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This cabinet photograph from my collection was taken by Joseph L. Hudson at his gallery in Tama, Iowa, and dates from sometime in the late 1880s or 1890s. It depicts three members of the Meskwaki tribe - sometimes spelled Mesquakie. The tribe is known in English as the Fox.

The Meskwaki originated in the Great Lakes region of Ontario, Canada but were driven out in the early 1700s in a series of wars between them and the French and their Huron allies. Once numbering around 10,000 they suffered greatly during these wars and were much reduced in numbers when they migrated into what would become the states of Iowa, Wisconsin,
Illinois and Missouri.

Some portions of the tribe were removed to what became known as Indian Territory (the future state of Oklahoma) but the state of Iowa in an unprecedented move at the time passed a law that allowed members of the tribe to purchase the land on which they lived in 1851. Generally, native peoples were not allowed to own land under U.S. law since they were not considered citizens of the U.S. Iowa seems to have ignored that fact and many of the Meskwaki took up residence in and around Tama, Iowa, where this photograph was taken (Tama being named for the Meskwaki chief Taimah). Today the tribe is joined with the Sac and is known as the Sac and Fox Nation and numbers some 4000.

The young man and two young women in the photograph while wearing clothing typically seen in any mid-western photo of the time have all chosen to wear various elements of traditional bead and beaded belt work. This is most evident in the young man who looks directly into the camera with a remarkable sense of pride and self-assuredness. He also wears ribbon garters on the sleeves of his shirt. These appear in other photographs of Meskwaki men taken by the same photographer and seem to have been a common accessory.

Cabinet Photograph
Joseph L. Hudson - Photographer
Tama, Iowa, United States
c. 1890

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