nebraska. When Oklahoma Territory became a state, they forced the Otoes to take land allotments. The Otoe/Missourias ended up on Big Blue River in central Nebraska on the border of Kansas. They founded a town called Barneston which was their last actual village. Some tribal members ended up in the White Cloud, Kansas area. Some families moved to Indian territory in Oklahoma. Today Jimm resides in Lawrence, Kansas.
Jim GoodTracks has compiled a number of “we’kan” traditional stories. He tells stories of different ceremonies: Irushka ceremonies, sacred pipe ceremony, the Ossakeekadeedoo, Hunka ceremony – making of relatives. There is no Irushka society with the Ioways in Oklahoma, but the Ioways still dress in traditional Irushka clothes. Jimm also discusses a range of cultural topics. He discusses the history of dances, including the (Asakipiriru) Young Dog Dance, Red and Blue Drum Dance, grass dance, and straight dance. He shares his knowledge of the construction of tribal houses and lodges. He likes to talk about clans, and how a little green frog, Peshke, alerted the Bear Clan, who led in autumn and winter, that it was time for the Buffalo Clan to take over for the spring and summer, and the story about the naked Indian that Lewis and Clark observed.
Jimm works to preserve and research the Ioway Otoe-Missouria language (Ba’xoje Jiwe’re-Nu’t^achi), oral tradition, history and customs. He wishes to create a knowledge resource in print for the younger generations that desire to know about their heritage and language. He composed the Ioway, Otoe-Missouria dictionary with over nine thousand entries. Published at the University of Colorado in 1992, it is used by linguists and educators as a resource for comparative work with other Siouan languages.
PO Box 267
Lawrence, KS 66044
(785) 832- 0614