Indians of Kansas
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Of the Indian
nations living north of the
Arkansas River and west of the
Mississippi River, the
Osage were best known to the French during the early years of their
occupancy of Louisiana. Claiming lands extending east even to the banks of
the Mississippi River, and maintaining friendly intercourse with the
Illinois tribe, who dwelt on the opposite shore, the Osage were brought in
frequent contact with the French adventurers of Kaskaskia, Natchez and New
Orleans. Rumors of mines of silver and lead to the west of the Mississippi
River brought, at a very early day, many explorers into that region, and the
discovery of the "Mine of the Marameg" by Sieur de Lichens in 1719, followed
by the arrival of a large company of the King's miners, under the
superintendence of M. Renandiere, to construct furnaces and develop the
mine, gave a fresh impetus to the prevailing spirit of extravagant
expectation in regard to the mineral resources of the western portion of
time, the Osage had villages on the
Osage Rivers, the latter not
very distant from the famous mine. Their country was thoroughly explored by
parties in search of silver and lead, and to a comparatively late day the
extensive "diggings' on the old Osage Trail near the Le Mine River bore the
marks of the spade and pick of the early French explorers.
It was during the year that silver was discovered on the Marameg, and when the
mining mania was at fever heat, that Du Tissenet was sent by Bienville,
Governor of Louisiana, to explore the western part of the province, and, in
the course of his investigations, visited and crossed from southeast to
northwest to the present State of Kansas.
M. Du Tissenet visited the village of the Osage Indians,
five miles from the Osage River, at eighty leagues above its mouth, and
describes the inhabitants as stout, well made and great warriors. He also
mentions the lead mines that were found in their country.
Sixty-four Osage Indians formed a part
of the escort of M. D. Bourgmont on his Pacific Mission to the Padoucas in
1724, but from that time there is no record of any organized French expedition
visiting the region. The destruction of Fort Orleans, of which M. De Bourgmont
was Commandant, and the massacre of entire garrison, effectually put a stop,
for a long time, to any further attempts to extend French exploration toward
the west, and, except the fact that the Osage, Kanza and
Pawnee were engaged in continual war among themselves and with the
more western tribes, little is known of them until the explorations of
Lewis and Clark and Lieutenant
Zebulon Pike furnished more definite
knowledge of their locations, homes and habits of life.
early as 1796, a division was effected in the Osage Nation. The Chaneers or
Arkansa band, under the lead of Chief Cashesegra, or Clermont, removed to the
Verdigris and formed several villages along its banks, that of Clermont being
about sixty miles up the river. The Arkansa band was principally composed of
the young men of the two tribes, and its formation was effected through the
influence of Pierre Choteau, a
fur trader, who had hitherto enjoyed a monopoly of the trade with the Osage by
the way of the river of the same name. Having been superseded as agent by
Manuel de Liza, also an enterprising St. Louis
trader, M. Choteau determined to plant a colony of young and vigorous Osage on
one of the tributaries of the Arkansas River, and endeavor to draw the trade
of his rival to the more southern river, in which financial scheme he was
quite successful, the new settlement soon quite overshadowing the older.
About 1803, the Little
Osage separated from the Grand Osage, and made a village on the Missouri River,
near where Fort Clark, afterward called Fort Osage, was built. They; however,
were soon attacked by the warlike tribes farther to the north and east, and
forced to seek refuge and protection in the vicinity of the more numerous band
of the Grand Osage, who dwelt near the headwaters of the Osage River, about
fifteen miles east of the present Kansas
of the objects of Lieutenant Zebulon Pike's expedition of 1806 and 1807
through the interior of Louisiana was to deliver at the village of Grand Osage
several Osage captives, lately prisoners in the hands of the Pottawatomie.
Another was "the accomplishment of a permanent peace between the Osage and Kanza
and a third was to endeavor to make peace between the
In the accomplishment of these objects, Lieutenant Zebulon Pike had the opportunity to
carefully observe the customs and noted the peculiarities of the Osage at that
period. At the time of his arrival at the village of the Grand Osage, the Little
Osage had already marched a war party against the Kanza,
and the Grand Osage, a party against the
band. White Hair, chief of the Grand Osage, was unable to prevent it, although
the expedition was contrary to his wishes. Schemers at
were constantly inciting trouble between the tribes, and turning their quarrels
to their own advantage. The treaty of peace, which Lieutenant Pike was
instrumental in bringing about, was faithfully observed by both Osage and Kanza.
At the time of this visit, the Grand Osage village on the Osage River numbered,
by actual census -- men, 502; boys, 341; women and girls, 851; lodges, 214. Cheveau Blanc, or White Hair, was the chief. The Little Osage numbered 824, and
Clermont's band, 1,500. The government was nominally vested in a small number of
chiefs, but their power was limited, all measures which they proposed being
submitted to a council of warriors and decided by a majority vote.
The tribe was divided into two classes; warriors and hunters composing the
first, cooks and doctors the second. The doctors were also priests or magicians,
possessing great influence, being supposed to have knowledge of deep mysteries,
and to be wonderfully skilled in the use of medicines. The cooks were also of
much importance, the class including all the warriors who, from age or other
cause, were unable to join the war parties.
