Manuscripts Miscellany: Native American Task Force of the Rural Coalition

One of our manuscripts collections is the Rural Coalition records (MS-0368), a national alliance of regionally and culturally diverse organizations concerned with rural issues, formed in 1978 to provide a national, unified voice for rural people and their communities. In its early years, the organization began a relationship with representatives from American Indian communities in the United States, leading to the founding of the Native American Task Force (also, variously called the American Indian Task Force by internal documents), one of the five task forces that guided the work of the Rural Coalition in the mid-1980s.

A number of documents in the collection record the steady development and growing momentum from the task force’s beginning as the spark of an idea, through its initial organization and development.

In a letter dated June 3, 1985, Kathryn Waller, Chair of the Board of Directors of the Rural Coalition, outlined the history and beginnings of the task force:

I am writing to you about an exciting development that emerged at our just completed 1985 Annual Meeting of the Rural Coalition. A number of Native American representatives attended the Meeting and met extensively and fruitfully with our leadership. The result is that we have unprecedented opportunity to develop a strong positive relationship between Native Americans and other constituencies in the Rural Coalition. This relationship stands in contrast to the many conflicts between Native Americans and other rural people in the past. [new paragraph] There are a number of steps that need to take place in order to firm up the potential of the budding development. The first steps have already been taken and affirmed by the Rural Coalition Board of Directors on May 22nd. These steps include: (1) the establishment of a Native American Task Force within the Rural Coalition; (2) a commitment from the Board and national staff to assist in furthering the development of the Task Force; and (3) initial provision of fundraising, logistical and staff support to the Task Force.

Selection from a letter from Kathryn Waller to J. Benton Rhoads, June 3, 1985, from Rural Coalition Records, MS-0368, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Box 15, Folder 33.

After the initial meeting between Native individuals and the Rural Coalition leadership, the Native American Task Force held its inaugural meeting a year later, June 12-15, 1986, in Rapid City, South Dakota. The roster of participants includes twenty-four people from twelve states, including people from the Yakima Nation, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Oyate Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, as well as representatives from non-profit organizations and individuals.

A few months after the task force’s first meeting, they issued a “Statement of Principles — Statement of Purpose” document, dated September 1986. This statement consisted of eight points:

  1. We will work to insure a safe environment for our children and future generations;
  2. We are dedicated to the survival of the Indian Nations;
  3. We will stand together to fight for the protection of our land and resources;
  4. It is our intention to uphold and enforce our treaty rights and the inherent rights of Indians;
  5. We will advocate tribal sovereignty;
  6. We will devise many ways and means to educate and inform Indians and non-Indians to the immediate and to the far-reaching concerns of Indian country;
  7. We will work to promote economic self-sufficiency without exploitation for Indian tribes, Indian groups and Indian persons;
  8. We will look to the confirmation of international recognition of Indian nations and Indian inherent rights.

The following year, in October 1987, an official one-page prospectus of the task force outlined specific areas of focus (“Indian Water Quality, Native Lands, Indian Agriculture”) and activities (“lobbying for specific legislation, research and policy analysis, advocating public policy positions, training and technical assistance to selected Native communities and educating non-Indian rural Americans and others on Indian issues”), with a call at the end for more members.

[On Rural Coalition letterhead] American Indian Task Force of the Rural Coalition. [New paragraph] Formed in 1986, the American Indian Task Force is one of five standing task forces of the Rural Coalition, a national alliance of some 140 memberorganizations banded together to advocate policies to benefit rural people. The Task Force currently has projects on Indian Water Quality, Native Lands Indian Agriculture and other program areas. Task Force members and professional staff design and carry out these projects which involve lobbying for specific legislation, research and policy analysis advocating public policy positions, training and technical assistance to selected Native communities and education non-Indian rural Americans and others on Indian issues. [new paragraph] The Task Force currently has 14 members drawn from all segments of Indian communities. Its membership includes elected Tribal officials, Tribal staff, representatives of non-profit organizations, professionals from several fields and people from both newly-recognized and non-federally-recognized Tribes. [new paragraph] Mr. Pat Bellanger (Chippewa) and Mr. Pat Moss (Cherokee) Chair the American Indian Task Force. Ms. Bellanger is also Vice Chair of the Rural Coalition's Board of Directors. Other Coalition Task Forces are Agriculture, Natural Resources, Jobs, Community Development and Military Issues. [new paragraph] The American Indian Task Force is expanding in 1987-88. Those interested in possible Task Force membership or more detailed information should contact George Coling, Rural Coalition, 2001 S Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20009, 202/483-1500. October 1987

