WHENCE CAME THE NAME? - HERE THREE CENTURIES AGO - KANSAS, THE DOMINANT TRIBE - MONCACHTAPE, THE INTERPRETER - EARLY KANSAS VILLAGES - KANSAS INDIAN LODGE - THE KANSAS HOME LIFE - OLD FOOL CHIEF - AN HONEST INDIAN - THE FAMOUS KANSAS ORATOR - A CHIEF WHO WAS A WARRIOR - AT WAR WITH THEIR BROTHERS - DEPREDATIONS OF THE KANSAS - THE KANSAS TREATIES - ABONDONED THE KANSAS RIVER - BEGINNING OF A NEW ERA.
The first dwellers in the wilderness whose identity is established and whose right of occupancy is recognized were the Kansas Indians. The early explorers, the Spanish and French, found them here at the place where the waters of these two great rivers meet. It is from this ancient tribe, therefore, that recorded the history of Kansas and of Wyandotte county had a beginning. Back of them, even to the beginning of time, no book, or parchment, no thing of any kind, has been left accurately to tell what manner or man, or beast, once roamed these beautiful hills and valleys and the plains of our Kansas. And it matters little that we are in ignorance. The world that we know has little feeling of concern for the people of a past so remote that the record of their achievements is of no practical value to mankind.
It never will be known exactly when the Kansas Indians first came to live on the banks of the river that bears their name. According to their language and traditions many hundreds of years ago the Five Tribes, the Kansas, Osage, Omaha, Ponka and Kwapa, were one people and lived along the Wabash and far up the Ohio. There even was a tradition that their home at one time was near the shores of "the sea of the rising sun," whence came the mysterious sacred shells of the tribe. For some reason they worked westward, probably pressed by the encroachments of tribes of superior forces. Coming to the mouth of the Ohio there was a separation. The Osage and the Kansas tribes were left behind, probably in the year 1500. The Osages passed up the river that took their name. The Kansas, coming to the junction of the Missouri and Kansas rivers, established themselves in a permanent settlement within the forks and took possession of the valley of the Kansas river as their heritage and became a distinct Indian nation.
During the past three hundred years since the name was first written there have been numerous methods of spelling the designation of this tribe, originally called the "Kansa." To follow the many changes through which the word has passed to its present form, "Kansas," would within itself be an interesting study. Probably no historic name in America has gone through so many cnages, with so frequent variation on maps and in books. In the ninth volume of the Kansas Historical Collections, Professor Hay's article on the name Kansas, prepared in 1882, gives twenty-four ways of spelling the word. And other ways of spelling it have been suggested. Whence comes the word and what is its meaning? Most historians have stated that it was an Indian word of doubtful meaning. Others have attributed to the word meanings which are clearly erroneous. Richardson, in "Beyond the Mississippi," 1857, says that it signifies smoky. Several historians, like Holloway, have accepted this definition. Dorsey, an authority on Siouan language, says the word refers to winds, or wind-people, but that its exact meaning is not known. In recent years many persons have thought it wise to preserve the French-Canadian name "Kaw" in referring to the Kansas river; but it is a nickname, a misnomer, means nothing, has no good foundation, and it should not be applied to the tribe, for it was not its name. "Kansa" is the ancient and expressive word, according to the leading authorities of the past three hundred years. But, officially, it now is "Kansas," the name that is borne by our state, the principal river within its borders, and its largest city.
The earliest accounts of explorers represent the Kansas Indians as owners of that vast territory now called Kansas. Here they were born. Here they lived, acted and passed on for many generations. Here they hunted, fished and fought. Here was their home with all the sacred associations of home; and though an Indian home, what an empire to these first native sons of Kansas!
The first recorded mention of the Kansas nation is found in the account of the exploration of Juan de Onate, who met them on our plains in 1601, in his attempt to reach, as Coronado did in 1541, the land of Quivira. Onate had first colonized New Mexico and settled many valleys of that Spanish province with the one hundred and thirty families and four hundred soldiers accompanying him, and the many immigrants that followed. Farms were cultivated, towns builded, convents established, and civilization was thus brought to New Mexico, where with little change it exists to-day. After gaining the friendship of the native Indians, Onate became fired with other ambitions - other fields to conquer. Remembering that Coronado had penetrated far to the northeast only sixty years before, and had crossed the plains to the noted Quivira - what more daring and inviting field could be presented?
