Cedar Falls, Iowa + flooding

flooding in Cedar Falls Iowa

I noticed this photograph on the Flickr set of the Red Cross’s Midwestern flood relief efforts. The photo provides an idea of how much water was flowing around Cedar Falls, Iowa on June 10, 2008.

Sandbagging efforts in Cedar Falls kept the raging waters of the Cedar River from flooding the downtown area. The sign is located in an area that is usually above water. My guess is that the water level in the photo is somewhere between 2 to 3 ft. high.

I was curious as to what the text on the sign said. Fortunately, a hi-resolution version of the original photograph had been uploaded and it was easy to discern the text on the marker.

By the way, I think it’s important to note that critical thinking can still exist within a discourse of support…just wanted to give everyone a heads up as I am going to delve into some thinking that is critical of a historical marker that needs some serious editing.

Historic Marker photograph Cedar Falls Iowa

Historic Cedar Falls

On lands acquired by the USA from Sac and Fox (Mesquakie) Indians in 1842, William Sturgis and Erasmus D. Adams settled near this spot along the Cedar River in 1845. Sturgis began construction of a dam and mill and the site became known as Sturgis Falls, the first permanent settlement in Black Hawk County. [Full text – Cedar Falls Historical Society website]

According to the Cedar Falls Historical Society’s timeline of Cedar Falls, Native Americans resided in the area from the year 10,000 BC until around 1837. That’s 11,837 years for anyone doing the math. I’ve searched for any information on how exactly the land was “acquired” from the Sac and Fox peoples but have found no record of the “acquisition.” My guess is that it was most likely taken. Taken via force, misinformation, bribery, etc. It’s still taken. Native folks lived in the Cedar Valley region for thousands of years and then mysteriously vanished. At least that’s how it seems when you read the history of Cedar Falls as written by those who took the land. The wikipedia article for Cedar Falls states that less than 1 percent of the cities inhabitants are Native American.

According to the City of Cedar Falls website, the first residents of the Cedar Valley were “primarily Scandinavians, Slovaks, Hispanic, German, and Greek immigrants.” Excuse me?! The first residents of the Cedar Valley were members of the Sac, Fox, Winnebagoes and Sioux tribes. The history of the Cedar Valley did not begin when white people took it. The Black Hawk County website “county history” gets a bit closer to accurately portraying what happened: “the Sac and Fox Indians lost their hold on [the Cedar Valley region] following the Black Hawk War of 1832.” Lost, as in someone came in and took it. The area wasn’t acquired, it was taken. The historical marker should reflect history. It should not distort it into a twisted view of reality.

I feel that the banner that rests on the light pole above the historical marker is severely and sadly ironic. The text on the banner, “Preserving Our Heritage,” makes me ask, who’s heritage? The heritage of white folks in the Midwest is built upon a foundation of Native American genocide that has been re-dubbed as White expansion / settlement.

I’m very happy that the people of Cedar Falls, Iowa were able to protect their downtown from significant flood damage. However, I wish that the historical marker had been swept away so that a new marker could be installed that more accurately represents how Cedar Falls came to exist.

Sadly ironic sign in Cedar Falls Iowa - flooding 2008