Kansas Tribes


Kansas, a word readily recognizable as derived from the Native American tribal name Kansa, or "Wind People," is a state possessing a rich Indian heritage spanning from the time of Paleo-Indians, perhaps 14,000 years ago.

In Kansas, the Historic period began in 1541 with the arrival of Coronado and his band of Spanish explorers. The French were next, some 200 years later, entering the state from the east and forming an alliance with the Kansa, or Kaw, Indians.

The fur trade grew greatly during this period.

Americans began arriving in the early 1800s, but settlement did not proceed in force until Kansas was made a territory in 1854.

During the preceding 30 years Kansas was officially regarded as "Indian Territory."

Various eastern Indian tribes such as the Potawatomi, Kickapoo, and others immigrated to reservations established in Kansas as a result of the Indian removal policy. Nearly all of those tribes later moved to reservations in Oklahoma.

FEDERALLY RECOGNIZED KANSAS TRIBES TODAY
(Federal List Last Updated 5/16)

Iowa Tribe (Kansas and Nebraska)
Kickapoo Tribe of Indians of the Kickapoo Reservation in Kansas
Prairie Band of Potawatomi Nation
Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri (Kansas and Nebraska)

STATE RECOGNIZED KANSAS TRIBES
(Not recognized by the Federal Governemnt)

None

UNRECOGNIZED / PETITIONING KANSAS TRIBES

Delaware- Muncie Tribe. Letter of Intent to Petition 06/19/1978

Kaweah Indian Nation, Inc. (Kansas and North Carolina

Swan Creek & Black River Chippewas

United Tribe of Shawnee Indians. Letter of Intent to Petition 07/06/1995

Wyandot Nation of Kansas. Letter of Intent to Petition 05/12/1994

FIRST CONTACT TO PRESENT

By the time European explorers arrived, we are able to identify the people living in Kansas with tribes such as the Pawnee, Kansa, Wichita, and Apache.

There is evidence of contact between the Indians and Europeans, including fragments of Spanish chain mail armor found among the grass huts of the Wichita people.

After brief visits by the Spanish explorer, Coronado, the French arrived around 1750, and formed an alliance with the Kansa Indian tribe.

Europeans were interested in the lucrative fur trade with the native people, and began to travel through the area with more frequency. However, widespread settlement did not happen until Kansas became a territory in 1854, because prior to that time the state was part of the large area known as "Indian Territory" where displaced tribes from further east were forced to relocate.

PRE-HISTORIC CULTURES IN KANSAS

Paleoindian 11,000 BC - 7,OOO BC - Archeologists believe the earliest inhabitants of Kansas were descended from Asian immigrants who entered North America by crossing into Alaska and migrating southward.

Native americans say they have always been there, and the migration was northward,the other way around.

Woodland AD 1 - 1000 - The Woodland period was marked by great changes in social systems, subsistence practices, and technology. One of the most notable changes involved the widespread making of pottery vessels.

Chipped stone tools continued to be made in a variety of shapes and sizes, but projectile points became smaller as the bow and arrow began to replace the atlatl.

Village Gardener AD 1000 - 1500 - During this period most of the state's inhabitants shifted to a dual economy, based on bison hunting and the cultivation of corn, squash, and beans, supplemented by small-scale hunting and gathering of wild foods.

Use of the bow and arrow became widespread, although the atlatl still saw limited use.

Protohistoric AD 1500 - 1800 - The Protohistoric refers to the period of time shortly before and after the arrival of Europeans in the New World.

Archaeologists tell us that people have been living in the area now known as Kansas since at least 12,000 BC, during the end of the Ice Age.

Huge animals such as mammoth and mastodon lived in the area until climate change made it too warm for them to survive. These people were known as Paleo-Indians and were nomadic hunter-gatherers.

The Paleo-Indians hunted the mammoth and mastodon as well as eating berries, seeds, roots, and other small animals. They used spears tipped with stone points for hunting.


The Archaic Period (7000 BC - 1 AD) began with continued warming of the climate and the ending of the Ice Age. Because the big game they had been hunting had died out, their diet changed to include more small game, and more plant foods.

In order to grow enough food, they became less nomadic, and gradually established settlements. The people in these settlements began to grind seeds into meal. There is evidence that by about 3500 BC these people began to make ceramic objects.


The Woodland Period (1 AD - 1000) brought great change to the people living in the area. Use of pottery increased, and hunters began to use bows and arrows in place of the atlatl (a kind of spear thrower).

Toward the end of the period, agriculture began in earnest and the people began to grow corn. Archaeologists have also found evidence of ceremonial burial and the building of burial mounds.

