History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


The Kanza (or Kaw) Indians - Page 3

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The Kansas River, 1867The tribe also relinquished at this time all claim they might have to lands in Missouri; and in consideration of the cession of land, and relinquishment of such claim, the United States agreed "to pay to the Kanza Nation of Indians $3,500 per annum for twenty successive years, at their villages, or at the entrance of the Kansas River, either in money, merchandise, provisions or domestic animals, at the option of the aforesaid nation; and when the said annuities, or any part thereof, is paid in merchandise, it shall be delivered to them at the first cost of the goods in St. Louis, free of transportation.


In addition to the above-named consideration, cattle, hogs, and implements of agriculture were to be supplied to them, a blacksmith provided, and persons employed to teach them agriculture.

The United States, by its Commissioner, also agreed that "thirty-six sections of good land, on the Big Blue River shall be laid out under the direction of the President of the United States, and sold for the purpose of raising a fund to be applied, under the direction of the President, to the support of schools for the education of the Kanza children within their nation."


A part of the first payment was made at St. Louis, at the time of the treaty; $2,000 in merchandise and horses being delivered to the deputation of chiefs and warriors present; the remainder was paid at the mouth of the Kansas River, near the present site of Wyandotte, during the year 1825.


The first Kanza Agency was established at what is now East Kansas City, in 1827, Barnett Vasquez being the first agent. The agency was removed to the mouth of Grasshopper Creek the following year, the first payment at that point being in 1829--Daniel McNair, Special Agent and Paymaster. In 1830, Marston G. Clark, Agent; Daniel Boone, farmer; Clemenent Lessent, Interpreter; Gabriel Phillibert, blacksmith; with some of the Kaw half-breeds, were living at the "Stone Agency House," on Grasshopper Creek.


The old Kanza village near the mouth of the Big Blue River was partially abandoned about the year 1830; the tribe, during that year, establishing several villages lower down the Kansas River. The village of American Chief was on the creek of the same name (now Mission Creek), and about two miles south of the Kansas River. This band, of about one hundred, had some twenty dirt lodges, of good size, in which they lived until they removed to Council Grove in 1848. Hard Chief's village, about a mile from the former, was situated on a high bluff on the south bank of the Kansas River, and numbered about five hundred people and eighty-five lodges. It was about a mile and half west of Mission Creek.


The third and largest village, that of Fool Chief, was on the north bank of Kansas River, two or three miles west of where North Topeka now stands. Mr. McCoy, in his "Annual Register of Indian Affairs" for 1835, says the Government of the United States had at that time fenced twenty acres of land, plowed ten acres, and erected for the principal chief a good hewed-log house, at the lower or Fool Chief's village; their smithery, agency house and house for the residence of their teacher of agriculture being within the Delaware country, twenty-three miles east of the Kanza lands. Mr. McCoy gives the whole number of the tribe as about 1,606, their agent then being R. W. Cummings, and their interpreter Joseph James. In 1830, Reverend William Johnson, Howard County, Missouri, was appointed, by the Missouri Methodist Conference, missionary to the Kanza tribe. He resided among them two years; was then transferred to the Delaware Mission; thence to the Shawnee, and, in 1835, returned to his labors among the Kanza. In the spring of the same year, the Government farm was removed to the vicinity of the upper villages, three hundred acres being selected for the purpose on the north bank of the Kansas River, just east of the present site of Silver Lake Township, and about three hundred acres in the valley west of Mission Creek and south of the Kansas.


In the summer of 1835, mission buildings were erected on the northwest corner of the farm lying south of the river, afterward Section 33, Township 11, Range 14. The buildings consisted of a hewn-log cabin, two stories high, eighteen feet wide by thirty-six feet long, with smokehouse, kitchen and outbuildings. Mr. Johnson and wife removed into the mission house in September, and for the next seven years labored faithfully for the good of the Kaws. Mr. Johnson died in April, 1842, at the Shawnee Mission, of pneumonia, contracted from the exposure incident to the journey to that place. Mr. Cornetzer, and afterward Reverend George W. Love, had charge of the mission for a short period, but the prosperity of the institution evidently waned from the time of the death of its first efficient missionary, and, after a few years, it was absorbed in the Shawnee Mission. In 1845, Reverend J. T. Peery established a manual labor school on a small scale at the mission, which was continued one year.




