The ancestors of the Otoe-Missouria Indians were a Siouan people of the Chiwere linguistic family. Along with the Iowa and the Winnebago, they once comprised a single northern Great Lakes tribe. The Otoe, Missouria, and Iowa migrated west-southwestward during the sixteenth century and divided. By the late seventeenth century the Otoe had settled along the present Minnesota-Iowa border, and the Missouria dwelled near the confluence of the Missouri and Grand rivers in Missouri. Contact between the Otoe and Europeans first occurred in 1680.
The Otoe subsequently crossed the Missouri River and established themselves near the Platte River in southeastern Nebraska. They remained in that vicinity until their removal to Indian Territory (present Oklahoma) in 1880-81. Meanwhile, the Missouria, ravaged by smallpox and warfare with the Sac and Fox and other enemies, faced extinction. Around 1796 roughly eighty Missouria settled among the Otoe, and a remaining few joined the Osage and the Kaw.
The Otoe-Missouria lived in sedentary earth lodge villages (tipis and bark lodges were also utilized). Their society was patrilineal, with members divided into seven to ten exogamous clans. The clan chiefs formed a tribal council, with the Bear clan providing the principal leadership. The Otoe-Missouria hunted bison, gathered plants, and grew corn, beans, pumpkins, and squash. They believed in Wakanda, a universal spirit. Their population was an estimated fifteen hundred in 1830 and 358 in 1890.
The Otoe-Missouria first ceded land to the United States in 1830. Additional cessions followed in 1833, 1836, and 1854. In 1854 they received a reservation along the Big Blue River on the Kansas-Nebraska border. Factionalism over the issue of acculturation divided the tribe during the 1870s. The progressive members were influenced by their Quaker agents and favored assimilation. Known as the Quaker band, they were opposed by the more traditional Coyote band.
Congress approved the sale of 120,000 acres of the Big Blue Reservation in 1876, with the remainder sold in 1881. Removal of the Otoe-Missouria to Indian Territory began in early 1880, when Coyote band members moved to the Sac and Fox reservation. In autumn 1881, 234 Quaker band members arrived on their new 129,113-acre reservation in present Noble and Pawnee counties. The Coyote band eventually rejoined them.
Despite tribal resistence, the Otoe-Missouria reservation was allotted beginning in the 1890s. By 1907 statehood 514 individuals had received allotments. Many tribe members left the area during the Great Depression and World War II. In 1964 and 1967 the Indian Claims Commission compensated the Otoe-Missouria for lands ceded during the nineteenth century.
The Constitution of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians was ratified in 1984 in accordance with the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936. Governed by a seven-member council, the tribe is headquartered at Red Rock and had a population of 1,449 in 2004. Tribal enterprises include the Seven Clans Paradise Casino near Red Rock. The tribe offers its members various services, including housing, health, and education programs. An annual Otoe-Missouria encampment is held in July. Other ceremonies and social gatherings are conducted at the Otoe-Missouria Cultural Center.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Berlin Basil Chapman, The Otoe and Missouria: A Study of Indian Removal and the Legal Aftermath (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Times Journal Publishing Co., 1965). R. David Edmunds, The Otoe-Missouria People (Phoenix, Ariz.: Indian Tribal Series, 1976). Marjorie M. Schweitzer, "Otoe and Missouria," in Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 13, Plains, ed. Raymond J. DeMallie (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 2001). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951).
Jon D. May
© Oklahoma Historical Society