MacKay's Siouan migration account from 1797

Robert Myers geocultural at
Sat Oct 2 01:50:19 UTC 2010

Thought I might share this if you haven't already seen it. This account is the earliest I've found recounting an Ohio River origin of Missouri River Siouan tribes. Written by James MacKay sometime between 1797 and 1822 but based on his 1797 trip up the Missouri River to trade with these peoples. 

"The Osage, Mahas, Poncara, Panies, & Ricara Tribes who lives on the Missouri & its Southern waters are the decendants of one nation or people who in Some Past ages lived on the River Ohio & tho time & Circumstances Separated them & brought the Language of each to differ much yet they understand each other So as to transact all business of small importance without Interpreters & they still Claim Kindred though they Sometimes Quarrel"

in: Charles E. Orser, Jr., "The Explorer as Ethnologist: James Mackay's 'Indian Tribes' Manuscript with a Test of His Comments on the Native Mortuary Customs of the Trans-Mississippi West, " Ethnohistory, Vol. 30, No. 1 (Winter, 1983): 15-33. 

An interesting twist to this story is the statement that the Pawnee and Arikara were related to the Siouans. This is similar to the general migration story below published by Rev. J. Owen Dorsey in American Naturalist, Vol. 20, No. 3 (March 1886). 

"Since 1879 the writer has gained more definite information from other Ponkas, as well as from Omahas, Osages and Kansas, and it is now given. Ages ago the ancestors of the Omahas, Ponkas, Osages, Kansas, Kwapas, Winnebagos, Pawnee Loups (Skidi) and Rees, dwelt east of the Mississippi. They were not all in one region, but they were allies, and their general course was westward. They drove other tribes before them. Five of these peoples, the Omahas, Ponkas, Osages, Kansas and Kwapas, were then together as one nation. They were called Arkansa or Alkansa by the Illinois tribes, and they dwelt near the Ohio river. At the mouth of the Ohio a separation occurred. ..."

Robert Myers
Champaign, IL


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