One-page prospectus on the American Indian Task Force of the Rural Coalition, October 1987. Rural Coalition Records, MS 368, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Box 24, Folder 30.

Indian Water Quality was one of the initial programs of the Task Force. In May 1988, the task force issued a program report, covering the period from July 1, 1987 – April 20, 1988. The program was funded with a $50,000 grant from the Public Welfare Foundation. The goal of the program is “to improve the environmental health of American Indians living on reservations,” and in order to meet this goal, it outlines specific, measurable objectives. The first of these objectives was “to deliver on-site technical assistance on water quality assessment and program options to tribes and other Native American organizations.” The report spends a considerable amount of space detailing the work on this objective, which revolved around “developing a multi-reservation and single reservation model for delivering technical assistance.” The initial work began with the South Dakota Sioux reservations, including the publication of a study Groundwater Quality for Nine Reservations in South Dakota, followed by the organization of a meeting of the Great Sioux Nation, called the Mni Wiconi Conference held in Rapid City in February 1988, to distribute the information and initiate follow up consultation with individual tribes.

Cover page of a report: Program Report to Public Welfare Foundation, Rural Coalition Indian Water Quality Program, July 1, 1987 - April 30, 1988, May 1988, Contact: George Coling, Co-Director 202/483-1500, Ted Means, Associate Director 605/867-5855"

Cover page of the Program Report on the Rural Coalition Indian Water Quality Program, May 1988. Rural Coalition Records, MS 368, Iowa State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Box 14, Folder 15.

The Rural Coalition records in our holdings include a large number of subject files in which is collected background information on a number of issues of interest to the task force, including groundwater issues as well as a number of other issues, including Indian airspace, gaming legislation, Native American Fisheries, treaty rights, and economic development, among others.

These Rural Coalition records in our holdings currently end at the year 1990, but these records give insight into a growing area of focus for the organization.

 


Native American Heritage Month: Historical Photos of the Meskwaki

November is Native American Heritage Month, and our post for today features two sets of photos from within larger manuscript collections that offer glimpses of Meskwaki life from late 19th and early 20th century Iowa.

It bears mentioning that, while we are always seeking to diversify our collections, Iowa State University is not, and by its very nature will never be, the best resource for learning about Native American people’s histories and cultures — even those directly adjacent to us. This is because Native American nations keep their own records. If, therefore, you want to learn more about the Meskwaki Nation, which is located in Tama County, about an hour’s drive from ISU, I strongly recommend that you go directly to the source by visiting their website, their cultural center and museum, and/or by getting in touch with the museum’s historic preservation staff (contact information at the bottom of the linked page). They will be able to tell you more about themselves than our archives, or even coursework in ISU’s excellent American Indian Studies Program (AISP), ever could.

I also want to point out that the photographs in this post are, to the best of my knowledge, the creation of white, European-American photographers, who were outsiders to the Meskwaki culture. This is significant because it suggests that what we are actually seeing in these photos is (sometimes obvious, but always decidedly one-sided) documentation of encounters between two very different cultures, rather than internal elements or perspectives of Meskwaki life. It does not, at least in my opinion, make the images any less interesting or historically valuable; it is simply important context to bear in mind, particularly as our collections do not contain the counterpart, which would be documentation of such interactions that centers a Meskwaki point-of-view.

1897

These photos are among the oldest I know of in our collections that contain glimpses of people from what was then, at least to English-speakers, known as the “Sauk and Fox” tribe. The images are contained in a 6″ x 8″ photo album, which documents rural life in central Iowa at the end of the 19th century, though it is unclear who the creator was or why so much of the album remains empty.

