At the time Christopher Columbus discovered America, the continent north of Mexico was inhabited by four great groups of aborigines, to whom was given the general name of “Indians,” the discoverers believing they had circumnavigated the earth and arrived at the eastern border of India. The Algonquin group, probably the most important of the four, inhabited a triangle which may be roughly described by a line drawn from the mouth of the St. Lawrence River to the Rocky Mountains, then by a line from that point to the Atlantic coast near the Neuse River, and up the coast to the place of beginning. Also within this triangle lived the Iroquoian group, whose habitat was along the shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario, extending to the lower Susquehanna River and westward into Illinois.
When the first white men visited the region now comprising the State of Kansas, they found it inhabited by four tribes of Indians: the Kanza or Kaw, which occupied the northeastern and central part of the state, the Osage who were located south of the Kanza; the Pawnee, whose country lay west and north of the Kanza, and the Comanche, whose hunting grounds were in the western part of the state.
A handbook issued by the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1907 defined the Kanza as “A southwestern Siouan tribe.” Their linguistic relations are closest to the Osage and are also close with the Quapaw. In the traditional migration of the group, after the Quapaw had first separated therefrom, the main body divided at the mouth of the Osage River, the Osage moving up that stream and the Omaha and the Ponca crossing the Missouri River and proceeding northward, while the Kanza ascended the Missouri River on the south side of the mouth of the Kansas River.”
The 15th annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology said: “According to tribal traditions collected by Dorsey [Indians of The Southwest, 1903], the ancestors of the Omaha, Ponca, Quapaw, Osage, and Kanza were originally one people dwelling on the Ohio and Wabash Rivers, but gradually working westward. The first separation took place at the mouth of the Ohio River. Those going down the Mississippi River became the Quapaw or “dawn stream people,” those who went up became the Omaha or “upstream people.”
After the Kanza separated from the Omaha and Ponca and established themselves at the mouth of the Kansas River, they gradually extended their domain to the present northern boundary of Kansas, where they were met and driven back by the Ioway and Sauk tribes, who had already come in contact with the white traders from whom they had received firearms. The Kanza, being without these superior weapons, were forced back to the Kansas River. Here, they were visited by the “Big Knives,” as they called the white men, who persuaded them to go farther west. The tribe then successively occupied some 20 villages along the Kansas Valley before they were settled at Council Grove before they were finally removed to the Indian Territory in 1873.
Probably the first white man to acquire a knowledge of the Kanza Indians was Spanish Conquistador Juan de Onate, who met them on his expedition in 1601, and who referred to them as the “Escansaques.”
Although French missionary Jacques Marquette’s map of 1673 showed the location of the Kanza Indians, the French did not actually come in contact with the tribe until 1750, when, the French explorers and traders ascended the Missouri River to the mouth of the Kansas River, where they met with a welcome reception from the Indians.
These early Frenchmen gave the tribe the name of Kah or Kaw, which, according to the story of an old Osage warrior, was a term of derision, meaning coward, and was given to the Kanza by the Osage because they refused to join in a war against the Cherokee. Another Frenchman, Etienne Venyard Sieur de Bourgmont, who visited the tribe in 1724, called them the “Canzes,” and reported that they had two villages on the Missouri River, one about 40 miles above the mouth of the Kansas River and the other farther up the river, both on the right bank. These villages were also mentioned by Lewis and Clark nearly a century later.
George J. Remsburg, who was regarded as an authority on matters relating to the Kanza Indians, said the grand village of the tribe was located where the town of Doniphan now stands and was known as the “Village of the Twenty-four.” After the white settlers induced them to remove farther west, the principal village of the tribe was near the southwest corner of Pottawatomie County. In the spring of 1880 Franklin G. Adams, Secretary of the Kansas Historical Society had the site of this village surveyed. In his report, he stated that the old village was “about two miles east of Manhattan, on a neck of land between the Kansas and Big Blue Rivers.
The 15th annual report of the Bureau of American Ethnology said there was a Kanza village at the mouth of the Saline River, and that the first treaty between them and the United States was concluded there. After the treaty of 1825, the tribes moved east again and in 1830 had two villages near the mouth of Mission Creek a short distance west of Topeka. The village of American Chief, containing some 20 lodges and 100 followers, was on the west side of the creek about two miles from the Kansas River. Hard Chief’s village, nearer the river, had some 500 or 600 inhabitants, and a third village, that of Fool Chief, was located on the north side of the Kansas River, not far from the Menoken Union Pacific Railroad station.
In 1847, several remnants of the tribe were ordered to what was known as the “diminished reserve” at Council Grove. Concerning this movement on the part of the government of the United States, George P. Morehouse, in his Kanza Indians and Their History said: “It was not only a blunder, but it was criminal after cheating them out of their Kansas Valley homes, to remove them to Council Grove. Here, they were placed near a trading center on the Santa Fe Trail, where their contact with piejene (fire-water), the whiskey of the whites, and other vices, proved far more injurious than any knowledge of civilization received could overcome. Here, they were totally neglected in a religious way, and only experiments of a brief nature undertaken for their education.”
