Native American History in Kansas

Arapaho Warrior by Edward S. Curtis

Arapaho Warrior by Edward S. Curtis

The Arapaho, a plains tribe of the Algonquian group, was closely allied with the Cheyenne for almost a century. They were called by the Sioux and Cheyenne “Blue Sky Men” or “Cloud Men.” An Arapaho tradition tells how the tribe was once an agricultural people in northwestern Minnesota but were forced across the Missouri River, where they met the Cheyenne, with whom they moved southward. Like the Cheyenne, they became divided, the northern Arapaho remaining about the mountains near the head of the Platte River and the southern branch drifting to the Arkansas River. In 1867 the southern portion of the tribe was given a reservation with the southern Cheyenne in Oklahoma. By 1892 they had made sufficient progress to justify the government in allotting them lands in severalty and the rest of the reservation being thrown open to white settlement. The northern branch was established in 1876 on a reservation in Wyoming.

Between the years 1825 and 1830, the Kanza and Osage tribes withdrew from a large part of their lands, which were turned over to the United States. This gave the national government the opportunity of establishing the long talked of Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River. Congress, therefore, passed a bill providing that the country west of the Mississippi River that was not included in any state or organized territory of the United States to be set apart as a home for the Indians. This Indian Territory joined Missouri and Arkansas on the west and was annexed to those states for judicial purposes. During the decade following the passage of the bill, a number of eastern tribes found what they thought were permanent homes within the present State of Kansas. Among them were the Shawnee, Delaware, Ottawa, Miami, Chippewa, Kickapoo, Sauk and Fox, Wyandot, and a few others.

Shawnee Indian Village

Shawnee Indian Village

The Shawnee were the first to seek a home in the new territory. The early history of the Shawnee tribe is somewhat obscure, though it was known to be an important tribe in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, South Carolina, and along the Savannah River in Georgia. Some writers claim that the Shawnee were identical with the Erie of the early Jesuits, and attempts have been made to show that they were allied to the Susquehannock of the Iroquois family. Their language was that of the central Algonquian dialects — similar to that of the Sauk and Fox — and the Delaware had a tradition that made the Shawnee and Nanticoke one people.

The recorded history of the Shawnee begins in about 1670 when there were two bodies, some distance apart, with the friendly Cherokee Nation between. In 1672 the western Shawnee were allied with the Susquehannock in a war against the Iroquois. Twelve years later, the Iroquois made war on the Miami tribe because they were trying to form an alliance with the Shawnee for the purpose of invading the Iroquois country.

About the middle of the 18th century the eastern and western Shawnee were united in Ohio, and from that time to the Treaty of Greeneville in 1795 were almost constantly at war with the English. They were driven from the head of the Scioto River to the head of the Miami River, and after the Revolutionary War,  some of them went south and formed an alliance with the Creek Indians, with whom, they were closely connected, their language being almost identical. Others joined with a portion of the Delaware tribe and accepted a Spanish invitation to occupy a tract of land near Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

Shawnee Chief Tecumseh

Shawnee Chief Tecumseh

In the early part of the 19th century the Shawnee in Indiana and Ohio, with some of the Delaware, joined the movement of the Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskawata (the Prophet), to unite the tribes of the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys in a general uprising against the whites. The conspiracy was effectually crushed by General Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 4, 1811. In the War of 1812 some of the Shawnee fought with the British until Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames.

The fall of their great war chief broke the warlike spirit of the tribe and the Shawnee sued for peace. In 1825 the Missouri Shawnee sold their lands and received a reservation in Kansas south of the Kansas River and bordering on the Missouri River.

The Ohio Shawnee sold their lands near Wapakoneta in 1831 and joined their brethren in Kansas, the mixed band of Shawnee and Seneca coming in about the same time. Some of the tribe in 1845 withdrew from the Kansas reservation and went to the Canadian River in Oklahoma. They became known as the “Absentee Shawnee.” In 1867 those with the Seneca moved to the Indian Territory, and in 1869 the main body was incorporated with the Cherokee Nation.