When received into an Osage village, a guest immediately presented himself at
the lodge of the chief, where he was expected to eat his first meal, after which
he was invited to a general feast, given by the most important warriors and
great men. The cooks stood outside the lodge and gave the invitation by crying,
in a loud voice: "Come and eat; such an one gives a feast." The feasts were
repeated until all the more important members of the tribe had an opportunity to
display their hospitality.
lodges were usually constructed by driving into the ground upright
posts, about twenty feet high, with crotched tops as a rest for the ridge
pole, over which were bent small poles, fastened to stakes about four feet
ends of the lodge were formed by broad slabs, and the whole covered with rush
matting. There was generally a door on each side, the fire being in the center,
with a hole in the roof for the escape of the smoke. A raised platform, covered
with skins, at one end, served to display the household treasures of the host,
and as a place of honor for the guests. The lodges varied in length from
thirty-six to one hundred feet.
Physically, the Osage were the finest specimens of Western Indians
-- tall, erect and dignified. The average height of the men was over six feet.
On November 10, 1808, a few years subsequent to the acquisition of Louisiana by the United
States, a treaty was made at Fort Clark, then recently built, on the Missouri
River, between the United States and the Osage Nation.
Camp, by O. Drum, 1906.
Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads
of the treaty reads as follows:
United States, being anxious to promote peace, friendship and intercourse with
the Osage tribes, to afford them every assistance in their power, and to protect
them from the insults and injuries of other tribes of Indians
situated near the settlements of the white people, have thought proper to build
a fort on the right bank of the Missouri, a few miles above the fire prairie,
and do agree to garrison the same with as many regular troops as the President
of United States may, from time to time, deem necessary for the protection of
all orderly, friendly and well disposed Indians of the Great
and Little Osage Nations who reside at this place, and who do strictly conform
to and pursue the counsels or admonitions of the President of the United States
through his subordinate officers."
At Fort Clark the
United States agreed "to establish and permanently to continue, at all seasons
of the year, a well-assorted store of goods, "for the purpose of bartering with
the Osage, on moderate terms, for their peltries and furs; also "to furnish at
this place, for the use of the Osage Nations, a blacksmith, and tools to mend
their arms and utensils of husbandry, and engage to build them a horse-mill, or
water-mill; also to furnish them with plows, and to build for the great chief of
the Great Osage, and for the great chief of the Little
Osage, a strong
blockhouse in each of their towns, which are to be established near this fort."
There was also, by the terms of the treaty, to be delivered annually to the
Osage Nation, merchandise to the value of $1,000, and to the Little
Nation merchandise to the value of $500, and in addition there was to be paid,
at or before the signature of the treaty, to the Great Osage Nation, the sum of
$800, and to the Little
Osage Nation the sum of $400.
Article 6 of treaty reads as follows:
"And in consideration of the advantages which we derive from the stipulations
contained in the foregoing article, we, the chiefs and warriors of the Great and
Little Osage, for ourselves and our nation respectively, covenant and agree with
the United States, that the boundary line between our nations and the United
States shall be as follows, to wit: Beginning at Fort Clark, on the Missouri
five miles above Fire Prairie, and running thence a due south course to the
river Arkansas and down the same to the Mississippi, hereby ceding and
relinquishing forever to the United States all the lands which lie east of the
said line, and north of the southwardly bank of the said river Arkansas and all
lands situated northwardly of the Missouri River. And we do further cede and
relinquish to the United States forever, a tract of two leagues square, to
embrace Fort Clark, and to be laid off in such manner as the President of United
States shall think proper."
According to his report, in 1804, President Jefferson promised the
then on a visit to Washington, to establish a trading post for the benefit of
their nation, this promise being repeated in 1806. The fort was built in
October, 1808, and the following month, November 8, 1808, Pierre Choteau, United
States Agent for the Osage, arrived at Fort Clark, prepared to execute the
treaty which Governor Lewis, of
had deputized him to offer the nation. The chiefs and warriors of the Great and
Little Osage assembled on the 10th, and, upon learning that the trading post,
which was supposed by them to have been established as a favor and mark of
friendship, was in fact a part of the price paid for their lands, and that,
unless they accepted the provisions of the treaty, they virtually forfeited the
protection of the United States, they reluctantly signed it, protesting that
"they had no choice; they must either sign the treaty, or be declared the
enemies of the United States."
This treaty was not ratified by the Senate until 1810, and the
did not receive the first annuity until September, 1811, three years after the
treaty was made. The blockhouse which was promised for the defense of the Osage
towns on the Osage River was useful only to the traders, being detached from the
agency, and no competent person having charge. A mill was built and a blacksmith
sent to the town of the Great Osage.
By the terms of the treaty of 1808, the
Osage title to all land in Missouri
was extinguished, excepting a strip twenty-four miles wide lying eastward from
the western boundary of the State, and extending from the Missouri River south
into the Territory of Arkansas.
The eastern line extended a few miles east of Fort Clark, which was situated on
a bluff on the Missouri River, near the present site of the town of Sibley. The
principal village of the
Osage was due south from the fort, on the Osage River,
and it was this that Captain Zebulon Pike visited and described in 1806.
George Sibley, former commandant at Fort Clark, in his report, commended the
for their uniform and constant faithfulness to the French and Americans. They
offered their services to him when in command of Fort Clark, when British
emissaries attempted to engage them in their service, and declared their
determination "never to desert their American father as long as he was faithful
to them." He says that "of all the
they were the least accessible to British influence."
At about the time of this report, a portion of the Osage Nation moved from the
old location on the forks of the
Osage River, and settled on the bank of the Neosho River in the present county of Labette.
In 1817, the Cherokee attacked the Osage village on the Verdigris
River during the
absence of Clermont and his warriors, fired the town, destroyed the crops, and
took prisoners, which included 50-60 old men, women and children who were left
there. This assault was followed by mutual acts of recrimination between the
hostile tribes, eventuating in war, which lasted several years, the Delaware
joining the Cherokee as allies. A treaty of peace between the contending nations
was concluded at Belle Point in 1822.
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