Among the Kanza the gentile system prevailed. There were seven tribal subdivisions, and these were still further divided into 16 clans, including: Manyinka (earth lodge), Ta (deer), Panka (Ponca), Kanza, Wasabe (black bear), Wanaghe (ghost), Kekin (carries a turtle on his back), Minkin (carries the sun on his back), Upan (elk), Khuga (white eagle), Han (night), Ibache (holds the firebrand to the sacred pipe), Hangatanga (large Hanga), Chedunga (buffalo bull), Chizhuwashtage (peacemaker), Lunikashinga (thundering people).
Ethnologically, the Osage were closely allied to the Kanza. Geographically they were divided into three bands — Pahatsi (great), Utsehta (little), and the Santsukhdi band which lived in Arkansas. Marquette’s map of 1675 showed the tribe located on a stream believed to be the Osage River, and other explorers and writers located them in the same place. In 1686 Donay made mention of 17 villages of the Osage, but Father Jaques Gravier, eight years later, wrote from the Illinois Mission that the tribe had but one village, the other 16 being mere hunting camps occupied only at intervals. Iberville, in 1701, gave an account of a tribe of some 1,500 families living in the region of the Arkansas River, near the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, and like them, speaking a language that he took to be Quapaw.
French explorer Jean La Harpe said the Osage were a warlike tribe that kept the Jean La Harpe Caddooan tribes in a state of terror. However, when the Illinois Indians were driven across the Mississippi River by the Iroquois they found shelter with the Osage Nation.
Early in the 18th century French traders visited the Osage and succeeded in making peace treaties with the tribe that lasted for years. In 1714 some of the Osage warriors assisted the French against the Fox Indians at Detroit, and in 1806 a Little Osage chief named Chtoka (Wet Stone) told Lieutenant Zebulon Pike that he was at the defeat of General Braddock in 1755, with all the warriors of his tribe that could be spared from the village.
Some historians believe that that the Osage Nation was originally one people. According to Lewis and Clark, about half of the Great Osage, under a chief named Big Track, migrated to the Arkansas River about 1802 and laid the foundation of the Santsukhdi band. Two years after this separation, Lewis and Clark found the Great Osage, numbering 500 warriors, in a village on the south side of the Osage River, and the Little Osage, numbering 250 or 300 warriors, about six miles distant on the Arkansas River and one of its tributaries called the Vermilion River. The present Osage reservation was established in 1870.
The Indian name of the tribe was Wazhaze, which was corrupted by the French into Osage. A tribal tradition relates that originally the nation consisted of two tribes — the Tsishu or peace people, and the Wazhaze or true Osage. The Tsishu lived on a vegetarian diet, while the Wazhazelatter, being a war people, ate meat. After a time the two tribes began to trade with each other. The Tsishu later met a warlike people called the “Hangda-utadhantse,” with whom they made peace, and all three were then united under the general name of Wazhaze. After the consolidation, the tribe was divided into 14 bands — seven of the former Tsishu, five of the Hangda, and two of the Wazhaze, so that the number of bands of the peace people and the war people were equal.
The Pawnee Nation was a confederacy of tribes belonging to the Caddoan family, and called themselves Chahiksichahiks, “men of men.” As the Caddoan tribes moved northeast, the Pawnee separated from the main body somewhere near the Platte River in Nebraska, where their traditions say they acquired territory by conquest, and where they were subsequently found by the Siouan tribes.
There is some question with regard to the origin of the name “Pawnee.” The word Pani, which has become synonymous with Pawnee, means “slave.” As it was from this tribe that the Algonquian tribes about the great lakes obtained their slaves, some writers maintain that the word Pawnee is equivalent to the word slave and that the tribal name resulted from the fact that so many members of it were subjected to a state of bondage.
The tribal organization of the Pawnee was based on the village communities, which represented subdivisions of the tribe. Each village had its name, its hereditary chiefs, a shrine, priests, etc. The dominating power in their religion was Tirawa (father), whose messengers were the winds, thunder, lightning, and rain. Pawnee lodges were of two types — the common form of skins stretched over a framework of poles, and the earth lodge. The latter was circular in form, from 30 to 60 feet in diameter, partly underground, and its construction was usually accompanied by elaborate religious ceremonies. Among the men, the only essential articles of wearing apparel were the breechcloth and moccasins, though these were supplemented by a robe and leggings in cold weather or on state occasions. After marriage, a man went to live with his wife’s family, though polygamy was not uncommon.