Kanza peopleOn the 14th of January, 1846, the Kanza ceded to the United States "two millions of acres of land on the east part of their country, embracing the entire width, and running west for quantity."


This cession comprised the reservation afterward granted to the Pottawatomie, including all the improvements made by Government. The Kanza were removed to the vicinity of Council Grove, now in Morris County, where they received a grant of 256,000 acres. A branch of the Shawnee Methodist Mission was established among them. Hard Chief's village was established on the north bank of the Cottonwood River, where the village of Columbia was afterward founded by Thomas F. Huffaker, who, with other Government officials, accompanied the Indians to the new location.


They gradually deteriorated in number and civilization. After they they learned to love liquor, all efforts for their advancement proved futile. The tribe among whom "drunkenness was rare" ceased to exist, and before they were removed to the Indian Territory, they were perhaps the most degraded tribe in Kansas.


October 5, 1859, a treaty was made by which a portion of the tribal reservation was set apart, and assigned in severalty to various individuals of the tribe.


On May 8, 1872, an act was passed for the appraisal and sale of their lands, and their final removal from the State of Kansas to a  reservation in Indian Territory. On May 27, 1872, over the strong protests of Chief Allegawaho and his people, the Kanza were moved to a 100,137 acre site in northern Oklahoma.


Their number in 1882, was reduced to about two hundred, a feeble, poverty-stricken remnant of the powerful nation from which the fair State of Kansas derived its name.


But, even at their new reservation in Oklahoma their land would not be safe. The Kaw Allotment Act of 1902 disbanded the Kaw tribe as a legal entity and allocated its land to enrolled members, as well as transferring 160 acres back to the federal government. The Act was largely the work of Charles Curtis -- a distinguished one-eighth blood member of the tribe who eventually served as Vice-President of the United States under President Herbert Hoover and who, in 1902, was a Kansas congressman and member of the powerful House Committee on Indian Affairs. Congressman Curtis, together with his three children, received about 1,625 acres.


A significant minority of full-blooded Kanza, whose political power in the tribe had declined dramatically since the forced removal from Kansas, opposed the Allotment Act, and, until the tribe was reorganized under federal authority in 1959, factionalism and political struggles over tribal affairs were commonplace.


Following allotment in 1902 the Kaw people retained 260 acres near the Beaver Creek confluence with the Arkansas River until the mid-1960s, when their former reservation land was inundated by the Kaw Reservoir constructed by United States Corps of Engineers on the Arkansas River just northeast of Ponca City, Oklahoma.


Here, dating to the late nineteenth century, were located the tribal council house, the old Washungah town site, and the tribal cemetery. After much negotiation with various federal and local officials the cemetery was relocated to Newkirk, Oklahoma, and the council house to a fifteen acre tract a few miles northwest of the former Beaver Creek trust lands. By subsequent Congressional action the new council house tract was enlarged to include approximately 135 acres, which presently are administered by the Kaw Nation as official trust lands.

Kaw Nation SealToday, the Kaw Nation of Kanza people is headquartered in Kaw City, Oklahoma. The tribe has more than 3,000 members located in 48 states. Of those, more than 2,500 are enrolled members of the Kaw Nation in northern Oklahoma. Their present constitution was adopted by the Kaw National Council on August 14, 1990.

During the long period of time that their lands were taken away, usage of their  language began to taper off dramatically. This trend continued on into the twentieth century, until only a handful of the Kanza Indians could speak the language fluently by the 1970s. Today, the tribe is working hard to preserve and revive their language. Today's economic activities include the Kaw Nation Casino enterprise near Newkirk, as well as travel plazas and tobacco shops. The tribe also has developed and oversees the Kaw Housing Project near Newkirk, the Kanza Health Clinic and Wellness Center, a daycare center, gymnasium, and a multi-purpose center, and is a member of the Chilocco Development Authority.



Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated March, 2017.




More Information:


The Kaw Nation

698 Grandview Drive

Kaw City, Oklahoma



About this article: The primary content for this article is an edited rendition of the Kanza Indians as told in William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, first published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, Illinois. Note that the article is not verbatim as minor corrections for spelling and punctuation, editing for clarity, and updates since the article was first written, have been made.


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