People lived in rectangular earth lodges in the northern part of the area; in the south, they built houses covered with thatched grass. The population grew, and people lived in villages.

We also know that the people began to trade more extensively with groups around them, particularly with the Puebloan Indians of the Southwest.

Cheyenne

The Cheyenne call themselves Dzitsiístäs, meaning "Our People." Their language is from the Algonquian stock.

Tribal tradition recalls an early home of settled villages, where the Cheyenne practiced agriculture, located about the upper Mississippi River in present day Minnesota.

Pressure from other tribes compelled the Cheyenne to migrate in a south and westerly direction, giving up agriculture and adopting the characteristics of a plains life.

Their travels continued until large portions of northwest Kansas was contained within the Cheyenne hunting lands.

The Cheyenne were excellent students of horsemanship, fine hunters and feared warriors.

As white travel across the plains and settlement of Kansas increased after the middle of the nineteenth century, the Cheyenne were spurred into bitter resistance against the encroaches.

Intense raids along the Saline, Solomon and Smoky Hill rivers are testament to Cheyenne resistance.

The 1867 treaty at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, officially sealed the Cheyenne onto a reservation in what is now western Oklahoma.

Arapaho

Like the Cheyenne, the Arapaho are from the great Algonquian family.

Inunaina, "Our People"is the name the Arapaho use for themselves.

Earliest tribal memory cites a homeland in the Red River valley of northern Minnesota. There, the Arapaho were a sedentary people.

At an undetermined time in their early history the Arapaho formed a close association with the Cheyenne and moved southwest along the same trails.

About 1840 the Arapaho concluded a peace with the Sioux, Kiowa and Comanche, but remained always at war with the Shoshoni, Ute and Pawnee until reservation days.

In Kansas, the Arapaho hunted and camped predominantly in the northwest portion of the state.

Little Raven, the Arapaho chief, was a prominent figure at the Medicine Lodge treaty making.

The Arapaho, much noted for their ceremonial observations, held annual Sun Dances and were leaders in the Ghost Dance religion of the 1890s.

Their reservation was opened to white settlement in 1892, and concurrently the Arapaho were granted full United States citizenship. 

Plains Apache

Before the nineteenth century, Western Kansas was home to Athapascan speaking peoples commonly called Plains Apaches.

Precisely who these Apachean people were is unknown and lost amidst the general confusion associated with early identifications of Apaches.
They were not the Kiowa Apache, but likely a group detached from the Arizona or New Mexico Apaches.

Archeological evidence informs us that the Plains Apaches were mainly buffalo hunters, making use of bows and arrows. They lived in skin tipis and small round lodge-type dwellings. Contact and trade with the Pueblo Indians added variety to the Plains Apaches' lives.

They were evidently pushed from Kansas to New Mexico in the early 1800s by the Kiowa, Comanche and Kiowa Apaches.

Comanche

Numameaning "People" is the Comanche's name for themselves. They are of the Shoshonean language family, and although the only Shoshonean tribe entirely of the Plains, the Comanche are closely related to the Shoshonis of Wyoming.

Their territorial range traditionally spanned 500 to 800 miles, the Comanches being equally at home on the Arkansas and Platte rivers as they were in Mexico's Chihuahua.

As part of their highly mobile life, the Comanches lived in tipis made from the dressed hide of the buffalo, hunted the buffalo for food and raided for horses. They were long noted as the finest horsemen upon the Plains.

The 1867 Medicine Lodge treaty called for the Comanche to retire upon a reservation bordering the Washita River in Oklahoma; however, it was not until after the Red River War of 1874-1875 that the Comanche finally settled.

In character the Comanches have been described as generally reserved yet direct, with a strong sense of honor. These characteristics they maintain to this day.

Kiowa

The Kiowa, orGai-gwuas they call themselves, recollect a homeland far to the north near the headwaters of the Yellowstone River in Montana.

Through the late 1700s and early 1800s they moved constantly to the south until forming a confederation with the Comanche. This peace allowed the Kiowa to base themselves between the Red and Arkansas rivers.

The nomadic Kiowa lived in skin tipis. They hunted buffalo for food and for the material to make many of their tools. Like the Comanche, the Kiowa are renowned horsemen and added numbers to their herds through extensive horse raiding.

The annual Sun Dance was the hub upon which the Kiowa year revolved. Many of these spectacular and richly detailed dances were performed within what is now Kansas.

Kiowa warriors such as Satanta, Big Bow, Lone Wolf and Satank were fierce fighters on the Plains and able orators in council.

Along with other tribes of the southern Plains, the Kiowa were compelled at Medicine Lodge to sign away their claims to Kansas soil and accept a reservation in Oklahoma.

