Oto Indians

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Oto Indians. From Wat’ota, meaning “lechers.” It often appears in a lengthened form such as Hoctatas or Octoctatas. Also called:

  • Che-wae-rae, own name.
  • Matokatági, Shawnee name.
  • Motfitatak, Fox name.
  • Wacútada, Omaha and Ponca name.
  • Wadótata, Kansa name.
  • Watohtata, Dakota name.
  • Watútata, Osage name.

Oto Connections. The Oto formed, with the Iowa and Missouri, the Chiwere group of the Siouan linguistic family and were closely connected with the Winnebago.

Oto Location. The Oto moved many times, but their usual location in the historic period was on the lower course of the Platte or the neighboring banks of the Missouri. (See also Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin.)

Oto History

From the maps of the Marquette expedition it would seem that at the time when they were drawn, 1673, the Oto were some distance up Des Moines River. Their name was often coupled with that of the related Iowa who lived north of them, but they always seem to have occupied a distinct area. Shortly after this time they moved over to the Missouri and by 1804 had established their town on the south side of the Platte River not far from its mouth. According to native traditions, this tribe, the Iowa, and the Missouri were anciently one people with the Winnebago, but moved southwest from them, and then separated from the Iowa at the mouth of Iowa River and from the Missouri at the mouth of Grand River. Their language proves that they were closely related to these tribes whether or not the separations occurred in the manner and at the places indicated. Their split with the Missouri is said to have been brought about by a quarrel between two chiefs arising from the seduction of the daughter of one by the son of the other, and from this circumstance the Oto are supposed to have derived their name. In 1700 they were, according to Le Sueur, on Blue Earth River near the Iowa, and it is probable that they moved into the neighborhood of the Iowa or Missouri at several different times, but their usual position was clearly intermediate along a north-south line. In 1680 two Oto chiefs came to visit La Salle in Illinois and reported that they had traveled far enough west to fight with people using horses, who were evidently the Spaniards, a fact which proves their early westward range.

By treaties signed July 15, 1830, and October 15, 1836, they and the Missouri ceded all claims to land in Missouri and Iowa, and by another signed September 21, 1833, the two ceded all claims to land south of the Little Nemaha River. By a treaty signed March 15, 1854, they gave up all their lands except a strip 10 miles wide and 25 miles long on the waters of Big Blue River, but when it was found that there was no timber on this tract it was exchanged on December 9 for another tract taken from the Kansas Indians. In a treaty signed August 15, 1876, and amended March 3, 1879, they agreed to sell 120,000 acres off the western end of their reserve. And finally, a treaty signed on March 3, 1881, provided, the consent of the tribe being obtained, for the sale of all of the remainder of their land in Kansas and Nebraska, and the selection of a new reservation. Consent to the treaty was recorded May 4 following, and the tribe removed the following year to the new reservation which was in the present Oklahoma southwest of Arkansas River on Red Rock and Black Bear Creeks, west of the present Pawnee. The first removal to Oklahoma is said to have been due to a fission in the tribe resulting in the formation of two bands, a conservative band called Coyotes and the Quakers, who were progressives. The Coyotes moved in 1880 and the Quakers joined them 2 years later.

Oto Population.-Mooney (1928) estimated that in 1780 the Oto numbered about 900. In 1805 Lewis and Clark estimated 500 then living, but Catlin in 1833 raised this to 1,300, a figure which includes the Missouri. Burrows in 1849 gives 900, and the United States Indian Office in 1843, 931. This and all later enumerations include both the Oto and the Missouri. In 1862 they numbered 708; in 1867, 511; in 1877, 457; in 1886, 334; in 1906, 390; and by the census of 1910, 332. The census of 1930, however, showed a marked increase to a total of 627, all but 13 of whom were in Oklahoma, 376 in Noblo County, 170 in Pawnee, 34 in Kay, and 17 in Osage. There were 7 in California, 1 in Kansas, and 1 in Nebraska. In 1937, 756 were reported in Oklahoma.

Connection in which the Oto Indians have become noted. The name Oto has been applied to some small settlements in Woodbury County, Iowa, and in Missouri, and in the form Otoe to a county and post village in Nebraska.

See Further: Oto Tribe



MLA Source Citation:

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 19 August 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/oto-indians.htm - Last updated on Jun 17th, 2012


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