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Indian Stories by great grandma



As a child my great grandma Elizabeth Williamson Beebe played with Indian children from a tribe that lived near the banks of a local river. She never said, that I can recall, what kind of Indians they were, but an educated guess is that they were either Illini or Ioway Indians. 

The state of Illinois just across the river was named after the Illini tribe. The eastern Ioway tribes were kin  to their more famous Sioux cousins who lived further west, but didn't get along with their non farming cousins very well. Although Illini and Ioway are best guesses, there were other tribes like the Fox and Sauk in the Des Moines area too. 

A century earlier the British built strings of forts across the trade routes to the great lakes and in the Ohio Valley. Military pressure forced the local Indians to move increasingly westward. Among Indian tribes forced westward to Iowa were Sauk, Fox, Kickapoo and Ojibwa, but that list isn't exhaustive. 

Additional stress upon the hunting grounds resulted from new tribes taking up residence and caused wars among the various resident Indian tribes. So it appears that the new tribes moved to different places in pre statehood Iowa, and settled behind what they considered more defensable boundaries.

Before 1833 Indian tribes dominated what would later become Des Moines County. In 1834 there were only two counties in all of Iowa, Des Moines and Dubuque. In 1836 Des Moines County was divided up into seven counties, Des Moines, Lee, Van Buren, Henry, Louisa, Muscatine and Cook.

Talking to great grandma was like getting live news from Iowa of the mid 1800's. Born in 1864, she remembered nothing about the civil war, but she remembered stories of soldiers removing Indians from their homes in Illinois. She remembered the Battle of The Little Bighorn. She knew people who  survived the battle.

As a child I imagined that grandma had actually experienced the events of which she told, but as an  adult my perception tells me that grandma wasn’t that old. With pride I relate the stories I heard, with head-hanging apologies for any lapses or omissions of memory.

Ancient Legend - Where Human Beings Came From

Ancient ones believed the moon was their mother and the sun was their father; that their forbears descended from animals and lived underground. Since emerging from underground as people, they have believed ever since that their spirits both good and evil, have  lived in the animals, and human beings are one with nature.

The legend told of ancient ones who lived by a green river at a place called, "White Water That Does Not Flow." 

They believed that their land was formed by a great white snake that came down from the north and burrowed out the canyons and lakes of their homeland. 

When the snake went away to the north, it left behind trails of large bones of strange animals it had eaten.

NOTE: The giant sloth once roamed what is now Iowa.









NOTE: Even experts interpret Indian legends differently. Being from Alaska I know that green rivers issue from glaciers. Other Indians of the north east were also familiar with the legend, and offered some help with terminology.

1. White water that did not flow was ice, a frozen river, or possibly the glacier.

2. Great white snake that carved up the land was a glacier that retreated northward.

3. The trail of large bones is a rather sticky wicket, but by a long leap in logic could have been the remains of dinosaurs. We know that dinosaurs roamed across what is now Iowa and Minnesota before the last ice age.

Animals caught in the ice would be preserved for centuries until the ice melted. 

Anyone with a better theory, let's hear it.

Story OF The First White Man