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MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album. Album cover.

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MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album. Last page in album, identifying the manufacturer.

I have scanned the relevant page spread in its entirety but will zoom in on the three individual images, as well. Each is a black-and-white, thumbnail-sized picture inserted into a photograph sleeve with four-windows and then captioned and dated by hand.

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MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album.

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MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album.

According to an Encyclopedia Brittanica article, THE Black Hawk (Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kai-kaik), a Sauk warrior famed for leading three allied Iowa tribes (Sauk, Meskwaki, and Kickapoo) through the 1832 “Black Hawk War” against the U.S. government, died in 1838. This means that the man pictured above must be another, younger leader who went, or at least was know to local Anglo settlers, by the same name.

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MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album.

It is too bad that the photographer neglected to ask and/or recall these individuals’ names. It is, unfortunately, also not clear whether any of them had consented to be photographed in the first place. The fact that they are walking away from the camera suggests that they did not.

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MS-0714. Iowa Photograph Album.

Although these individuals are identified as being “from Tama Reservation,” it is not entirely clear whether they would have belonged to the Meskwaki Nation as it currently defines itself. “Sauk and Fox” seems to have been a catch-all term designated by the U.S. government for at least two distinct tribes, both of which it sought to forcibly relocated to Kansas in the decades following the Black Hawk War. The Meskwaki have also never referred to themselves internally as the “Fox”; this is an anglicization of a name conferred on the tribe by French fur trappers more than a century before. The “reservation” in Tama county, where a number chose to remain and/or return, was also not technically a government reservation, as the Meskwaki had purchased this land for themselves in 1857.

 

1931

These pictures were taken at an annual Powwow festival, which, according to the Meskwaki website, is typically held in either August or September and modeled after a traditional harvest-time social event known as the “Green Corn Dance.” Photographer Walter Rosene, best known for his prolific local bird photography, featured in the Avian Archives of Iowa Online, took these pictures, presumably while attending a Meskwaki Powwow with family or friends.

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MS-0598, Box 17, Folder 5. Meskwaki Powwow.

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MS-0598, Box 17, Folder 5. Meskwaki Powwow. The kids posing for this photo afford us an excellent view of their fancy outfits. The little one on the left, though, looks like he’s ready to scamper off to re-join the festivities!

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MS-0598, Box 17, Folder 5. Meskwaki Powwow. It is unclear whether this photo was taken at the Powwow or sometime before or after. There is no additional information on the back, but I am guessing that the people in this photo were all spectators. I personally also find the symmetry and contrasts interesting — for example, the plaid in both the little white girl’s dress and in the Meskwaki woman’s shawl, and the way the woman and children in the foreground are the only ones both not wearing hats and seemingly absorbed in something other than Rosene’s camera.

I did locate photos within a few more collections, all of them RS collections, which is more of what I typically work with. But I realized belatedly that the boxes I needed from each of these are stored off-site and that I wouldn’t have time to request them. Perhaps they will become their own blog post someday.

 

 


Native American Heritage Month 2019!

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, let’s take a look back on an incredible student group during the 1970s.

The newspaper clippings in this post are from the 1970s and may contain outdated language.

In the early 1970s, the United Native American Student Association (UNASA) was formed at Iowa State University. The group was intended to provide a voice for Native American students on campus, and educate the university and Ames about their culture.

Iowa State Daily Article from 12/4/75

Throughout the 70s, this group accomplished many things. They organized tutoring for children on the Mesquakie Reservation, lobbied Iowa State to introduce more courses to integrate Native American heritage, and sponsored symposiums on Native American affairs at ISU.

In 1975, at the first fall cultural program of the UNASA, Gerald Sitting Eagle from Old Sun College in Alberta, Canada, performed some traditional hoop dances. The following article gives more information on what sounds like an incredible performance.

In the article above, Gerald Sitting Eagle share this powerful quote: “I am proud to be dressed like this. I am proud of the color of my skin. I am proud to live on a reserve. I am proud of whatever I do because I stand equal with any man.”