While there is some doubt as to the exact location of Quivira - it was in the Kansas valley or on the Missouri - in either event it must have been in the region of the hunting-grounds and habitant of the Kansas nation, when first visited many years later by French explorers.
Father Jacques Marquette, that greatest of French explorers and missionaries, in the most important of all his Indian expeditions, made in 1673, shortly before his death, found the country now called Kansas occupied principally by four great tribes of Indians: Osages, Kansas, Pawnees, and a nomadic tribe called the Padoucas, that in the eighteenth century completely lost itself as if it had vanished from the face of the earth. But greatest of these, "the leading prodigious nation," the good Father Marquette would have us know, was the Kansas tribe.
In their wild and free state the Kansas Indians are described as being independent. They enjoyed their liberty without being jealous, or bothering themselves about the affairs of the neighboring tribes. They were not distinguished as among the great warring tribes of North American Indians. They preferred to be let alone. But once roused, they were as brave as the bravest, and they could fight. Their wigwams were made of poles stuck in the ground and tied together with straps of bark, and covered with earth. They raised some corn, but lived principally on game, fish, fruits and nuts. The men were good hunters, likewise good fishers, and spent much of their time in the woods, on the plains, or on the rivers in their wooden canoes.
Little was known to the outside world of the Kansas Indians until Monchachtape, the Indian interpreter, visited them. He was a Yazoo Indian, his name indicating "one who destroys obstacles and overcomes fatigue," and a very odd character. According to the memories of Dumont, the French traveler and historian, Moncachtape, about 1700, traversed the continent from ocean to ocean visiting numerous Indian tribes and learning their languages. It seems that he desired information regarding the origin of his race, and went from tribe to tribe in his search. At first, he passed to the east, thinking the cradle of the race was toward the rising sun. He traveled until he came to the lower lake regions and learned of the falls of Niagara and the wonderful high tides of the Bay of Fundy. Afterward he traversed the far west, passing along the Ohio and Mississippi to the mouth of the Missouri, which stream he minutely described. Following the Missouri river, he came to the Missouri Indian nation, and, staying with them all of one winter, learned their language. When spring opened he went further up that stream till he came to the great village of the Kansas, near the present site of Doniphan, Atchison county, and stopped for some time. From these Indians he first learned of the great divide beyond which was a river that flowed toward the west, supposed to be the Columbia. Continuing his journey, Moncachtape passed down that stream to the sea, where he saw a strange ship manned by strange people, which had come to shore for cargoes. After wandering for five years, he returned to the Mississippi valley and his home near the Gulf of Mexico. He was know as "The Intrepreter," from his ability to acquire different Indian Languages, learning from one tribe something of the language of the next one to be visited.
While the Kansas Indians, occupying the banks of the river that bears their name, hunted on the hills and in the valleys of the now Wyandotte county, their council fires did not blaze here. Captain Meriwether Lewis, in 1804, found two of their villages, one of about twenty, the other forty leagues from the mouth, and numbering about three hundred men. Captain Lewis adds: "They once lived twenty-four leagues higher than the river Kanzas (he spelled the name with a "z") on the south bank of the Missouri and were then more numerous, but they have been reduced and banished by the Sauks and Ayauways, who, being better supplied with arms, have an advantage over the Kanzas, though the latter are not less fierce or warlike themselves. This nation is now hunting on the plains for buffalo which our hunters have seen for the first time." Their villages along the Kansas river were occupied at different times, and their sites are found from its junction with the Missouri as far west as the mouth of the Blue river at Manhattan. One of them at least is prehistoric, and can only be pointed out by archaeologists, while the others were occupied by the tribe since its movements were known to the historian. Probably the most ancient site in Kansas is that found in Wyandotte county, a little east of White Church on the old William Malotte farm. The many relics recovered there by the late George U. S. Hovey, and the extensive outlines of this village, prove it to have long been an important center, and it probably was while living there that the stream received from this people the name Kansas.
