The Vision

Our friends from Iowa’s Meskwaki Tribe have provided us with a beautiful vision statement that says it all. Read more about the work of keeping the Meskwaki language alive.

From the Introduction of Marybeth Slonneger’s Remembrance Park…

On a wintery night in early 1838, Gilbert offered his trading post for a Johnson County business meeting that was attended by seven inhabitants. The diversity of the group is significant. It included a female: Jennie, a Winnebago woman, Mogawk, an African-American man, four Anglo-American newcomers to Iowa, and the fur-trader, John Gilbert. Three Meskwaki tribes lived in organized villages along the Iowa River and peacefully co-existed with the few whites passing through the territory, while hundreds of thousands of animals thrived in a snow-bound country of prairie and timber.

Today, Johnson County Remembrance Park only exists in my imagination, but if it were a real place, it would be situated on Sand Road in Johnson County, near the junction of what is now Snyder Creek, Sand Road and the Iowa River. The Remembrance part of the name commemorates the meeting of two distinct cultures: the old Americans, who were represented by Poweshiek, leader of the Meskwaki band that settled in a nearby cove of the river, and John Gilbert, the representative of the new Americans, who traded with them.

The Park of the title refers to a wish, to a place in my mind peopled by visitors and, ideally, tended by a group of volunteers who would help restore the verges of roadside and creek in native plantings. On the snag of land where Gilbert pushed off in his boat, heavy with furs, or tied up to unload supplies for his trading post, a simple bench under a bur oak might overlook mayapples, dutchmen’s breeches, bloodroot, and native rarities that might have grown nearby. A plaque would tell of those seven Johnson County residents who met amid its beauty almost two hundred years ago.

While the unity through diversity experienced in John Gilbert’s trading post that snowy January evening has long past, in my mind, that world can be visited once more and its beauty and magic rekindled once again through the creation of…

Johnson County Remembrance Park

Marybeth Slonneger is long-time resident of Iowa City and author of numerous books focusing on Johnson County history including Finials: A View of Downtown Iowa City (2015), Wetherby’s Gallery: Paintings, Daguerreotypes and Ambrotypes of an Artist (2012), The Burg: A Writers’ Diner (2011), and Small But Ours: Images and Stories from a Nineteenth Century Bohemian Neighborhood (1999). Click here to ORDER Marybeth’s books.
Read more about the vision of Remembrance Park here.