Everything in this post can be found in box 2 of the RS 22/03/00/01 collection.

Make sure to check out some of our previous posts on this topic as well!


The United Native American Student Association at Iowa State University #NativeAmericanHeritageMonth #ThrowbackThursday

Photograph of white female student, long hair with glasses, close-up in a library office setting (cubicle & book shelves filled with books visible in the background).

Photograph courtesy of Cassandra.

This blog post was authored by Curation Services Student Writer Cassandra Anderson.

Did you know that November is Native American Heritage Month? Here on campus we have student organizations dedicated to various topics, but the one I am featuring today is the United Native American Student Association (UNASA). UNASA is still active on our campus today, and the organization sponsors events on campus to celebrate their heritage and to educate those around them. In the past the organization has sponsored the Symposium of on the American Indian in the University. In my research, I have found two brochures from these events. The first event that I have found in our University Archives and Special Collections was from 1973. Below is a photograph of the schedule of events! During the 1973 Symposium, there were several speakers and demonstrations given over the day.

The next event I was able to locate information on was in 1979, when UNASA sponsored the “Our Children, Our Future” event. Held on April 6 and 7 of 1979, the even was much larger than the 1973 event. While there were still speakers and demonstrations, there were also events for children, films, and other activities.

I also found an interesting article from the Iowa State Daily from October 17 (pictured below), about another event that UNASA brought to campus in 1979. For the first fall cultural event of the year, Gerald Sitting Eagle came to the university to perform a series of traditional hoop dances. You can see the article below!

“Sitting Eagle–dancing for cultural recognition,” Iowa State Daily, October 17, 1979.

While I was unable to find photos of the organization in our copies of the Bomb, there are several Iowa State Daily articles written about the organization and the events that they hosted. For more information on the United Native American Student Association, check out box 2 of collection RS 22/03/00/01!


Exploring Collections Related to ISU’s American Indian Heritage

In 1990, U.S. President George H.W. Bush designated November as National American Indian Heritage Month, a tradition that has continued although the name has evolved to Native American Heritage Month. In Washington, DC, the month is commemorated by events and exhibits at institutions such as The Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, the National Gallery of Art, and the Smithsonian Institutions, among others.

Members of White Roots of Peace, a traveling American Indian interest group, participated in the 1973 Symposium on the American Indian

Members of White Roots of Peace, a traveling American Indian interest group, participated in the 1973 Symposium on the American Indian (RS 22/3/0/1)

In December 1970, the Iowa State Daily announced the formation of the United Native American Student Association (UNASA). Its first president, Don Wanatee, stated that the group was established “to foster… understanding” of American Indians,” and to “bring different ideas and information about the American Indian to the University and the general public.” At UNASA’s January 1971 meeting, Wanatee spoke about environmental problems at the Meskwaki Indian Settlement, an early step towards that goal. The group held an annual Symposium on the American Indian as well as an annual campus Native American Week that began in April 1972 and lasted through at least 2005, according to Iowa State Daily articles. In addition to academic lectures, the symposiums often included film screenings, traditional dance performances, and events for children. More information about UNASA is available in RS 22/3/0/1, Student Organizations Records.

I would be remiss in discussing the role of Iowa State’s Native American students if I did not mention notable Native American rights leader and academic Vine Deloria, Jr. A 1958 graduate of Iowa State, Deloria also held a master’s degree in theology and a law degree; his writings also reflected these interdisciplinary interests, covering topics including religion, mythology, law, history, philosophy, and government. Oxford University Press’s American National Biography provides a biography of Deloria that provides information about many facets of his life’s work, from a three-year stint as executive director of the National Congress of American Indians to the nearly 30 years that he spent teaching courses on American Indian studies, political science, and the history of law at the University of California, Los Angeles, the University of Arizona, and the University of Colorado. In honor of Deloria’s contributions, Iowa State’s American Indian Studies Program awards the Vine Deloria Jr. Teaching, Research, and Service Award on an annual basis. Iowa State University Library carries a number of Deloria’s books, of course, including several e-books that ISU students, faculty, and staff can check out and read from the comfort of home.