What indian tribes originated in Kansas?


Last Updated: 5 years


Greetings ~

I am interested in learning about the nation(s) that inhabited a particular area – specifically what is now known as the counties of Leavenworth and Jefferson in the NE corner of the state of Kansas (map: http://skyways.lib.ks.us/counties/).

Is there such a resource that documents, even roughly, what nations might have occupied this area over the span of the last several centuries? I understand that geographical occupation can be influenced by nomadic behavior, unmapped/ancient boundaries, and historical events.

After visiting several books, maps, and websites, I’ve narrowed it down to a few possibilities: Kiowa, Pawnee, Osage, Cheyenne, and possible Missouri. I am by no means a scholar on this subject, and I desire to learn for my own personal curiosity. I’ve found contradictions in the resources I have, so I am coming to you for guidance.
  ~Submitted by: Jenesa S.


I don’t know a lot specifically about Leavenworth and Jefferson counties, but I can tell you about the many indian tribes that live or have lived in Kansas. Perhaps by knowing the known locations of these tribes, by process of elimination we can tell which ones inhabited the counties in question. In a preliminary study, it appears the Delaware, Wyandotte, and Kickapoo tribes were the predominant tribes in the 1800s.

However, the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kansa (now called Kaw), Osage, Jicarilla Apache, Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache, and Pawnee all had ancestral lands in Kansas, or roamed that area at least part of the year prior to the coming of the Europeans. The Kansa and Osage tribes inhabited lands in Kansas at least as early as the 1600s.

There is a Cherokee County, Comanche County, Osage County, Cheyenne County, Miami County, Ottawa County, Pawnee County, Pottawatomie County, Shawnee County, Wabaunsee County (named after a Pottawatomi chief), Wichita County (Wichita is the English spelling of Ouichita), Wyandotte County, and Kiowa County in Kansas, all named after the indian tribes that lived in those areas at the time the counties were formed. Leavenworth County is named after the American fort that was established there and Lincoln County was named after President Lincoln. Fort Leavenworth was the first American fort built west of the Mississippi River. Leavenworth county, as it is known today, at one time also included the present county of Wyandotte. The Delaware indian tribe preceded the white settlers to the area.

The Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Comanche were nomadic tribes that regularly traveled across the western half of Kansas.

The Kansa were usually on some part of the Kansas River, which derives its name from them, as does the state of Kansas and the town called Kansas City. The Kansa,Osage, Quapaw, Omaha, and Ponca are a distinct language subgroup of related tribes. According to oral tradition, the Kansa and the others of the same group originated on the Ohio River, the Kansa separating from the main body at the mouth of the Kansas River. During at least a part of the eighteenth century, they were on the Missouri River above the mouth of the Kansas, but Lewis and Clark met them on the Kansas River. They occupied several villages in succession along the Kansas River until they settled at Council Grove, on Neosho River, in the present Morris County, where a reservation was set aside for them by the United States Government in 1846, when they ceded the rest of their lands. They remained on this reservation until 1873 when it was sold and another reservation purchased for them in Oklahoma next to the Osages.

The Osage tribe controlled a large chunk in the southeastern corner of Kansas before being relocated to Oklahoma. They ceded it to the United States Government in treaties made in 1825, 1865, and 1870. The Neosho River was named by the Osage, and the Osage River is named after them.

The Jicarilla Apache were nomadic and lived primarily in Colorado, New Mexico, and Old Mexico, but they ranged over parts of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

The best-known historic location of the Kiowa people was a plot of territory including adjoining parts of Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas. According to tradition, the Kiowa at one time lived at the head of Missouri River near the present Virginia City. Later they moved down from the mountains and formed an alliance with the Crows but were gradually forced south by the Arapaho and Cheyenne, while the Dakota claim to have driven them from the Black Hills. They made peace with the Arapaho and Cheyenne in 1840 and afterward allied with them. When they reached the Arkansas, they found the land south of it claimed by the Comanche. These people were at first hostile, but after a time peace was made between the two tribes, when the Kiowa passed on toward the south, and the two have acted as allies since then. Together they constantly raided Mexican territory, advancing as far south as Durango. The Kiowa were among the most bitter enemies of the Americans. They were placed on a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma in 1868 along with the Comanche and Kiowa Apache and have now been allotted lands in severalty.

The Kiowa Apache name is derived from that of the Kiowa and from the strange fact that they spoke a dialect related to those of the better-known Apache tribes, though they had no other connection with them. They have been associated with the Kiowa from the earliest traditional period. The first historical mention of the Kiowa Apache is by La Salle in 1681 or 1682, who called them Gattacka, the term by which they are known to the Pawnee. In later times, the Kiowa Apache history is the same as that of the Kiowa, and they occupied a definite place in the Kiowa camp circle. For 2 years only, 1865-67, they were at their own request detached from the Kiowa and adjoined to the Cheyenne and Arapaho, on account of the unfriendly attitude of the Kiowa toward the Whites.

A part of the Pawnee tribe occupied the valley of the Republican Fork of Kansas River. There is a Pawnee indian museum in Lincoln County.

There were also a number of tribes that lived in Kansas at various times under treaty terms with the US or due to forced relocation by other competing tribes.

The Swan Creek and Black River bands of Chippewa were given a tract of territory on Osage River, Kansas from 1839-1866, after which they were removed to the Cherokee Territory in Oklahoma.

