Volunteers are welcome to assist
Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Uncovering a Meskwaki mystery

A quick glance across a field near South Amana reveals nothing remarkable—seemingly, the typical Iowa farm field. Upon closer inspection, archaeologists discerned that the property was the 1839–1843 home of about 500 Meskwaki people, including leaders of the Wacoshashe and Poweshiek tribes.

This spring, the Amana Colonies Land Use District, the Meskwaki Nation (Sac and Fox of the Mississippi in Iowa), and the University of Iowa’s Office of the State Archaeologist are partnering to archaeologically investigate this important site.

There are an estimated 15 large-sized historical Meskwaki villages in Iowa, but only four have been archaeologically verified. Very little is known about any of these sites. This endeavor is the second year of a phased approach to studying Meskwaki sites in Iowa. The goals of the project are to better understand what remains below ground here and recommend how to best manage the six-acre site.

Volunteers are welcome to assist, and can sign up here.

A rare glimpse at Native American gardening

Fourteen years ago, the UI Office of the State Archaeologist (OSA) and the Fort Atkinson Historic Preservation Commission (FAHPC) found archaeological remnants at an 1840s trading post near Fort Atkinson. The Hewitt-Olmsted Trading Post exchanged goods with the Ho-Chunk/Winnebago during the tribe’s forced residency in Iowa. The Archaeological Conservancy, a nonprofit organization committed to preserving America’s most important sites, recognized the site’s importance and purchased the property to ensure its protection.

LiDAR images, which use light from a laser to generate high-resolution contour maps, revealed a possible 1.7-acre ridged farm field on the north edge of the site. Historically, American Indians in the Upper Midwest often elevated their garden surfaces to improve planting conditions. If shown to be a raised garden bed, this would be only the second verified and preserved site of its kind in Iowa.

Certified Local Government (CLG) grants were issued by the Iowa State Historic Preservation Office for both of these projects. The CLG program funds a range of activities related to historic preservation including planning, identification, and evaluation of historic resources, and public education.