Kaw people

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Kaw Nation
Three prominent Kaw chiefs: (left to right) Al-le-ga-wa-ho, Kah-he-ga-wa-ti-an-gah, and Wah-ti-an-gah. Photograph taken in Washington D.C., 1867.
Three prominent Kaw chiefs: Al-le-ga-wa-ho, Kah-he-ga-wa-ti-an-gah, and Wah-ti-an-gah
Total population
3,126[1]
Regions with significant populations
United States (Oklahoma)
(Kansas)
Languages
English, Kansa
Religion
Native American Church, Christianity, traditional tribal religion
Related ethnic groups
other Siouan and Dhegihan peoples

The Kaw people (also known as the Kanza) are a Native American people living in the central part of the Midwestern United States. The Kaw people have also been known as the "People of the South wind",[2] "People of water", Kansa, Kaza, Kosa, and Kasa. The US state of Kansas was named after the Kaw people. Kansas' capital city, Topeka, was named after a Kaw word meaning "a good place to dig potatoes".[3] The Kaw are closely related to the Osage Nation.

Government[change | change source]

The Kaw Nation's headquarters is in Kaw City, Oklahoma. The tribe's jurisdictional area is in Kay County, Oklahoma. The elected chairwoman is Lynn Williams. She is serving a four-year term. There are 3,126 members of the tribe. 1,428 of them live in Oklahoma.[1]

Water tower of the Kaw nation, along I-35 in Oklahoma.

History[change | change source]

Interacting with the United States[change | change source]

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 hurt the Kaw. They were forced to move west by Native Americans from the east. They were also forced to move by White settlers who liked the "beautiful aspects" and "rich and exuberant soils" of the Kaw's land.[4] In 1825, the Kaw ceded a big area of land in Missouri and Kansas to the United States. They did this in exchange for a promise of a $3,500 payment every year for twenty years. The promised payment was often late. Sometimes, the payments were taken by government officials and merchants.

The Kaw faced smallpox epidemics in 1827–1828 and 1831–1832. It killed about 500 people.[5] In 1844, a flood destroyed most of the land the Kaw had planted. It hurt the Kaw a lot. In 1846, the Kaw sold most of their remaining 2,000,000 acres (8,100 km2) of land for $202,000 plus a 256,000 acres (1,040 km2) reservation on Council Grove, Kansas.[6]

In 1861, during the American Civil War, the Kaw and other Native Americans in Kansas were recruited as soldiers and scouts. This was done to prevent attacks by pro-slavery tribes and Confederate supporters in Indian Territory. Seventy young Kaw men were persuaded—or forced—to join Company L, Ninth Kansas Cavalry. They served in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and Arkansas during the war. 21 of them never came home. This was a big loss because there were already few Kaw people left.[7]

After the Civil War, White Americans in Kansas wanted to remove the Native Americans, including the Kaw. However, during this time, something happened. The Kaw and the Cheyenne were enemies. On June 1, 1868, about one hundred Cheyenne people attacked the Kaw reservation. Scared white settlers ran to Council Grove. The Kaw men painted their faces, wore their armor, and went on horseback to meet the Cheyenne. The two Indian armies put on a military display. It featured horsemanship, howls and curses, and volleys of bullets and arrows. After four hours, the Cheyenne left with a few stolen horses and a peace offering of coffee and sugar by the Council Grove merchants. Nobody was hurt on either side.

During the battle, the mixed-blood Kaw interpreter, Joseph James, Jr. went 60 miles to Topeka to ask for help from the Governor. An eight-year-old, part-Indian boy named Charles Curtis went with Joseph James. Curtis would later become a jockey, a lawyer, a politician, and Vice President of the United States under Herbert Hoover.[8]

White pressure finally forced the Kaw out of Kansas. On June 4, 1873, they packed up, and they went south in wagons to Indian Territory to a new reservation. Two weeks later, 533 men, women, and children arrived at the junction of the Arkansas River and Beaver Creek. This would become Kay County, Oklahoma.[9] The Kaw made their last successful buffalo hunt that winter. They went to the Great Salt Plains to hunt. They saved the buffalo meat by jerking it, and they sold the buffalo fur for five thousand dollars.[10]

