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Iowa State University Course Highlights Iowa American Indian History

Ames Historical Society Website
Iowa Governor Robert Ray is pictured with Maria Pearson, a Native activist, and her husband, John.

For the past three years, Iowa State University's "Teaching and Learning Iowa History" series has taught courses about social justice in Iowa. This summer, a new course will highlight American Indian Iowans and their contributions to social movements in the state.

On this Talk of Iowa, Katy Swalwell, associate professor of Education at Iowa State University, and Sebastian Braun, Director of American Indian Studies at Iowa State University, join Charity Nebbe to discuss the relative lack of Native histories in curricula across the country—particularly in Iowa.

“I ask my students ‘What do you know about Native people in Iowa?’" Braun says. "A good portion of them are surprised that there are Native people in Iowa.”

Native history is of consequence to all Americans, Braun says, especially as it relates to land. Braun describes a dispute between the Omaha and the Winnebago tribes, the state, and farmers for lands on the eastern side of the Missouri River.

"Farmers had just assumed that this was nobody's land and that therefore it was theirs," Braun says. "And then they discovered, to their surprise, that there were still sovereign Native nations who actually rightfully believed that, no, it was theirs."

"If we artificially cut off that history at the time when somebody new appears on this land, then we do not understand the land itself, our relationship to the land, we do not understand how we established ourselves on this land," Braun says. "And I think that leads to a truncated understanding of ourselves, our identity, our history, and of our relationship to the land."

Later in the hour, Elizabeth Reetz, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the University of Iowa Office of the State Archaeologist, shares sites in Iowa where history buffs can learn more about Native history.

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Lindsey Moon is IPR's Senior Digital Producer