Movie examines untold history of tribe that is Iowa’s namesake

By Henry C. Jackson
Des Moines, Iowa (AP) 10-07

You might say that the latest film effort from Kelly and Tammy Rundle is an effort to put a face with a name.

The name is quite well-known – Iowa. The face belongs to the far less heralded Ioway, an American Indian tribe that long ago left the state.

“I don’t think most people knew anything about the Ioway people, and we didn’t really anticipate that,” said Tammy Rundle. “I think that our film, it’s done some real good in that it’s brought out some of that information.” “Lost Nation: The Ioway” is the second Iowa-focused project from the Rundles, a husband-wife tandem who make documentaries. Their earlier project, “Vilisca: Living With a Mystery,” examined one of Iowa’s most infamous murders.

“Lost Nation” premiered during an October showing at the State Historical Society in Des Moines. The film focuses on the history of the Ioway tribe, some of the first known inhabitants of the 36 million acre area now known as Iowa.

Besides documenting the day-to-day activities of the Ioway and tracking the tribe’s history, the film focuses on two Ioway brothers, White Cloud and Great Walker, who tried to keep the tribe together as American expansionists closed in on tribal land.

The filmmakers said they picked the topic, in part, because the story of the Ioway is compelling and often forgotten.

White Cloud and Great Walker traveled to Washington and agreed to relinquish much of the Ioway’s land, a move that split the tribe with many believing they’d given up too much. Ultimately, the government evicted the Ioway and by 1836 they were moved to a reservation in Kansas, according to the Ioway Cultural Institute Web site.

Kelly Rundle said he suspects that few Iowans have taken the time to learn what the state’s name means.

“When we started this, we didn’t know who the Ioway Indians were,” he said. “Pretty soon we realized that there was a terrific story here that’s a basic, important of Iowa history.”

Other events associated with the film’s release will help highlight the Ioway’s role in state history. More than 200 native Ioways are expected to attend the film’s premiere, and Gov. Chet Culver signed a proclamation declaring Oct. 7-13, “Native Ioway History Week.” Culver also also toured the Capitol with tribal leaders and elders.

Having tribe members at the first viewing is a blessing, Kelly Rundle said, but also increases the pressure on the project.

“This will be, we think, the largest gathering of Ioways since 1870,” Kelly Rundle said. “It’s something real, that you can touch, and that’s great, but it’s always a little bit nerve-racking to show your film to the people who are the subject.

“But the response has been so tremendous that it kind of overshadows some of that nervousness.”