Professor Thomas Say, of Major Long's expedition, visited the village of the Kansas on the Kansas river in 1819. It is from him we learn much of the Indians, the general appearance of their village, their government and their customs. The report of Major Long says: "As they approached the village they perceived the tops of the lodges red with the crowds of natives. The chiefs and warriors came rushing down on horseback, painted and decorated, and followed by a great number on foot. Mr. Say and his party were received with the utmost cordiality and conducted into the village by the chiefs, who went before one on each side to protect them from the encroachments of the crowd. On entering the village the crowd readily gave way before the party, but followed them into the lodge assigned to them, and completely and most densely filled the spacious apartment, with the exception only of a small space opposite the entrance where the party seated themselves on the beds, still protected from the pressure of the crowd by the chiefs, who took their seats on the ground immediately before them. After the ceremony of smoking with the latter, the object which the party had in view in passing through the territories was explained to them and seemed to be perfectly satisfactory. At the lodge of the principal chief they were regaled with jerked bison meat and boiled corn, and were afterwards invited to six feasts in immediate succession."
Mr. Say, gifted as a descriptive writer, tells of the Kansas lodges. He says: "The village consists of about one hundred and twenty lodges placed as closely together as convenient and destitute of any regularity of arrangement. The ground area of each lodge is circular, and is excavated to the depth of from one to three feet and the general form of the exterior may be denominated hemispheric. The lodge in which we reside is larger than any other in the town, and being that of the grand chief, it serves as the council house of the nation. The roof is supported by two series of pillars, or rough vertical posts, forked at the top for the reception of the transverse connecting pieces of each series; twelve of these pillars form the outer series, placed in a circle, and eight longer ones, the inner series, also describing a circle; the outer wall, or rude framework, placed at a proper distance from the exterior series of pillars, is five or six feet high. Poles, as thick as the leg at the base, rest with their butts upon the wall, extending on the cross pieces, which are upheld by the pillars of the two series, and are of sufficient length to reach nearly to the summit. These poles are very numerous, and agreeable to the position which we have indicated, they are placed all around in a radiating manner and support the roof like rafters. Across these are laid long and slender sticks or twigs attached parallel to each other by means of bark cord; these are covered by mats made of long grass or reeds, or with the bark of trees; the whole is then covered completely with earth, which, near the ground, is banked up to the eaves. A hole is permitted to remain in the middle of the roof to give exit to the smoke. Around the walls of the interior a continuous series of mats are suspended; these are of neat workmanship, composed of a soft reed, united by bark cord, in straight or undulated lines, between which lines of black paint sometimes occur. The bedsteads are elevated to the height of a common seat from the ground and are about six feet wide; they extend in an uninterrupted line around three-fourths of the circumference of the apartment, and are formed in the simplest manner of numerous sticks or slender pieces of wood, resting at their ends on cross pieces, which are supported by short notched or forked posts driven into the ground. Bison skins supply them with a comfortable bedding. Several medicine or mystic bags are carefully attached to the mats on the wall; these are cylindrical, and neatly bound up. Several reeds are usually placed upon them, and a human scalp serves for their fringe and tassels. Of their contents we know nothing. The fireplace is a simple, shallow cavity in the center of the apartment, with an upright and a projecting arm for the support of the culinary apparatus. The latter is very simple in kind and limited in quantity, consisting of a brass kettle, an iron pot and wooden bowls and spoons, Each person, male as well as female, carries a large knife in the girdle of the breech-cloth behind, which is used at their meals, and sometimes in self defense. During our stay with these Indians, they ate four or five times each day, invariably supplying us with the best pieces, or choice parts, before they attempted to taste the food themselves."
The food of the Kansas Indians is described as of bison meat and various preparations of Indian corn or maize. One of the favorite "dishes" was called "Iyed corn," known among white people as homemade hominy. They also grew pumpkins, muskmelons and watermelons, which they cooked after their own style. A soup of boiled sweet corn and beans seasoned with buffalo meat was a substantial food.
