History of the Butterfly Part 15: Mahaska the Elder

The first Mahaska, whose name meant “white cloud”, was a chief of the Ioway tribe of Indians.

 The Ioway were a powerful tribe that was in decline at the time of Mahaska, primarily due to a smallpox epidemic that wiped out about three fourths of the population.  That dramatic decline in population changed the balance of power, and allowed neighboring tribes who had been historical rivals to push them out of some of their historical territories.

Mahaska was suddenly thrust into power when his father was murdered by a rival Sioux tribe.  Mahaska was quite young at the time, and had not been tested in battle.  He was offered the opportunity to lead a revenge party against the rivals, and chose to participate but not lead the party.  He killed the Chief of the Sioux tribe that had killed his father, and thus achieved status in his tribe.

McKenny records that Mahaska “was in eighteen battles against various bands and was never defeated.”

Mahaska was involved in a fight with some Frenchmen who were passing by in a canoe.  They asked the men for assistance (Mahaska had a nosebleed at the time), and instead of assisting them, the Frenchmen fired on the Indians, wounding one of Mahaska’s party.  The Indians, including Mahaska returned fire and one of the Frenchmen was killed.

As a result of this incident, a number of whites pursued and captured Mahaska, and he was put in jail, where he remained for a number of months.

Photo from wikimedia
Information from McKenney V. I, 1872

About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
This entry was posted in American Indians, Iowa History, Mahaska, The History of the Butterfly, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s