The Shawnee tribe consisted of five divisions, which were further divided into 13 clans, the English names of which were the wolf, loon, bear, buzzard, panther, owl, turkey, deer, raccoon, turtle, snake, horse and rabbit. Of these, the Clan of the Turtle was the most important, especially in their mythological traditions.

Lenape Encampment

Lenape Encampment

The Delaware, formerly the most important confederacy of the Algonquian stock, occupied the entire valley of the Delaware River. They called themselves the Lenape or Leni-lenape. The English gave them the name of Delaware, and the French called them Loups (wolves). They were divided into three bands — the Munsee, Unami, and the Unalachtigo — though it is probable that some of the bands in New Jersey may have formed a fourth group.

About 1720 the Iroquois tribe assumed authority over the Delaware and forbade them to sell their lands. This condition lasted until after the French and Indian War. Then they were gradually crowded westward by the white men and began to form settlements in Ohio, along the Muskingum River with the Huron.

Here they were supported by the French and became independent of the Iroquois. They opposed the English with determination until the treaty of Greeneville in 1795. Six years before that treaty was consummated the Spanish government of Louisiana gave the Delaware permission to settle in that province, near Cape Girardeau, Missouri, with some of the Shawnee tribe.

In 1820 there were two bands — numbering about 700 — in Texas, but by 1835 most of the Delaware were settled upon their Kansas reservation between the Kansas and Missouri Rivers. Their title to this reservation was finally extinguished in 1866, and on April 11, 1867, President Johnson approved an agreement by which the Delaware merged their tribal existence with the Cherokee Nation.

In 1820 there was found an ancient hieroglyphic bark record giving the traditions of the Delaware tribe. This old record was translated and published in 1885. It gives an account of the creation of the world by great Manito; and of the flood, in which Nanabush, the Strong White One, grandfather of men, created the turtle, on which some were saved. This book is known as the “Walam Olum.”

Munsee Indians

Munsee Indians

The Munsee, one of the three principal divisions of the Delaware, originally occupied the country about the headwaters of the Delaware River. By what was known as the “walking purchase,” in about 1740, they were defrauded out of the greater portion of their lands and forced to move. They obtained lands from the Iroquois on the Susquehanna River, where they lived until the Indian country was established by the act of 1830, when they removed to what is now Franklin County, Kansas, with some of the Chippewa. The report of the Bureau of Ethnology for 1885 says the only Munsee then recognized officially by the United States were 72, living in Franklin County, Kansas, all the others having been incorporated with the Cherokee Nation.

The Ottawa, according to one of their traditions, were once part of a tribe to which belonged also the Chippewa and Potawatomi, all of the great Algonquian family. They moved as one tribe from their original habitat north of the great lakes and separated about the straits of Mackinaw. Another account says that when the Iroquois destroyed the Huron Indians in 1648-49, what was left of the Huron found refuge with the Ottawa, which caused the Iroquois to turn on that tribe. The Ottawa and the Huron then fled to Green Bay, where they were welcomed by the Potawatomi, who had preceded them to that locality.

The tribe is mentioned in the Jesuit Relations as early as 1670, when Father Dablon, superior of the mission at Mackinaw, said: “We call these people Upper Algonkin to distinguish them from the Lower Alkonkin, who are lower down in the vicinity of Tadousac and Quebec. People commonly give them the name of Ottawa, because, of more than 30 different tribes which are found in these countries, the first that descended to the French settlements were the Ottawa, whose name afterward attached to all the others.”

After a time the Ottawa and Huron went to the Mississippi River and established themselves on an island in Lake Pepin. They were soon driven out by the Sioux and went to the Black River in Wisconsin, where the Huron built a fort, but the Ottawa continued east to Chaquamegon Bay. In 1700 the Huron were located near Detroit and the Ottawa were between that post and the Saginaw Bay. The Ohio Ottawa were removed west of the Mississippi River in 1832.

The following year, by the Treaty of Chicago, those living along the west shore of Lake Michigan ceded their lands there and were given a reservation in Franklin County, Kansas, the county seat of which bears the name of the tribe. In 1906 there were about 1,500 Ottawa living in Manitoulin and Cockburn Islands, Canada; 197 under the Seneca school in Oklahoma; and nearly 4,000 in the State of Michigan.

