History of the Butterfly, Part 46: Poweshiek and the Parkers

Did Poweshiek have a connection to the people (Henry and Helen Parker) who discovered and named a butterfly after him?

The Parkers lived in Poweshiek County.  Poweshiek was probably still very much a character in the minds of the early settlers to the area.  When the Parkers moved to Grinnell, the county was 22 years old and the town 11 years old.  Poweshiek signed the treaty that quit the claims that the Sac and Fox (Meskwaki) Indians had on the territory that became Iowa in 1842, just 23 years before the Parkers came to the city.  Poweshiek left Iowa but came back a couple of times.  There were probably settlers in the county who had personally met or at least seen Poweshiek.

They probably had seen some of the Meskwaki around Grinnell, as by that time the remnants of Poweshiek’s band had purchased land near Tama, Iowa (about 20 miles north and east of Grinnell) and were doing their best to survive with their culture intact.

Poweshiek died in 1854 in Kansas, so the Parkers would never have met him or seen him in Iowa.  But could they have seen him?

In the fall of 1837 Poweshiek, Wapello, Keokuk, Black Hawk, and Kishkekosh were members of a large delegation of American Indians who participated in treaty talks in Washington D.C., and toured several large cities in the East.  They were treated like celebrities.  In Boston, the size of the crowds that greeted them was measured in acres (14 acres of people). 

In the spring of 1837, Samuel Parker had returned from his three-year mission trip to the Indians of Washington and Oregon, and written his book, Journal of an Exploring Tour Beyond the Rocky Mountains.  The Parkers and the Fitches were families of means. 

In my mind’s eye I see Samuel Parker taking 15-year-old Henry on a long trip–maybe to Washington, maybe to Baltimore.  Samuel takes his son to an area where a huge crowd has developed to see speeches and dances of the Indians.  Henry notices one particular individual, standing alone.  Poweshiek turns and looks at him.  The poet has a strange feeling of strength from the gaze of the powerful Indian leader.  Henry feels that he has been touched by greatness.

Or maybe it happened to Abijah Fitch and nine-year old Helen.


About the roused bear

Nature photographer from central Iowa.
This entry was posted in American Indians, Black Hawk, Helen Fitch Parker, Henry W. Parker, Iowa History, Kishkekosh, Powasheek, The History of the Butterfly, Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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