Juan de Oñate, in his account of his expedition in 1601, says the Escansaques and Quivirans were hereditary enemies, and Professor Dunbar of the Kansas Historical Society demonstrated almost to an absolute certainty that the Quivirans mentioned by Oñate were the Pawnee, who were also the inhabitants of the ancient Indian province of Harahey. The first Pawnee to come in contact with the white man was the one whom the Spaniards of Coronado’s Expedition called “the Turk.” Soon after the expedition of Oñate the Spanish settlers of New Mexico became acquainted with Pawnee through their raids into the white settlements for horses, and for two centuries, the Spaniards tried to establish peaceful relations with the tribe, but with only partial success. Consequently, the Pawnee villages in the 17th and 18th centuries were so remote from the white settlements that they escaped the influences generally so fatal to the aborigines.
In 1702, the estimated Pawnee population was about 2,000 families. When Louisiana was purchased from France by the United States a century later the Pawnee country was south of the Niobrara River in Nebraska, extending southward into Kansas. On the west, were the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes, on the east were the Omaha, and south were the Otoe and Kanza. Soon after the Louisiana Purchase, the Pawnee came in contact with white traders from St. Louis. In September 1806, at the Pawnee village in what is now Republic County, Kansas, Lieutenant Pike lowered the Spanish flag and raised the flag of the United States. In 1838 the number of Pawnee was estimated at 10,000, but in 1849 the tribe was reduced to about 4,500 by a cholera epidemic. Five years before this; however, they ceded to the United States, their lands south of the Platte River and were removed from Kansas. Between the years 1873 and 1875, what remained of the tribe were settled upon a reservation in the Indian Territory. At that time there were about 1,000, representing four tribes of what was once the great Pawnee Confederacy.
The Comanche or Padouca, who inhabited western Kansas in the early part of the 18th century, were an offshoot of the Shoshone of Wyoming, as shown by their language and traditions. The Siouan name was Padouca, by which they were called in the accounts of the early French explorers, notably Bourgmont, who visited the tribe in 1724. As late as 1805, the North Platte River was known as the Padouca Fork. At that time, the Comanche roamed over the country about the headwaters of the Arkansas, Red, Trinity and Brazos Rivers in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. According to a Kiowa tradition, when that tribe moved southward from the country about the Black Hills, the Arkansas River formed the northern boundary of the Comanche country.
For nearly two centuries the Comanche were at war with the Spaniards of the southwest and made frequent raids as far south as Durango. They were generally friendly with the Americans but did not like the Texans. The Comanche was probably never a large tribe, as they did not settle down in villages, but lived as nomadic buffalo hunters, following the herds as they grazed from place to place. They were fine horsemen, the best riders on the plains, full of courage, had a high sense of honor and considered themselves superior to the tribes with which they associated. In 1867 they were given a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma, but they did not go to it until after the outbreak of the plains tribes in 1874-75.
The Cheyenne belonged to the Algonquian family. They are first mentioned in history by the name of “Chaa,” some of them visiting La Salle’s Fort on the Illinois River to invite the French to their country where beaver and other fur-bearing animals were plentiful. At that time, they inhabited the region bounded by the Mississippi, Minnesota, and upper Red Rivers. According to a Sioux tradition, the Cheyenne occupied the upper Mississippi country before the Sioux. When the latter appeared in that locality there was some friction between the two tribes, which resulted in the Cheyenne crossing the Missouri River and locating about the Black Hills, where they were found by Lewis and Clark in 1804.
From there they drifted westward and southward, first occupying the region about the headwaters of the Platte River and next along the Arkansas River in the vicinity of Bent’s Fort, Colorado. A portion of the tribe remained on the Platte and the Yellowstone Rivers and became known as the northern Cheyenne.
The Cheyenne have a tradition that when they lived in Minnesota, before the coming of the Sioux, they lived in fixed villages, practiced agriculture, made pottery, etc., but everything was changed when the tribe was driven out and they became roving hunters. About the only institution of the old life that remained with them was the great tribal ceremony of the Sun Dance.
In 1838 the Cheyenne and Arapaho attacked the Kiowa on Wolf Creek, Oklahoma, but two years later, peace was established between the tribes, after which the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa Comanche, and Apache were frequently allied in wars against the whites.
The northern Cheyenne joined the Sioux in the Sitting Bull War of 1876. In the winter of 1878-79, a band of the northern Cheyenne was taken as prisoners to Fort Reno, Oklahoma to be colonized with the southern Cheyenne in Oklahoma. The chiefs Dull Knife, Wild Hog, and Little Wolf, with about 200 followers, escaped and were pursued to the Dakota border, where most of the warriors were killed.
In February 1861, the Cheyenne and Arapaho relinquished their title to lands in Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, and northwest Kansas, and in 1867, the southern Cheyenne were given a reservation in western Oklahoma. They refused to occupy it; however, until after the surrender of 1875, when some of their leaders were sent to Florida as a final means of quelling the insurrection. In 1902, the southern Cheyenne were allotted lands in severalty. Two years later the Bureau of Ethnology reported 3,300 members of the tribe — 1,900 southern and 1,400 northern.