Like other Indian tribes the Kansas believed in a Great Spirit, and they had vague ideas of the future life. Their family relations were more honorable than those of many of the eastern tribes. Marriage was celebrated with such ceremony as served to render the tie more binding. Chastity was one of the requisites to fit a woman for the wife of a chief, a brave warrior and a good hunter. Men and women of the tribe were taught from infancy to suffer pain without complaining. They were faithful to their ties of friendship. One of their fine traits was their care of the sick and disabled. The women managed the domestic affairs without the interference of the men.
Kah-he-gah-wa-ti-an-gah, who was the hereditary chief of the Kansas Indians, also bore the proud distinction of being Old Fool Chief. For a long time he was the head chief. He ruled over the village near North Topeka which bore his name. When sober he was peaceable, but always felt his authority and coveted the attention of younger braves, who brought him choice portions of game. The Methodists, who had a mission near the mouth of Mission creek near the other two villages of the tribe, once took him to the general conference at Baltimore, where he embarrassed them by appearing, as was customary at home, stark naked on the streets one hot, sultry morning. Afterward he fell further from grace, and when under the influence of drink always became crazy. In one of these spells, while on his way over to Missouri with a band of warriors, he was killed by one of his own braves, Wa-hoba-ke, whose life he was attempting to take.
Al-le-ga-wa-ho was the head chief who presided at the Cahalu Creek village in the Neosho valley near Council Grove, the last to be occupied by the Kansas Indians while in Kansas. He had succeeded old Hard Chief, the great warrior of the tribe whose name was Kah-he-ga-wah-che-ha, meaning a chief who was hard or severe. Al-le-ga-wa-ho, was a remarkable character, long trusted as the wisest leader of the tribe. He was elected head chief when Kah-he-gah-wah-ti-an-gah the Second, Fool Chief the Younger, lost his position for having killed a noted brave without cause.
Al-le-ga-wa-ho was tall and stately, about six feet six and was long noted as the most eloquent orator of the tribe. He was considered safe and honest in his dealings, and one of the few noted Indians of his day who could not be bribed. He had three wives, one of whom was his special favorite, as will be seen by the following incident: It was always a disputed question whether she or the wife of his cousin, Fool Chief the Younger, was the finest looking. At one time she had been sick for weeks and at last was convalescent, but was very particular and dainty about her diet. She turned away from all kinds of fixed-up dishes for the sick, and longed for that prized Indian dish of dog meat. To gratify her appetite Al-le-ga-wa-ho came to Council Grove and begged for a fat dog, stating that it was the only thing that would satisfy and cure his wife. He found that one could be bought for two dollars, but, having spent all of his annuity money, had to borrow the price from a friend and hastened back rejoicing to his village with the doomed canine. Around Council Grove, when a fat dog disappeared, it was always known where it went. Al-le-ga-wa-ho lived to be a very old man, and died in the Indian Territory years ago.
Ish-tah-le-sah (Speckled Eye), was a brother of Hard Chief and second in rank as a ruler. He was a man of strong and positive personality and was sober and alert. He was the famous orator of the old triumvirate, and was always put forward on important occasions when government officers visited the tribe, because of his ability to make a great speech. He died from eating too much "store trash" the same day he received his annuity money. He had been living on short rations and the change was too sudden. He was tall, spare of flesh and very dignified, and had a prominent Roman nose between very high cheek-bones. He had far more influence in tribal matters than his elder brother, Hard Chief. At his death, his nephew, Fool Chief the Younger, took his place and became head chief of the tribe, but lost the position by an unworthy act - killing a brave without cause, and came very near to suffering the death penalty. He was tried by the tribe and only saved himself by paying as a fine a number of ponies, blankets, robes and other valuables, and assigning his annuity for a time; all of which went to the mourning widow, who at last was appeased and went away rejoicing with the abundance of her possessions. This incident took much from the former prestige of this chief and soured his later years. While most of the Kansas chiefs had several wives, he had but two. His second wife was his by custom, being his deceased brother's wife. His real wife was long considered the beauty of the tribe, which did not have many handsome squaws. She was noted for her intelligent countenance, was tall, of fine physique and a rich dresser. Her family did not belong to that village, but he stole her by a shrewd and sensational elopement from the neighboring village nearer Council Grove. Fool Chief went to the Territory with the tribe, and was the last of the "Fool" chiefs, as the name died with him.
