What Tribe do You Belong to? Is it Otoe-Missouria or Otoe AND Missouria
First things first. You would not believe how many people I have met that mispronounce the tribe’s name. Since I have been saying it since I was a little kid, let me help you all out. Otoe is pronounced Oh-toe and Missouria is pronounced Missour-ah. Yes, our tribe’s name is where the state of Missouri gets its name. However, we are a group of people, not a state. The word Missouria means “those who have dugout canoes”. Otoe, on the other hand, is the name of a place. However, because the tribe was semi-nomadic, we really do not know where that place is. What we do know is that it was most likely by the Great Lakes or in southern Canada. Yep, I said Canada. The Otoe and the Missouria were originally part of the Winnebago tribe. The Winnebago lived further up in Canada. So, does that make me a Canadian Indian? Well, sort of, but not really.
Now we can move on to what the tribe is actually called. I have heard Otoe-Missouria and I have also heard Otoe and Missouria. So, which is it? According to the tribe’s constitution, it is Otoe-Missouria. So, there you have it. Official government documents call it the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Indians. Indians! Not Native American! Certainly not Indigenous Persons of North American! Okay, mini rant over. Originally they were two separate tribes and for a very long time it was in fact Otoe and Missouria. I would also like to point out that Otoe is not what the spelling is supposed to be. It should be Oto. The reason it is different is because people pronounce it really wrong if we do not add the “e” on the end. Personally, I prefer Oto to Otoe. So, if you see me refer to the tribe as Oto or Oto-Missouria, that is why. Same tribe, just a different spelling. Also, I frequently just use Oto when referring to my lineage. Why is that? Well, my family traces back through the Oto. Not the Missouria. I have done my family’s genealogy and have yet to actually find any Missouria in our family. Dutch and Ojibwa, but no Missouria.
Just to really mess with you all before I go, Otoe-Missouria is not what our tribe calls ourselves in Chiwere, our tribe’s language. We call ourselves Jíwere-Ñút’achi. Jíwere is the Oto tribe and Ñút’achi is the Missouria. Yep. It also means “river mouth dwellers” and “those that dwell by the flat water”. We just really like to be confusing. Hey, at least you can use a canoe to cross the water.