Squatters on Red Earth

A drama about a peaceful encounter in the midst of the U.S. white settler land grab.


Squatters on Red Earth, Mary Swander’s latest play, explores the positive relationship that the Amana Colonies have had with the Meskwaki Indigenous people.

The one-man touring show features actor Rip Russell and director Brant Bollman. Music was composed and performed Laura Hudson Kittrell and costumes were designed and created by Michele Payne Hinz. Set designer was Shelley Buffalo and puppet designer, Monica Leo.

The Amana Inspirationists fled religious persecution in their homeland in Germany only to become part of the white settler land grab in the United States. The Inspirationists sought productive land hidden from the rest of the mainstream society in the Iowa River Valley where they encountered the Meskwakis and their long agricultural tradition. The two groups, both agrarian and communal with strong spiritual beliefs, managed to live together peacefully, with a mutual respect for the ecology and sacredness of the land.

Meanwhile, the U.S. government enacted policies to displace Indigenous peoples throughout the United States, forcing them to take up European methods of farming.  For years, the Inspirationalists and the Meskwakis have each struggled to hold their center in the midst of the outside pressures of capitalism and colonialization.

This drama, written by Mary Swander, features an accompanying musical score and a crankie (an old medieval puppetry device).

For more information on the play, and to view more photos, CLICK HERE .

The one-hour production is now touring, featuring actor Rip Russell, with Indigenous voices Brian Henning and Sarah Leo Piché. For questions about the touring show, contact touringSWP@gmail.com .

This production was made possible by the support and encouragement from the following organizations: The Anon Was a Woman Environmental Art Award (New York Foundation for the Arts), State of Iowa Historical Society, Inc. grant, Meskwaki Settlement School, Ecoartspace, AgArts, and the Iowa Writers Collaborative. Photos are courtesy of Jen Stillions Photography.




Talk of Iowa: Charity Nebbe’s interview on Iowa Public Radio with Mary Swander and Shelley Buffalo. Mary and Shelley tell of the friendship and partnership between the Amana Inspirationists and the Meskwaki people, and the putting together of Squatters on Red Earth, June 2023.

In Depth, featuring Dr. Bob Leonard and Mary Swander on KNIA-KRLS, discussing Squatters on Red Earth, May 2023.

Culture Crawl with Dennis Green on KCCK, featuring Mary Swander. “I Just Happen to have a Bangelo,” June 2023.

Mary Swander’s Buggy Land, Season #3, Episode #49: Squatters on Red Earth.

Talkback and discussion at the Toledo afternoon performance of Squatters on Red Earth. Video (and more photos) on Facebook, June 2023.