Under the Treaty of Echota, the Cherokee received title to lands in southeastern Kansas, which was later re-ceded to the United States Government in 1866.

A strip of land in northeastern Kansas was granted to the Delaware in 1829 and was again surrendered by treaties made in 1854, 1860, and 1886. Most of the Delaware moved with the Cherokee to Cherokee Territory in 1867, but four sections were retained by the Munsee Delaware, most of which was sold to white settlers in 1857. However, a few Munsee families remain in Kansas today. There is a town named Delaware in Jefferson County and the Kaw River runs through it. A Delaware chief named Sarcoxie and his family lived on the hill north of the Lawson station at Mud Creek in Jefferson County. He sold acreage to the Union Pacific Railroad at $1.25/acre in 1860, and the tribe moved to Indian Territory in 1867.

There is also a town named Tonganoxie in Levenworth County, which is named for a Delaware Indian who referred to himself as Chief Tonganoxie. He ran a stage coach stop and inn in what is now the site of the community of Tonganoxie.

There was a Lenape settlement at Lawrence, Kansas.

The Foxes lived on a reservation in eastern Kansas until about 1859 when they were relocated to Iowa.

The remnants of the Illinois were assigned a reservation about where Paola is now, in 1832. In 1867 they were removed to the northeastern corner of Oklahoma, where they received lands which had formerly belonged to the Quapaw.

The Iowa tribe was placed on a reservation in northeastern Kansas
in 1836, and part of them continued in this State and were allotted land here in severalty, while the rest went to Oklahoma.

Lands were set aside in Kansas in 1838 for some Iroquois, part of the Munsee, and remnants of Mahican and southern New England Indians but only a few of the Indians involved moved to them. They were later declared forfeited, and the rights of 32 Indian settlers were purchased in 1873.

A reservation was granted the Kickapoo tribe in southeastern Kansas in 1832, which was later reduced in size several times, but part of them have continued to live there to the present time. Kickapoo is a township in Leavenworth County, in the Kansas City metro area. There are several other landmarks in Leavenworth County that bear the Kickapoo name.

In 1832 the Miami subdivisions known as Piankashaw and Wea were assigned lands along with the Illinois in Eastern Kansas. In 1840 the rest of the Miami were granted lands in the immediate neighborhood but just south, and all but one band removed there from Indiana. In 1854 they ceded part of this territory and in 1867 accompanied the Illinois to the present Oklahoma.

The Oto were on the eastern border of Kansas several times during their later history. The remnants of the Missouri tribe accompanied the Oto when they lived in Kansas.

In 1831 two bands of Ottawa were granted lands on Marais des Cygnes or Osage River. They relinquished these in 1846 and in 1862 agreed to allotment of land in severalty, giving up their remaining lands. Further treaties regarding these were made in 1867 and 1872. A few families of Ottawa accompanied the Prairie Potawatomi when they removed from Wisconsin to Iowa, but they were soon absorbed or else scattered. Ottawa bands called Ottawa of Blanchard’s Fork and Ottawa of Roche de Boeuf occupied lands in Kansas between 1832 and 1865 when they then moved to Oklahoma.

The Potawatomi peoples first started coming to Kansas in the 1830s, settling in present-day Linn and Miami counties. By a series of treaties, culminating in the Treaty of Chicago in 1833, the Potawatomi west of Lake Michigan surrendered their lands and received a large tract in southwestern Iowa. They were accompanied by a few Chippewa and Ottawa.In 1837 the United States Government entered into a treaty with five bands of Potawatomi living in the State of Indiana, giving them a tract of country on Osage River, southwest of the Missouri, in the present State of Kansas. This was set apart the same year and the Potawatomi of the Woods, moved into it in 1840, but they ceded it back in 1846 and were given a reservation between the Shawnee and the Delaware, in the present Shawnee County, which they occupied in 1847. These Indians, now known as the Prairie Potawatomi, moved to lands in Kansas just east of the lands of the Potawatomi of the Woods, west of present-day Topeka. Part of that land is now known as Wabaunsee county, named for the Potawatomi leader Wabansi, whose name means “Dawn of Day.” Michigan Potawatomi did not come to this place until 1850. About the end of the Civil War some of the Prairie band moved back to Wisconsin but the greater part of them remained and accepted lands in severalty. In 1869 the Potawatomi of the Woods began a movement to secure lands in Oklahoma, and by 1871 most of them had relocated to Oklahoma.

Between 1833 and 1867 lands in what is now the southeastern tip of Kansas belonged to the Quapaw Reservation in Indian Territory, but in 1867 they ceded this back to the US Government.

After leaving Iowa, the Sauk and Fox Indians occupied a reservation in the eastern part of Kansas, but about 1859 the Foxes returned to Iowa, and in 1867 the Sauk ceded their Kansas territories and moved to Oklahoma.

Seneca Indians were joint owners with other tribes of land in the extreme southwestern part of Kansas. They ceded this to the United States Government in 1867.

In 1825 the Shawnee residing in Missouri received a grant of land along the south side of Kansas River, west of the boundary of Missouri. In 1831 they were joined by another group of Shawnee who had formerly lived at Wapaghkonnetta and on Hog Creek, Ohio. In 1854 nearly all of this land was re-ceded to the United States Government and the tribe moved to Indian Territory, in present day Oklahoma. There was a Shawnee Methodist Mission in Lincoln County.

The Wyandot purchased land in eastern Kansas on the Missouri River from the Delaware in 1843 and parted with it again in 1850.