The Chippewa or Ojibway formerly ranged along the shores of Lake Superior and Lake Huron, extending across Minnesota to the Turtle Mountains in North Dakota. At the time America was discovered, the Chippewa lived at La Pointe, Ashland County, Wisconsin on the south shore of Lake Superior, where they had a village called Shangawaumikong.

Arrowmaker an Ojibwa/Chippewa brave by the Detroit Photographic Company, 1903.

Arrowmaker an Ojibwa/Chippewa brave by the Detroit Photographic Company, 1903.

Early in the 18th century the Chippewa drove the Fox tribe from northern Wisconsin, and also drove the Sioux west of the Mississippi River. Other Chippewa overran the peninsula lying between Lake Huron and Lake Erie and forced the Iroquois to withdraw from that section. There were ten principal divisions of the tribe scattered through Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota, with more than 20 bands. Prior to 1815 the Chippewa were frequently engaged in war with the white settlers, but after the treaty of that year they remained peaceful.

In 1836, what were known as the Swan Creek and Black River Chippewa sold their lands in southern Michigan and moved to the Munsee Reservation in Franklin County, Kansas. In 1905 the Bureau of Ethnology estimated the number of Chippewa in the United States and Canada at 30,000, about one-half of which were in the United States.

The Miami, one of the most important of the Algonquian tribes, was called by some of the early chroniclers the “Twightwees.” The region over which they roamed was once outlined in a speech by their famous chief, Little Turtle, who said: “My fathers kindled the first fire at Detroit; then they extended their lines to the headwaters of the Scioto; then to its mouth; then down the Ohio to the mouth of the Wabash River, and then to Chicago over Lake Michigan.”

The men of the Miami tribe have been described as “of medium height, well built, heads rather round than oblong, countenances agreeable rather than sedate or morose, swift on foot and excessively fond of racing.” The women spun thread of buffalo hair, of which they made bags in which to carry provisions when on a march. Their deities were the sun and the thunder, and they had but few minor gods. Six bands of the Miami were known to the French, the principal ones being the Piankashaw, Wea, and Pepicokia.

Miami Brave

Miami Brave

The Piankashaw was first mentioned by French Explorer Sieur de La Salle in 1682 as one of the tribes that gathered about his fort in the Illinois country. Chauvignerie classed the Piankashaw, Wea, and Pepicokia as one tribe, but inhabiting different villages. The Miami were divided into ten bands — wolf, loon, eagle, buzzard, panther, turkey, raccoon, snow, sun and water — and the elk and crane were their principal totems.

Early in the 19th century the Piankashaw and Wea were located in Missouri, and in 1832 they agreed to remove to Kansas as one tribe. About 1854 they were consolidated with the Peoria and Kaskaskia, and in 1868 the consolidated tribe was removed to a reservation on the Neosho River in northeastern Oklahoma. Numerous treaties were made between the main body of the Miami and the United States, and in November 1840, the last of the tribe was removed west of the Mississippi River. Six years later some of them were in Linn County, Kansas, and others had confederated with the Peoria and other tribes. In 1873 they were removed to the Indian Territory.

The Sac and Fox, usually spoken of as one tribe, were originally two separate and distinct tribes, but both of Algonquian stock. The Sac (or Sauk), when first met by white men, inhabited the lower peninsula of Michigan and were known as “Yellow Earth People.” At that time, the Fox lived along the southern shore of Lake Superior and were called the “Red Earth People.” There is a tribal tradition that before the Sac became an independent people they belonged to an Algonquian group composed of the Potawatomi, Fox, and Mascouten tribes. After the separation, the Sac and Fox moved northwest, and in 1720 were located near Green Bay, Wisconsin but as two separate tribes. Trouble with the Fox led to a division of the Sac, one faction going to the Fox and the other to the Potawatomi. In 1733, some Fox, pursued by the French, took refuge at the Sac village near the present city of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Sieur de Villiers made a demand for the surrender of the refugees, but it was refused, and in trying to take them by force, several of the French were killed. Governor Beauharnois, of Canada, then gave orders to make war on the Sac and Fox. This led to a close confederation of the two tribes, and since then they have been known as the Sac and Fox.

