The Kaw Indians, also known as Kanza or Kansa, called themselves Ka’ǰíkte or Ka’ǰáke, meaning “South Wind People.”
Traditional home territories
The traditional home territories of the Kaw Indians were mainly in parts of Nebraska and Missouri in what is now Kansas. They lived close to the Kansas River.
The Kaw language belongs to the Siouan language family. Unfortunately, there are no fluent Kaw speakers today. Efforts are made to preserve and revitalize the language through educational programs and documentation.
Historically, the Kaw Indians had treaties with various Native American tribes. They had close ties to the Osage, Pawnee, and Ponca tribes. These alliances were often based on shared cultural practices, trade, and defense against common enemies.
The Kaw Indians encountered conflict and hostility with several tribes, including the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Comanche. They also had conflicts with European settlers who expanded into the Kaw area as the Americas expanded westward.
In the 18th century, Kaws are estimated to number about 2,000 individuals. However, due to wars, disease and forced migration, their numbers declined dramatically. By the mid-19th century, their numbers had dwindled to a few hundred.
According to the 2020 Census, Kaw Nation, an officially recognized tribe of Kaw Indians, currently has a population of about 3,200. Most live in Oklahoma City, and there are individual Kaws living elsewhere in the United States.
The Kaw Indians have a long and complex history. They originally lived on the central plains and lived semi-nomadic lives, relying on hunting, gathering and agriculture for their livelihoods In the 17th century they encountered European prospectors and furs merchants.
In the 19th century, the Kaw Indians faced major challenges as European settlers moved west. With the U.S. government treaty, they gave up much of their ancestral land, and eventually moved to a reservation in Kansas City. In the late 19th century, they were relocated to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) under pressure from white settlers.
In the 20th century, the Kaw Nation went through a period of cultural and economic transformation. They formed tribal governments, found jobs, and worked hard to preserve their cultural heritage. Today, Kawrashtra is a sovereign tribe with its own constitution and government.
Kaw Tribes Today
Today, the main ethnic group representing the Kaw Indians is the Kaw Nation. Headquartered in Kaw, Oklahoma, their tribal members are involved in economic activities, including agriculture, ranching, and sports industries, and the tribe also builds on cultural preservation, education, and community development. They maintain a museum and cultural center, which is a place to preserve and share their history and traditions.