Friday, October 22, 2010

Kansas Indians

There were many tribes inhabiting Kansas before the advent of white settlers. The Kansas Indians for whom the state is named were first visited by Lewis and Clark on their expedition in 1802. The Kansas camped along the Kansas River where Lewis and Clark encountered them. Around 1846, they would settle near Council Groves on the Neosho River and a reservation was established. By 1873, this land was sold and the Kansas were relocated to Oklahoma.

Along the Arkansas River where present day Wichita is were the Wichita Indians for which the town is named.Coronado encountered these Indians on his futile hunt for the Seven Cities of Gold in the 1540's. James Mead described his dealings with the Wichita in his book, Hunting and Trading on the Great Plains. the Wichita lived in established communities, living on a mix of agriculture, hunting, gathering, and fishing. See Wichita Indians in Wikipedia for more.

The image to the left (Wikipedia) may not be descriptive of the Wichita Indians. Archeological excavations indicate that originally the Wichita lived in large grass huts, some as large as 30 feet in diameter. And their life styles were certainly affected by the destruction of game by the white settlers.

Soon after Missouri achieved statehood in 1821, the Osage were relocated to Indian Territory in Kansas and Oklahoma. The Osage tribe inhabited a portion of southeastern corner of Kansas including the area near present day Butler County. George Catlin (Chief Tah-le image by George Catlin from the described the Osage as "the tallest race of men in North America, either red or white skins; there being few indeed of the men at their full growth, who are less than six feet in stature, and very many of them six and a half, and others seven feet." The Neosho River was named by the Osage, and the Osage River is named for them. The departure of the Osage from Kansas opened the door to large scale immigration by white settlers in and around the area of Butler County. The Osage ceded their lands to the United States Government in treaties made in 1825, 1865, and 1870.

There were many other Indian tribes living in Kansas. A good description is given in an article by

The article gives a good description of the many eastern tribes who were relocated to portions of Kansas. The article notes the many Indian place names that exist today in the names of counties, rivers, and cities in Kansas. Traveling north along I-35 for instance one comes across the cities of Ottawa and Paola, and travels through the county of Miami.

David Rumsey has online a beautiful map by E. B. Whitman and A.D. Searl of eastern Kansas in 1854 showing several reservations of Indian tribes. There is a drawing of the destroyed Eldridge Hotel on the map that reflects the turbulence of early Kansas history. A reproduction of the image can be purchased from the David Rumsey Map Collection starting at $24.95 and going to $189.95 for a large image.

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