Sac Chief Black Hawk by John T. Bowen, 1838

Sac Chief Black Hawk by John T. Bowen, 1838

In the early days of the confederacy there were numerous bands, but in time these were reduced to 14. Black Hawk, the Sac War Chief, was a member of the thunder clan. After several treaties with the United States, the Sac and Fox in 1837 ceded their lands in Iowa and were given a reservation in Franklin and Osage Counties of Kansas. In 1859 the Fox returned from a buffalo hunt to find that in their absence the Sac had made a treaty ceding the Kansas reservation to the United States.

The Fox chief refused to ratify the cession and with some of his trusty followers, set out for Iowa from which some of the Fox members had previously returned. They purchased a small tract of land near Tama City, Iowa and later made more purchases, until the tribe owned some 3,000 acres. From that time, this faction of the Fox had no further political connection with the Sac. In 1867, the Kansas reservation passed into the hands of the United States Government, the Indians accepting a reservation in the Indian Territory, and in 1889 they were allotted lands in severalty.

The Ioway were a southwestern Siouan tribe belonging to the Chiwere group, composed of the Ioway, Otoe and Missouri tribes, all of which sprang from Winnebago stock, to which they were closely allied by language and tradition. Old Ioway chiefs said that the tribe separated from the Winnebago on the shores of Lake Michigan, and at the time of the separation, received the name of “gray snow.”

Afterward, they lived on the Des Moines River, near the pipestone quarry in Minnesota, at the mouth of the Platte River, and on the headwaters of the Little Platte River in Missouri. In 1824, they ceded their lands in Missouri and in 1836 moved to a reservation in the northeast corner of Kansas. When this reservation was ceded to the United States the tribe removed to central Oklahoma, where, in 1890 they were allotted lands in severalty.

Kenekuk, Kickapoo Prophet

Kenekuk, Kickapoo Prophet

The Kickapoo, a tribe of the central Algonquian group, is first mentioned in history about 1670, when Father Allouez found them living near the portage between the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers. Ethnologically, the Kickapoo were closely related to the Sac and Fox, with whom they entered into a scheme for the destruction of Detroit in 1712. When the Illinois Confederacy was broken up in 1765, the Kickapoo had their headquarters for a time at Peoria, Illinois. They were allied with Shawnee Chief Tecumseh in his conspiracy early in the 19th century, and in 1832, took part in the Black Hawk War.

Five years later they aided the government in the war with the Seminole. After ceding their lands in central Illinois, they moved to Missouri and still later to Kansas, settling on a reservation near Fort Leavenworth. About 1852 a number of Kickapoo joined a party of Potawatomi and went to Texas. Later they went to Mexico and became known as the “Mexican Kickapoo.” In 1905, the Bureau of Ethnology reported 434 Kickapoo — 247 in Oklahoma and 167 in Kansas.

Among the Kickapoo, the gentile system prevailed and marriage was outside of their bands. In summer they lived in houses of bark, and in winter, in oval lodges constructed of reeds. They practiced agriculture in a primitive way. Their mythology was characterized by many fables of animals, the dog being especially venerated and regarded as an object of offering always acceptable to the great Manitou.

Potawatomi Camp

Potawatomi Camp

The Potawatomi belonged to the Algonquian group and were first encountered by white men in the vicinity of Green Bay, Wisconsin. They were originally associated with the Ottawa and Chippewa as one tribe, the separation taking place about the head of Lake Huron. Subsequently, the three tribes formed a confederacy for offense or defense, and when removed west of the Mississippi River asked to be united again. They sided with the French until about 1760, took part in the Pontiac Conspiracy, and fought against the United States in the American Revolution. The Treaty of Greeneville put an end to hostilities, but in the War of 1812, they again allied themselves with the British.

Between the years 1836 and 1841 they were moved west of the Mississippi River, those in Indiana having to be removed by force. Some escaped to Canada and lived on Walpole Island in the St. Clair River.

