Lesson 1.2: Meskwaki Indian Traditions

Questions to be Answered
What are some of the characteristics of Meskwaki culture?
How do traditional songs express the Meskwaki community?
What is the role of a tradition bearer in the Meskwaki community?

Suggested Methods

  1. Have students read the article on Meskwaki culture.
  2. Siscuss as a class the key features that define the Meskwaki as a community. Give examples of their expressive traditions.
  3. Without introducing either the style of music or mentioning the name of the musician, put on the CD tracks of Everett Kapayou singing.
  4. Listen carefully to the selections and discuss the songs, giving attention to when the songs might be sung, how you would describe the music, and the quality of the singing. What makes the “Round Dance Song” suitable for dancing? What types of emotions does the love song evoke?
  5. Describe Everett Kapayou’s background and music from your reading of the liner notes to the CD. Have a class discussion about the history of the Meskwaki Indians and how this is reflected in many of the songs. Students should discuss the combination of Indian sounds and English words in the “Round Dance Song.”
  6. Mr. Kapayou was given the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship in 1993, the nation’s highest honor given to a traditional artist. Discuss Everett Kapayou’s role as a tradition bearer—one who keeps alive the culture of his community.

Student Activity

One author has written that “culture lives in the hearts of its people.” Write a short essay about how this has been especially true for the Meskwaki.

HIGH SCHOOL ADDITIONS: Have students discuss the image of Native American culture in the reading and musical selection. Does this conform to what they knew previously, or is it different? Discuss the image Native Americans like Don Wanatee, author of the program book article, have of themselves and images of them held by others.


Home/Community Connection

Check out the Iowa Folk & Traditional Arts Rosterand invite a member of one of Iowa’s Native American groups into your class.


Student/Senior Citizen Exchange

In the article, Don Wanatee writes, “Communication between the generations is key to holding on to customs and traditional ways.” How do elders communicate their traditions to youngsters? Have elders discuss what traditions they have imparted to the younger generation. Have youngsters discuss what traditions they have received from elders. What traditions would youngsters want to pass on to their grandchildren when they are elders?


A Meskwaki Indian group plays the large drum. Does the fact that people play the same instrument together tell us anything about their culture?
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Festival of Iowa Folklife:
"Meskwaki Culture"


Iowa State Fare:
Selection 7: "Round Dance Song"
Selection 8: "Love Song."

Iowa Roots Interviews:
Everett Kapayou