Elizabeth Marilla is a mental health worker, writer, picture taker, hiker, and mom living in rural southeast Iowa. Connect with her on instagram @iowa.underfoot. -promoted by Laura Belin
I was born and raised in Iowa, but moved away at 18 without having learned much of anything about the natural history of Iowa, the history of Euroamerican settler colonialism in Iowa, the history and modern day presence of Indigenous/Native communities in Iowa, many members of whom are among the most passionate protectors of Iowa’s natural resources. Remember, for example, the Meskwaki Nation’s early leadership fighting the portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline running through Iowa, long before broad public attention was drawn to the project.
While hiking this spring I noticed that many parks and preserves are named for or include plaques honoring the mostly white landowners who either sold or gifted the land to the public or the trust, but most feature no education about who was here before that. The Johnson County Conservation board has recently expressed willingness to initiate a project to support learning and unlearning around Iowa history at the sites they manage and on their website, which I hope will center Indigenous voices.
Many of the southeast Iowa sites pictured below are located on lands held by the Meskwaki and Sauk Nations at the time of Euroamerican colonial settlement, as is my own home. One very small way to initiate some learning might be to cross-reference your own map with this one, created by the Historic Indian Location Database project, when visiting Iowa parks and preserves.