Chief Appanoose (Meskwaki or Fox)


Last Updated: 9 years

All the counties of Iowa were given their names by the Iowa Territorial Legislature, long before they were physically organized. Many of the counties were named for past presidents, explorers or other historical figures. Many were named for Indian chiefs or for tribes of the immediate area. Appanoose County, Iowa derived its name from Chief Appanoose, because he was an important Indian chief who had his camp along a nearby stream at one time.

Chief Appanoose, Meswaki chiefAlternate Names: Op-po-noos, Appan-oze-o-ke-mar, He Who Was A Chief When a Child, Child Chief

Chief Appanoose was a hereditary ruler of the Meskwaki (Fox) tribe. He was the only leading chief of the Sac & Fox tribes to be born west of the Mississippi River. He was generally regarded as a friend of the white man. The name “Appanoose” translated into English meant “chief when a child”.

Appanoose was a tall, handsome Indian, very graceful and of a commanding appearance. He was younger and subordinate to the Chiefs Keokuk and Pweshiek, but was well regarded because of his leadership qualities. He was said to be a great genereal. In fact, he was at the head of the largest band of warriors of the tribe.

At the time treaties were being made to cede this territory over to the government, the chiefs were often entertained at many of the principal eastern cities, including the national capital. Appanoose was an eloquent orator and earned the respect of the politcians with his outstanding speeches.

Chief Appanoose became famous when he traveled tothe East Coast in 1837 with the other Indian chiefs.

It was on that trip, during a visit to the Massachusetts Statehouse in Boston, that Appanoose delivered what has been described as one of the most famous orations ever delivered by an Indian chief.

He concluded his remarks by stating, “Where we live beyond the Mississippi, I am respected by all people and they consider me the tallest among them. I am happy that two great men meet and shake hands with each other.”

He then extended his hand to Governor Everett while the audience cheered and applauded. The chiefs were being wined and dined to induce them to sell their lands.

A treaty was made in Washington D.C. that year resulting in the third Black Hawk purchase of land in the eastern part of Iowa. The final purchase, including Appanoose County, was made in October 1842 when Indians from all over the state were called together to meet at Agency City, Iowa, six miles east of Ottumwa.

A brief picture is given of the clothing that Appanoose dressed in when in Washington. He had leggings of close fitted tanned deer skins from loins to ankles, trimmed with a fringe of beads and porcupine quills. His headdress consisted of a profusion of scarlet colored hair with a long black beard of a wild turkey, a silver band and richly ornamented turban.

Besides this, the chief’s ears were strung with beads and trinkets, and he boasted bracelets of brass, tin, silver and steel. He was rich with wampum strung around his neck. In the picture, his is wearing the medallion presented him by Martin Van Buren, then President of the United States.

Chief Appanoose led his tribe to a Sauk and Fox reservation in the territory of Kansas.

Chief Appanoose, hereditary Meswaki Fox chiefWhen the Indians were required to leave Central Iowa in 1843, Chief Appanoose led his tribe to a Sauk and Fox reservation in the territory of Kansas.

Once again, community lodges were built, gardens planted and dialy life on the prairie resumed its normal pace for about 20 years until the tribe was forced to move again to Oklahoma Territory.

They left behind their beloved leader, Chief Appanoose. He is buried in an unmarked grave in the community known as Appanoose in northeast Kansas. The community was named for the great chief, but it is now a ghost town.

This portrait of Chief Appanoose was part of a collection of watercolor prints done by Bodner, a well known artist. The portraits were done at the time the various chiefs visited the “Great White Father” in Washington.

About the Author: Written by Bill Heusinkveld, as part of the book entitled, “Appanoose County Courthouse Centennial 1904-2004.”