In 1846 all those in the United States were united on a reservation in Miami County, Kansas. In November 1861, this tract was ceded to the United States and the tribe accepted a reservation of 30 miles square near Horton, Jackson County, Kansas, where their reservation continues to stand today. From government reports in 1908, there were then about 2,500 Potawatomi in the United States, 676 of whom were in Kansas.

The 15 bands of the tribe were the wolf, bear, beaver, elk, loon, eagle, sturgeon, carp, bald eagle, thunder, rabbit, crow, fox, turkey and black hawk. Their most popular totems were the frog, tortoise, crab, and crane. In the early days they were sun-worshipers. Dog flesh was highly prized, especially in the “feast of dreams,” when their special Manitou was selected.

Kiowa Chief Kicking Bird by William S. Soule, about 1872.

Kiowa Chief Kicking Bird by William S. Soule, about 1872.

The Kiowa once inhabited the region on the upper Missouri and the Yellowstone Rivers. Next, they formed an alliance with the Crow but were driven southward by the Cheyenne and Arapaho to the country about the upper Arkansas and Canadian Rivers in Colorado and Oklahoma. They are first mentioned in history by Spanish explorers about 1732, and in 1805 Lewis and Clark found them living on the North Platte River. About 1840 they formed an alliance with the Comanche with whom they were afterward frequently associated in raids on the frontier settlements of Texas and Mexico. In 1865 they joined with the Comanche in a treaty which ceded to the United States a large tract of land in Colorado, Texas, and southwest Kansas, and three years later they were put on a reservation in northwest Texas and the western part of the Indian Territory.

The Quapaw, a southwestern tribe of the Siouan group, were separated from the other Siouan tribes when the Quapaw went down the Mississippi River settling in Arkansas, while the Omaha group, which included the Omaha, Kanza, Ponca, and Osage, went up the Missouri River. There is a close linguistic and ethnic relation between the Quapaw and the other four tribes and their name derives from Ugakhpa, or “downstream people. When encountered by the French they were described as having made considerable advances in culture, evidenced by their villages and structures.

Quapaw Indian

Quapaw Indian

The Quapaw were close allies of the French in colonial Louisiana and during the later Spanish regime, they helped defend the colony from invasion by Indians allied with the English. The Quapaw tried to maintain a policy of peaceful co-existence with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, but they were forced to surrender their Arkansas lands to the U.S. government in 1818 and 1824. In 1833 old maps show that some of them were living on a small strip in southeastern Kansas, extending from the Missouri line to the Neosho River.  In 1839, the Quapaw Reservation was established in Indian Indian Territory, which continues to be utilized today. There are about 2,000 tribal members most who live near Miami, Oklahoma.

The Otoe, one of the three Siouan tribes forming the Chiwere group, were originally part of the Winnebago, from whom they separated near Green Bay, Wisconsin. Moving southwest in quest of buffalo, the Otoe went up the Missouri River, crossed the Big Platte River, and in 1673 were living on the upper Des Moines or upper Iowa River.

Lewis and Clark, in 1804 found them on the south side of the Platte River, 30 miles from its mouth, where, having become decimated by war and small-pox, they lived under the protection of the Pawnee. The Otoe were never an important tribe in Kansas history, though, in March 1881, they ceded to the United States a tract of land, a small portion of which lies north of Marysville in Marshall County.

Cherokee Brave

Cherokee Brave

By the treaty of New Echota, Georgia on December 29, 1835, the Cherokee Nation ceded the lands formerly occupied by the tribe east of the Mississippi River and received a reservation in southeastern Kansas. The tribe never assumed an important status in Kansas affairs, and in 1866 the land was ceded back to the United States. The Cherokee tribe was detached from the Iroquois at an early day and for at least three centuries inhabited Tennessee, Georgia, southwestern Virginia, the Carolinas, and northeastern Alabama. They were found by De Soto in the southern Alleghany region in 1540, and were among the most intelligent of Indian tribes.