In 1901 their lands were allotted in severalty and the remainder opened to white settlement.

Kiowa Apache

The Kiowa Apache called themselves Nadiisha-dena,"Our People" and now are recognized as the Plains Apaches of Oklahoma.

Although speaking an Athapascan language altogether distinct from Kiowa, the Kiowa-Apache have been closely associated with the more populous tribe from the earliest traditions of either.

This relationship was intimate to the extent that the Kiowa Apache had their own official location in the camp circle of the Kiowa Sun Dance.

The Kiowa Apache were brave and proficient warriors, nonetheless, because of the hostile attitude the Kiowa held toward whites, the Kiowa Apache requested and were granted leave from the Kiowa by the Treaty of the Little Arkansas in 1865, and attached to the Cheyenne and Arapaho.

At Medicine Lodge the Kiowa Apache were officially reunited with the Kiowa to share a reservation in Oklahoma. Throughout the trouble of 1874-1875 the Kiowa Apache remained peaceful on their reservation.


Wichita

The Wichita Indians, a Caddoan speaking people, call themselves Kitikitísh for which the meaning is uncertain, but probably refers to "principal people."

Linguistically they are related to the Pawnee.

Wichita tribal land once extended from the Brazos river in Texas to the Arkansas River in Kansas. The Wichita presence within this territory antedates that of the Kiowa and Comanche.

Coronado met the Wichita about the present location of Rice and McPherson counties, Kansas, in the year 1541.

Following Coronado's departure the Franciscan father Juan de Padilla established a mission among the Wichita, the first mission among any of the plains tribes. Unhappily for Padilla, he was killed by the Wichita after his three year's labor proselytizing.

The Wichita, in contrast to the strictly nomadic tribes, lived a semi-sedentary life, the women raising corn, squash, beans, pumpkins and tobacco and the men hunting the buffalo.

They lived in distinctive grass houses, utilizing skin tipis when on the hunt and away from home.

Many of their tribal neighbors identified the Wichita by the Wichita custom of extensive tattooing. Wichita culture was enriched and enlivened by their strong tradition of ceremonial dances.

Pawnee

Chahiksichahiksis,  the Pawnee name for themselves, the meaning of which implies "men of men."

They are of the Caddoan family and properly, "Pawnee" comprises several confederated tribes which were organized into four leading villages.

Large portions of north central and northwest Kansas formerly were included in the territory of the Pawnee. While claiming extensive areas of Kansas, the valley of the Platte River, Nebraska is the heart of Pawnee land.

Historically powerful in terms of numbers and voracity, the Pawnee nonetheless suffered terribly from diseases introduced by the swelling white population. Especially severe was the cholera epidemic of 1849, which reduced nearly all the Plains tribes, in some cases by two-thirds their former size.

The Pawnee traditionally maintained tribal cohesion by two key means: intricate ceremonies and an influential tribal council.

The Pawnee conducted tribally orchestrated buffalo hunts and were also successful growers of corn, pumpkins and beans, corn being a sacred crop with them.

Pawnee arts included basketry, pottery and weaving. Their homes were an earth lodge constructed with painstaking care and exquisite attention to religious meaning. The Pawnee are exceptional for their well developed and cogent sacred ceremonies.

Kansa

Kansa, meaning "Wind People" are a Dhegian-Siouan tribe, sometimes identified by the name Kaw. Linguistically they are related to the Osage and Quapaw, from whom they separated during migrations along the Missouri River.

The Kansa continued their travels along the Kansas River, intermittently building and abandoning settlements, until finally settling at Council Grove, Kansas.

Their experiences in Kansas include fierce warfare with the Cheyenne, Pawnee and Sauk as well as with the Kiowa, Comanche and others.

By treaty in 1846, they ceded two million acres of their reservation to the United States and a new reservation was established for them at Council Grove, along the Neosho River.

There, Methodist followed by Quaker missionaries worked among them with a successful conversion tally of one person, according to a teacher who lived with the Kansa from 1850 to 1873.

Of more immediate interest to the Kansa were the whites who were overrunning their reservation. In 1873 conditions had deteriorated so greatly that the Kansa were removed to Indian Territory and located next to the Osage.

The Kansa were skilled buffalo hunters and cultivated small crops to some extent. They lived in earthlodges in their semi-sedentary villages, and inhabited tipis and occasionally bark-covered lodges while on the march.

Osage

The name Osage is a French corruption of Wazhazhe,the Osage name for themselves, which refers to "true Osage" or "war people."

Anthropologists consider them to be from a Dhegian-Siouan speaking group which lived in ancient times along the Ohio River.

In the seventeenth century this primal group comprised a people who would separate to become the Kansa, Quapaw, Ponca and Osage.

