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Fur Coats and Covers

March 9, 2015

interior of ioway lodge

Have you ever wondered where people in the past got the things they needed for everyday life? Where did their clothes come from? or their blankets? How about their tools and their toys? When we need something we just go to the store or get on the computer and buy it. The Ioway Indian people lived in Iowa a very long time ago. In the year 1700, these people did not have stores to go to when they needed something; they had to make the things they needed. They used the things they found around them to make their own tools and toys and even their clothes and blankets!  What kinds of things are found outside in Iowa? How about rocks? or plants and trees?

What about animals? Animals can be used in many ways; but what kinds of animals would Ioway hunters be able to find 300 years ago in Iowa?

bison illustrationBison, or buffalo, still lived on the prairies in the 1700s. Deer and elk, and even bear were found in Iowa. Small animals like squirrels and rabbits lived in Iowa, too. Beavers and otters lived along Iowa’s rivers.beaver illustration

How could people like the Ioway Indians make things out of these kinds of animals?

Many of these animals could be used for food. The animals’ meat would be eaten, and then the rest of the animal could be used for other things. Their bones were turned into tools, and their fur and skins were used for coverings. Different animals were better for different jobs. The skins of the bison (buffalo) that were hunted in the summer months were used to make covers for traveling houses, called tipis. The bison hair could be scraped away to make smooth and strong leather out of the skin underneath.tipi in Ioway village

During the winter, bison grow thick fur to stay warm. The Ioway hunted these furry winter bison to make nice warm blankets that the family would sleep on, cover up with, and wear like a coat. The man in the picture below is wearing a bison robe. Can you find anything else made from animals in the picture?painting showing man wearing buffalo robe

Animal skins with the fur still on were used for cold weather clothing. For summer clothes, the Ioway used skins without the heavy fur to stay cooler. Do you wear different clothes in the summer and the winter?illustration of Ioway people by George Catlin

Some animal furs were used to make hats. The man in the picture below is wearing an otter fur hat. Do you wear warm hats in the winter?man wearing hat made from otter pelt

Think about all of the things in your house that are used to cover you up. What are your sheets, blankets, clothes, shoes, and coats made out of? Would you want to have to make all of those things yourself?

Read more posts on the LHF Kids Blog


1700 Ioway   Now and Then


  • Paul Mtsweni says:

    Amandebele, used animals skin as blankets called imikgade. I’m a Ndebele my late grandfather told me.

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