# Native Americans

Iowa still among worst states for racial disparities in incarceration

Iowa is tied for seventh among states with the highest disparities in Black incarceration rates, according to new analysis from the nonprofit Prison Policy Initiative. Data released on September 27 show Black Iowans are about nine times more likely than whites to be in prison or jail, and Native Americans are about thirteen times more likely than whites to be incarcerated in Iowa.

Betty Andrews, president of the Iowa-Nebraska NAACP, said in a statement that the findings “underscore the need for systemic reform.” She called on Iowa to “take action in every facet of the justice process.”

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The surprising origins of Iowa's standard township layout

Rick Morain is the former publisher and owner of the Jefferson Herald, for which he writes a regular column.

Ever wonder why our Midwestern rural layout consists of 36 one-mile-square sections per township? Or where the Midwest’s emphasis on public education comes from? Or why slavery never gained a foothold here? Or why so many of the federal Bill of Rights protections were guaranteed in the Midwest even before their adoption in the Constitution?

No? Well, no problem. I’m gonna tell you anyway.

All those practical and admirable attributes originated in a series of ordinances way back in the 1780s, adopted by the Congress that was created by the Articles of Confederation during the Revolutionary War.

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U.S. schools teach too little Native American history

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

By the time you read this, Native American Heritage Month will be almost over. I admit I missed most of it again this year, too. I wouldn’t have known except for seeing a banner on the Washington Post website, calling special attention to Native American articles during November.

Why is there so little education in the U.S. about Native Americans? Possible causes include ignorance, oversight, pedagogy obstacles, and fear. Undoubtedly, it’s a blend.

News under the Native American heading often relates to changing offensive school mascots and team names, decisions usually prompting considerable controversy. Still, the name changes are a significant step in the right direction. Meanwhile, politicization of this issue underscores the need for education while simultaneously foreshadowing challenges facing advocates of a more inclusive curriculum.

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Serranus Hastings revisited

This column by Daniel G. Clark about Alexander Clark (1826-1891) first appeared in the Muscatine Journal.

Drumming and singing and chanting are background sound for writing this column. Video streaming from the 106th annual Meskwaki Powwow shows colorfully attired modern Iowans stepping rhythmically together, everyone off the bleachers between solo dances of various styles and meanings.

Near Tama, just off the Lincoln Highway, the Meskwaki Nation settlement is distinct because their settlers weren’t immigrants from Europe or elsewhere across oceans. They came from natives who were here when the rest of us arrived.

Coinciding with our big state fair, the pleasant little festival reminds us our “beautiful land between the rivers” is a crazy quilt of distinct ethno-historical communities—however some pieces fade and however melting-potted our strip malls.

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Six Iowa creeks have new names, replacing derogatory term

The U.S. Department of Interior announced on September 8 that its Board on Geographic Names voted to approve new names “for nearly 650 geographic features” formerly containing the word “squaw,” including six creek segments in Iowa.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, the first Native American to serve in that role, created a Derogatory Geographic Names Task Force last year. Its first project was to find replacement names for geographic features on federal lands bearing the term squaw, which “has historically been used as an offensive ethnic, racial, and sexist slur, particularly for Indigenous women.”

The task force identified seven features in Iowa among a nationwide list of more than 660, and proposed alternate names for consideration in February. After working through thousands of public comments, the task force finalized the replacement names, which are listed here.

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An Iowa classic (and others) rebranded

Kurt Meyer writes a weekly column for the Nora Springs – Rockford Register, where this essay first appeared. He serves as chair of the executive committee (the equivalent of board chair) of Americans for Democratic Action, America’s most experienced liberal organization.

A product with deep Iowa connections recently reached the century mark: the ice cream treat now known as “Edy’s Pie”, which, until a year ago, was called Eskimo Pie.

An outgrowth of the George Floyd tragedy has been increased awareness of racial stereotypes that have existed for decades. Eskimo Pie’s owner sought to abandon a word considered derogatory by its association with non-Native colonizers who settled in the Arctic and used the term. Although some changes, like this one, happened recently, others have been under consideration for many years.

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