The Osage eventually rose to dominate a homeland covering the greater part of Missouri and Oklahoma, as well as northwest Arkansas.

Their Kansas territory was roughly bounded by a line from present Kansas City west to Great Bend, and thence south to Caldwell, Kansas.

Osage life was a combination of eastern woodland and plains culture types.

They lived in wooden framed longhouses fixed in villages, raised crops and hunted bear, deer, buffalo and antelope.

War was a constant occupation for the Osage and they were feared rivals of the Pawnee, Wichita, Kiowa and Caddo tribes.

They maintained peace, however, with the United States, often serving as valuable military scouts.

Osage intentions were to keep open trading connections they had fostered since the days of French and Spanish occupation in North America.

The United States returned Osage goodwill with forced land cessions in 1808, 1818 and 1825, enormously reducing the Osage land claim from its formerly staggering proportions.

Following bouts of smallpox, cholera and other epidemic diseases, coupled with the drain of incessant warfare, the Osage were compelled to give up their remaining villages along the Verdigris River and were placed onto a reservation.

 

 

FIRST CONTACT TO PRESENT

By the time European explorers arrived, we are able to identify the people living in Kansas with tribes such as the Pawnee, Kansa, Wichita, and Apache.

There is evidence of contact between the Indians and Europeans, including fragments of Spanish chain mail armor found among the grass huts of the Wichita people.

After brief visits by the Spanish explorer, Coronado, the French arrived around 1750, and formed an alliance with the Kansa Indian tribe. Europeans were interested in the lucrative fur trade with the native people, and began to travel through the area with more frequency.

However, widespread settlement did not happen until Kansas became a territory in 1854, because prior to that time the state was part of the large area known as "Indian Territory" where displaced tribes from further east were forced to relocate.

PRE-HISTORIC CULTURES IN KANSAS

Paleoindian 11,000 BC - 7,OOO BC - Archeologists believe the earliest inhabitants of Kansas were descended from Asian immigrants who entered North America by crossing into Alaska and migrating southward. Native americans say they have always been there, and the migration was northward,the other way around.

Woodland AD 1 - 1000 - The Woodland period was marked by great changes in social systems, subsistence practices, and technology. One of the most notable changes involved the widespread making of pottery vessels. Chipped stone tools continued to be made in a variety of shapes and sizes, but projectile points became smaller as the bow and arrow began to replace the atlatl.

Village Gardener AD 1000 - 1500 - During this period most of the state's inhabitants shifted to a dual economy, based on bison hunting and the cultivation of corn, squash, and beans, supplemented by small-scale hunting and gathering of wild foods. Use of the bow and arrow became widespread, although the atlatl still saw limited use.

Protohistoric AD 1500 - 1800 - The Protohistoric refers to the period of time shortly before and after the arrival of Europeans in the New World.

Archaeologists tell us that people have been living in the area now known as Kansas since at least 12,000 BC, during the end of the Ice Age.

Huge animals such as mammoth and mastodon lived in the area until climate change made it too warm for them to survive. These people were known as Paleo-Indians and were nomadic hunter-gatherers.

The Paleo-Indians hunted the mammoth and mastodon as well as eating berries, seeds, roots, and other small animals. They used spears tipped with stone points for hunting.

The Archaic Period (7000 BC - 1 AD) began with continued warming of the climate and the ending of the Ice Age. Because the big game they had been hunting had died out, their diet changed to include more small game, and more plant foods.

In order to grow enough food, they became less nomadic, and gradually established settlements. The people in these settlements began to grind seeds into meal. There is evidence that by about 3500 BC these people began to make ceramic objects.

The Woodland Period (1 AD - 1000) brought great change to the people living in the area. Use of pottery increased, and hunters began to use bows and arrows in place of the atlatl (a kind of spear thrower).

Toward the end of the period, agriculture began in earnest and the people began to grow corn. Archaeologists have also found evidence of ceremonial burial and the building of burial mounds.

People lived in rectangular earth lodges in the northern part of the area; in the south, they built houses covered with thatched grass. The population grew, and people lived in villages.

We also know that the people began to trade more extensively with groups around them, particularly with the Puebloan Indians of the Southwest.

Further Reading:

Kroeber, Alfred L. The Arapaho Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1983.
Grinnell, George Bird. The Fighting Cheyennes Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1956.
Hyde, George E. Life of George Bent edited by Savoie Lottinville. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968.

RESOURCES
Sources of records on US Indian tribes Kansas American Indian Boarding Schools Kansas Tribal Colleges

 

Article Index:

Last Free Tribes in Kansas

Ten different indian tribes populated the area we now call Kansas at various times.