Peg-gah-hosh-she was the first chief to rule at Big John village. He was a brother of Hard Chief and Speckled Eye, and one of the three big chiefs who came with the tribe from their home on the Kaw. He belonged to the old dynasty, the old crowd, and was a man of much force, stubborn and set in his ruling. Of the three chiefs he was considered the most skilled and trusted warrior of the three brothers. He died about 1870, and was succeeded by his nephew, Wah-ti-an-ga, a son of Speckled Eye.
Wah-ti-an-ga was a cunning and rather tricky fellow, and was given to the use of liquor, much to his disgrace and the safety of those around him. Under one of these spells caused by pie-ge-ne (whisky) he followed Mr. Huffaker around all one afternoon, seeming to want to keep right at his side. Mr. Huffaker suspicioned nothing, but a friend by the name of Ching-ah-was-see (Handsome Bird) did a handsome thing by watching his chance and telling Mr. Huffaker that the drunken chief had made his boasts that he would not leave town till he had taken the life of Tah-poo-skah, that being the Indian name of Mr. Huffaker, meaning teacher, Wah-ti-an-ga claimed that it would be a great deed to kill so important a personage. It was fortunate that Handsome Bird informed him, for it is never safe to trust an Indian crazed or foolish with liquor, for sometimes they will kill their best friend. Wah-ti-an-ga was still a chief when the tribe went to the Territory, where he lived for a long time. Ching-gah-was-see was a good Indian and noted brave, and had the honor of having a spring named for him. This spring is a few miles north of the city of Marion and is noted for its medicinal qualities.
The Kansas and Osages were of the same nation and their government, customs and language were almost similar, yet these two tribes were almost constantly at war with each other from the time they were first known, until Captain Pike and Lieutenant Wilkinson brought them together on terms of peace. It was in a grand council held September 28, 1806, at the village of the Pawnee Republic, in which the chiefs of the Kansas and Osages prepared the treaty of peace which follows:
"In council held by the subscribers, at the village of the Pawnee Republic, appeared Wahonsongay with eight principal soldiers of the Kansas nation on the one part, and Shin-ga-wasa, a chief of the Osage nation, with four of the warriors of the Grand and Little Osage villages on the other part. After having smoked the pipe of peace and buried past animosities, they individually and jointly bound themselves in behalf of and for their respective nations to observe a friendly intercourse and keep a permanent peace, and mutually pledge themselves to use every influence to further the commands and wishes of their great father. We, therefore, American chiefs, do require of each nation a strict observance of the above treaty, as they value the good will of the great father, the President of the United States. Done at our council fire, at the Pawnee Republican village, the 28th day of September, 1806, and the thirty-first year of American Indepence.
(Signed.) Z. M. PIKE.
J. B. WILKINSON."
This treaty was never broken by either of the Indian nations. The common hostility of the Kansas and Osages was henceforth directed mainly to the Pawnees and marauding tribes that infested the western plains.
It was not many years after the visit of Captain Pike that the Kansas Indians made trouble for the traders and explorers who came among them. They caused much annoyance both to those who sought to pass up the Missouri river and those who desired to cross the plains, as Pike did, to the Rocky Mountains. Their depredations became serious. In 1819 they fired on an Indian agent and attacked and plundered soldiers attached to the command of Captain Martin, who was sent up the Missouri river with a detachment the preceding autumn and was obliged to camp and hunt on their ground during the winter. Major O'Fallen, the Indian agent who had been attacked, to prevent a recurrence of troubles, summoned the chiefs and principal men of the Kansas nation to a council which was to be held on an island in the Missouri river near Atchison, August 18, 1819. The Indians were absent on a hunting expedition when a messenger arrived at their village on the Kansas river. But they appeared at the council which was held on the 24th of that month at the place designated. At this council were one hundred and sixty-one Kansas and thirteen Osages, including Na-be-da-ba, or Long Neck, one of the principal chiefs of the Kansas. Ka-he-ga-wa-la-ning-na, Little Chief, was second in rank. Shen-ga-ne-ga, an ex-chief; Wa-ha-chera, Big Knife, a war chief; and Wom-pa-wa-ra, or White Plume, were among them. Major O'Fallen had with him the officers of the garrison and some of the members of Major Long's exploring expedition. He set forth plainly the grievances of the white men, telling of the Indian attacks and the depredations. He convinced the Indians of the error of their ways. A promise of reconciliation and forgiveness was held out to them, conditioned on future good behavior. The chiefs recognized the justice of the charges against them and gladly they accepted the terms of peace. Then the old cannon belched forth a blast of powder and shell, flags were hoisted, and the Indians for once in their lives saw a military demonstration that caused them to sneak back to their village quaking with fear and resolved to be good Indians ever afterward.
