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Who Were the Oneota?

Oneota Origins


Oneota Birdman

Oneota Birdman

Kris Hirst
Where did they come from? We believe Oneota artifacts are creations of Late Woodland indigenous peoples, perhaps influenced by contact with people from the large prehistoric town of Cahokia, in Illinois across the Mississippi from what is now St. Louis, Missouri. Many Oneota artifacts have similar traits and symbols to those found at Cahokia; and we're certain there was trade between the Oneota peoples and Cahokia.

Where did they go?

By 1650, French and British fur traders had made contact with the Oneota, and the effects this time included the devastation of diseases new to the Indians. Nonetheless, Native American groups still live in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota, and many descendants of these groups in other places report stories of their homelands 350 years ago.

Several projects are presently underway to identify the descendants of the Oneota. Lance Foster, a member of the Ioway tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, has dedicated part of his academic research linking Ioway to Oneota. Archaeologist Robert Salzer has been investigating Gottschall Rockshelter, a cave site associated with the Oneota culture in southwestern Wisconsin. The walls of the cave were decorated with figures identifiable to the Red Horn myth, a myth of the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) people. Other groups traditionally associated with the Oneota include the Ioway, and the Otoe, as well as Missouria, Ponca, Omaha, Osage, Kansa, and Quapaw tribes of today.

In late May of 1997, a conference entitled "Working Together to Understand the Cultural Affiliations of Oneota" was held at the University of Iowa. Members of the descendant tribes of the Oneota, including Otoe-Missouria, Iowa, and Ho-Chunk came to share information with archaeologists working throughout the Midwest on Oneota problems.

It was the first of what the organizers hope will be many Native American/archaeologist collaborative works to come.

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