Indian Antiquities, Woodbury County, Iowa

When Lewis and Clark’s expedition ascended the Missouri River, they found the Sioux in possession of the country on the north side of the river above the Big Sioux, and on both sides from the mouth of the Niobrara up to near where Ft. Buford now is. On the west side of the river, at the Blackbird Hills, was the Omaha village. This tribe, whose present village is about thirty miles southwest of Sioux City, had occupied the neighborhood of their present village from a time to which Indian tradition fixes no limit. Their peaceful ways had fixed the tribe not only in locality, but also in numbers, and from the best accounts attainable they have never varied much in the latter, from 1,200 souls. On account of this Chinese-like fixedness, this tribe has always been considered one of the most interesting by students. At this writing a cultured young lady of Boston, Miss A.C. Fletcher, is living with the tribe as a member, to study their religion and traditions. Though in the early treaties the government appears to recognize the title of the Omaha’s to the country about this city, it was the common hunting ground of this tribe and the Sioux.

The Sioux are, as a tribe, the opposite of the Omaha’s. While the Omaha’s have remained stationary, the Sioux have grown. From the time of Lewis and Clark’s expedition to the time the first lot was staked at Sioux City, the tribe had almost annihilated the once formidable Rees and Mandans, reduced the Ponca’s to a petty band, and extended their dominion to the south as far as the Platte, north to the Saskatchewan. Indian tradition says that the Sioux are not an old tribe, but the descendants of a band of young braves from different tribes that banded themselves together to form a new tribe, and started from somewhere near th e head of the south Saskatchewan. These Romans of the North subdued other tribes and incorporated them with themselves, taking such wives, as they wanted from conquered. The name used by the tribe in speaking of themselves, Dakota-friends or allies-comes from this association of young men, rather than from the subsequent proceedings had.

The human bones disinterred in excavating for the foundations of buildings in Sioux City, indicate that the Omaha’s, or some other of the older tribes, occupied the country before the Sioux came, for the Omaha’s bury their dead, while the Sioux expose the bodies of their deceased friends on scaffolds. Dr. Yeoman’s, one of the first settlers of Sioux City, mentions in a letter recently written to a resident, that, when he first saw the town site, in the fall of 1855, the trees on the east slope of Prospect Hill were ornamented with scaffolds, on which were the bones of Indians. The dead had been wrapped in their robes and blankets, and left there to decay.

But before either the Omaha’s or the Sioux occupied the country about Sioux City, it was the home of another and more civilized people, of whom, unfortunately, but little can now be known. Their principal city was on the Broken Kettle Creek, about seven miles northwest of Sioux City. There a circular elevation, several acres in extent rise to the height of from six to ten feet above the level of the bottomland. But few explorations of this village mound have been made, and the most that is known of it comes from observations taken of the side where the Broken Kettle Creek has cut into the mound. The soil of which the mound is made appears to be different from that of either the neighboring bluffs, or of the bottomland, from which it raises; nor is there any depression near the mound to show from whence came the materials of which it is made. In places, and at some little distance below the surface, are ashes and bones of some animals, as if the mound had been built higher since it was first the site of a village. Some human bones have been found, but scattered and broken, as the animal bones were, and this gives rise to the horrid theory that the villagers feasted on elk, man and buffalo flesh with equal enjoyment. The few parts of skeleton found on the higher part of this and neighboring mounds (for there are several mounds in the same section) are supposed to be the result of Indian interments made long subsequent to the age when these mounds were the sites of populous towns. The peculiar feature of the mounds, and the one from which the creek takes its name, Broken Kettle, is the numerous remains of pottery found. These vessels, from the fragments found, (for no complete specimens have yet been discovered) appear to have been for all kinds of domestic use. They were made of clay found in the bluff not far off, and appear to have been molded by hand, not turned on a wheel, before being baked. Some of them display considerable rude taste in ornamentation and design, and much patience in their making. A mound somewhat similar to those on the Broken Kettle is reported to have been found on the Little Sioux, north of Correctionville, but with this exception the Broken Kettle mounds are unique, as is their pottery. It is to be regretted that these interesting remains have not been more fully explored, and it is to be hoped that at an early day some one actuated by a pure love of knowledge will investigate these relics of an earlier civilization.

The Indian War

In 1861, the beginning of the war of the Rebellion fired the hearts of the pioneer patriots of Sioux City to such an extent that a company of cavalry was formed under the State law, with Capt. Tripp in command. This organization disbanded during the winter, and the following summer a company was enlisted under the name of the Sioux City Cavalry, under which name it was mustered into the government service, with A.J. Millard as Captain. During the Indian troubles following the massacres at New Ulm and Spirit Lake, this company did much to give confidence and courage to the frontier. It was the presence of this company that checked the stampede of settlers that came out of Dakota in the summer of 1862, and when Cordua and Roberts were killed by straggling Indians in Bacon’s Hollow, three miles east of this city, the Sioux City Cavalry followed the trail of the murderers for several days, but without overtaking them. About the same time Sioux Falls was burned, and several murders committed by the Sioux in Union and Clay counties, in Dakota.

In the winter of 1862-3, General John Cook began the organization of a campaign against the Sioux, with Sioux City as a base of operations. The Sioux City Cavalry, as a company, went into the Seventh Iowa Cavalry, a part of which regiment, and all of the Sixth Iowa Cavalry, composed the force of which General Sully took command in the spring of 1863, when he relieved General Cook. After the campaign of that year, the expedition returned to spend the winter of 1863-4 at Sioux City, and the summer following went out on the campaign, which resulted in driving the hostile Sioux beyond the Missouri.

Source: Woodbury County Iowa, History of Western Iowa, 1882

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top