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Archive for Sunday, August 22, 2004

American Indians settled near Kansas River

August 22, 2004

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When President Jackson signed into law the Indian Removal Act of 1830, eastern Kansas became a major stage for the unfolding drama between European-Americans and native peoples.

One aspect of that drama was increased competition for land and resources among the "removed" native groups, who immigrated to the state either through forced relocation or the desire to get away from the increasing encroachment of white settlers.

Native peoples "felt that pressure very palpably, I think, in their everyday existence, in their struggles really to survive and maintain identities and a sense of who they were as native people," said Dan Wildcat, professor of American Indian studies at Haskell Indian Nations University.

But soon, many of the new American Indian groups moving into eastern Kansas began to thrive and adapt to the changing circumstances.

Some, like the Delaware, had lived on the East Coast and had been pushed to the Ohio River Valley. Later, after 1825 and 1830, there were relocated to Missouri and then to Kansas, according to historian Dale Nimz.

The Delaware occupied a reservation on the north side of the Kansas River, he said, while another immigrant tribe, the Shawnee, lived on the south side. A few years later, in the 1840s, a small group called the Wyandot came in, Nimz said, and bought land from the Delaware.

"They chose to locate where the Kansas and the Missouri joined," Nimz said, "because they thought it would be a good site for a town."

The Delaware, Shawnee and Wyandot already had been in contact with European-Americans and had integrated a lot of their technology, he said.

"We've got to keep in mind that there were many of these eastern natives who ... were very successful, very highly educated," Wildcat said.

"They had had contact with Europeans for a long time," he continued. "So you're talking about three or four generations of natives who, before their removal here, spoke English."

Nimz added, "Many of them had accepted Christianity, they were learning to read and write and they also began to build farms."

On both the north and south sides of the Kansas River, such native groups were creating what Nimz called "the immigrant Indian landscape."

"They built log cabins; they built rail fences; they canned corn; they raised livestock, horses and cattle; and they did exactly the things that European-American pioneers were doing in the eastern United States," he said.

And often, according to Wildcat, these immigrant native peoples "ironically in some ways -- and I use this kind of tongue in cheek -- were more 'civilized' in this kind of dominant-society estimation than some of those settlers who came in here from Kentucky and Missouri and Arkansas to be a part of this bleeding Kansas history."

But there were other pressures mounting on the eastern Kansas frontier -- pressures that even government intervention would not be able to stave off for long.

Next week, "River City Chronicles" will reveal the purposes of the forts in mid-1800s eastern Kansas.

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