For more than two centuries explorers had been coming and going, but the Kansas Indians were not disturbed. The acquisition by the United States of the Louisiana territory, however, meant a change of conditions along the banks of the Kansas river. The expeditions of Lewis and Clark, of Pike and of Long, gave the government at Washington some idea of the extent and value of the newly acquired territory. All the lands east of the Mississippi river were rapidly passing into the possession of the white people, and settlers then were beginning to cross the Mississippi river.
A policy of removing the Indian tribes from the middle states to the territory west of the Mississippi river, to a country they could call their own, was adopted by the United States government. The Kansas Indians saw what was coming. Claiming to have been victorious in their interminable wars with the Pawnees and entitled to the lands, they were ready to make treaties with the United States government for the sale of their lands.
The first treaty was concluded in 1815 between Ninian Edwards and August Chouteau, commissioners for the United States, and certain chiefs and warriors of the Kansas tribe. It was a treaty of peace in which the past was forgiven and friendly relations were established. The Indians accepted the assurance of the protection offered and swore allegiance to the United States.
The treaty by which the Kansas Indians parted with a large part of their hunting grounds, however was made June 3, 1825, in St. Louis. General Clarke, superintendent of Indian affairs, without previous authority of the government, but on the advice of Senator Thomas H. Benton of Missouri, concluded the treaty, which was duly ratified by the United States senate. The treaty described the lands that were sold in this language: "Beginning at the entrance of the Kansas river into the Missouri river; thence north to the northwest corner of the state of Missouri; thence westerly to the Nodaway river, thirty miles from its entrance into the Missouri river; thence to the entrance of the Nemeha into the Missouri river, and with that river (the Nemeha) to its source; thence to the source of the Kansas river, leaving the old village of the Pania (Pawnee) Republic to the west; thence on the ridge dividing the waters of the Kansas river from those of the Arkansas, to the western boundary line of the state of Missouri; and with that line thirty miles to the place of beginning." This treaty reserved for the use of the Kansas nation, a tract of land to begin twenty leagues up the Kansas river, and to include the village on that river. Here, a few miles west of North Topeka, they lived more than twenty years, receiving their annuities from the United States, usually paid at the mouth of the Kansas river.
On January 14, 1846, the Kansas Indians ceded to the United States "two million acres of land on the east part of their country embracing the entire width and running west for quantity." By this treaty they abandoned forever their home on the Kansas river. They then moved to a new reservation in the Neosho valley near Council Grove. Here they lived until 1873, when they departed for the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. During their early history the Kansas were a powerful tribe, both in numbers and in influence. But their race had run its course. Five years ago there were fewer than two hundred of the Kansas Indians left, and of these less than one hundred were full bloods.
The Shawnees and the Delawares came to dwell in the lands that formerly were occupied by the Kansas tribe. The wars and conquests, victories, defeats and the romances of these two tribes fill many pages of the history of North America. They were much further advanced in civilization than were their predecessors who, when they moved away from Kansas, as Noble Prentis once wrote, "left nothing except mounds of earth, rings on the sod, fragments of pottery, rude weapons and ruder implements."
The coming of the Delawares and Shawnees was the beginning of a new era. It was the beginning of Kansas. The Delawares were given the lands west of the Missouri river and on the north side of the Kansas river, the lands of the Shawnees were on the south side of the Kansas river, including the lower part of Wyandotte county and Johnson county, reaching out into Kansas.
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