Last, but not least of the Indian tribes that dwelt in Kansas at some point, were the Wyandot, or Wyandot-Iroquois, who were the successors to the power of the ancient Hurons, who originally lived on the northern shore of Lake Ontario. About the middle of the 18th century, the Huron Chief Orontony moved from the Detroit River to the lowlands about Sandusky Bay. Orontony hated the French and organized a movement for the destruction of their posts and settlements, but a Huron woman divulged the plan. The Handbook of the Bureau of Ethnology said: “After this trouble, the Huron seems to have returned to Detroit and Sandusky, where they became known as Wyandot and gradually acquired a paramount influence in the Ohio Valley and the lake region.”

Seneca Indian

Seneca Indian

In January 1838 several New York tribes were granted reservations in Kansas, but the vast majority refused to occupy the lands — only 32 Indians came from New York to the newly established Indian Territory. Some 10,000 acres were allotted to these 32 Indians in the northern part of Bourbon County. In 1857 the Tonawanda band of Seneca relinquished their claim to the Kansas reservations, and in 1873 the government ordered all the lands sold to the whites, including the 10,000 acres in Bourbon County because the Indians had failed to occupy them permanently.

During the French and Indian War, the tribe was allied with the French, and in the Revolutionary War, they fought with the British against the colonies. For a long time, the tribe stood at the head of a great Indian confederacy and was recognized as such by the United States government in making treaties in the old Northwest Territory. At one time they claimed the greater part of Ohio, and the Shawnee and Delaware tribes settled there with Wyandot consent. In March 1842, they relinquished their title to lands in Ohio and Michigan and agreed to move west of the Mississippi River. On December 14, 1843, they purchased 39 square miles of the east end of the Delaware Reserve in Kansas. There, they organized a Methodist church, a Free Masons’ lodge, a civil government, a code of written laws which provided for an elective council of chiefs, the punishment of crime and the maintenance of social and public order.

Soon after the Wyandot came to Kansas efforts were made in Congress to organize the Territory of Nebraska, to include a large part of the Indian country. The Indians realized that if the territory was organized it meant they would have to sell their lands, notwithstanding the treaty promises of the government that they should never be disturbed in their possessions, and that their lands should never be incorporated in any state or territory. A congress of the Kansas tribes met at Fort Leavenworth in October 1848 and reorganized the old confederacy with the Wyandot at the head. At the session of Congress in the winter of 1851-52, a petition asking for the organization of a territorial government was presented, but no action was taken. The people then concluded to act for themselves, and on October  12, 1852, Abelard Guthrie was elected a delegate to Congress, although no territorial government existed west of Missouri. At a convention on July 26, 1853, which had been called in the interest of the central route of the proposed Pacific Railroad, a series of resolutions were adopted which became the basis of a provisional territorial government, with William Walker, a Wyandot Indian, as governor.

On January 31, 1855, tribal relations among the Wyandot were dissolved and they became citizens of the United States. At the same time, the 39 sections purchased in 1843 were ceded to the government, with the understanding that a new survey was to be made and the lands conveyed to the Wyandot as individuals, the reserves to be permitted to locate on any government land west of Missouri and Iowa.

Wyandot/Huron Tribe

Wyandot/Huron Tribe

In the social organization of the Wyandot four groups were recognized — the family, the gens, the phratry, and the tribe. A family consisted of all who occupied one lodge, at the head of which was a woman. The gens included all the blood relations in a given female line. At the time the tribe removed to Kansas, it was made up of eleven bands, which were further divided into four groups.

Researcher James Mooney said the Wyandot were “the most influential tribe of the Ohio region, the keepers of the great wampum belt of union and the lighters of the council fire of the allied tribes.” But, like the other great tribes that once inhabited the central region of North America, the Wyandot have faded away before the civilization of the pale-face. The wigwam has given way to the schoolhouse, the old trail has been supplanted by the railroad, and in a few generations more the Indian will be little more than a memory.

Compiled by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated May 2020.

Kansas Indians

Kansas Indians

Also See:

Native Americans – First Owners of America

Native Americans of Kansas

Native American Photo Galleries

Native American Tribes List

About the Article: The majority of this historic text was published in Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Volume I; edited by Frank W. Blackmar,  A.M. Ph. D.; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912. However, the text that appears on these pages is not verbatim, as additions, truncation, updates, and heavy editing has occurred.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.