20th century[change | change source]

While living in the Indian Territory, they were ignored by white people. However, the tribe continued to lose people. By 1888 there were only 188 persons. The Kaws seemed like they would be gone.[11] However, they slowly acculturated and their numbers increased, mostly through intermarriage as the number of full-bloods continued to decline. By 1910, only one old woman in the tribe could not speak English and more than 80 percent were literate.[12]

The Curtis act of 1898 allowed the federal government to have more power over Indian affairs. The author of the law was Charles Curtis, now a Congressman. Curtis believed that the Indians should be assimilated. He supported the break-up of tribal governments and the allotment of tribal lands to their members. In 1902, at Curtis's urging, Congress ended the Kaw tribal government and reservation. Congress divided tribal lands among members. Each of 247 Kaw tribal members got 405 acres (1.6 km2). Of that, 160 acres (0.6 km2) were for a house. Curtis and his son and two daughters got 1,620 acres (6.6 km2) of land.[13] Most Kaws sold or lost their land. By 1945, only 13 percent of the land of the former Kaw Reservation was owned by Kaws.[14] Much former Kaw land was flooded by the creation of Kaw Lake in the 1960s. This included their Council House and cemetery at Washunga which was moved to Newkirk, Oklahoma.

After the death of Washunga in 1908, the Kaw people had no formal organization for many years. In 1922, Washunga's adopted daughter Lucy Tayiah Eads was elected principal chief. A council of eight members was also created. She was the first and only female chief. In 1928, the government agency to the Kaw was ended, and the buildings were sold.[15] After that, the Kaw had no recognized government. This changed in 1959, when the federal government recognized them, and the tribe reorganized. The last Chief of the Kaw, Ernest Emmett Thompson, was elected in 1934.[16] According to Dorothy Roberts, full-blooded Kaw women were forced to be sterilized by the Indian Health Service in the 1970s.[17] In 1990, the Kaw wrote a new tribal constitution. They created a tribal court in 1992. In 2000, the tribe bought lands on their pre-1873 reservation near Council Grove, Kansas. This did this to create a park remembering their history in Kansas. They named it the Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park.

The last fluent speaker of the Kansa language, Walter Kekahbah, died in 1983.[18] {As of 2012, the Kaw Nation offers online language learning for Kansa second language speakers}.[19]

The last full-blood Kaw, William Mehojah, died in 2000.[20]


References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 2011 Oklahoma Indian Nations Pocket Pictorial Directory. Archived 2012-05-12 at the Wayback Machine Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2011: 17. Retrieved 4 Jan 2012.
  2. "Constitution of the Kaw Nation." Kaw Nation. 2011. Retrieved 30 April 2012.
  3. Giles, Frye William (1886). Thirty years in Topeka: a historical sketch. G. W. Crane & Co. p. 55. Retrieved February 23, 2011.
  4. Unrau, Kansa Indians, 105
  5. Unrau, Kansa Indians, 149-150
  6. Unrau, ibid, 159-161
  7. National Archives, Record Group M-234, Tape 467, page 476
  8. Unrau, William E. Mixed Bloods and Tribal Dissolution: Charles Curtis and the Quest for Indian Identity, Norman: University of Okla Press, 1971: 72-75.
  9. Unrau, Mixed Bloods, 92
  10. [1] Archived 2012-09-08 at Archive.today Accessed, Aug 12, 1999.
  11. Accessed, Feb 22, 2010.
  12. Accessed Feb 22,2010. Reddy, Marlita A., ed. Statistical Record of Native North Americans, Detroit: Gale Research, 166, 189
  13. Finney, Frank F. "The Kay Indians and their Indian Territory Agency." Chronicles of Oklahoma. Vp; 35. No. 4, 1957, 416-422
  14. Chapman, Berlin B. "Charles Curtis and the Kaw Reservation." Kansas Historical Quarterly.Vol XV, No. 4. Nov 1947, p. 351
  15. Finney, p. 423
  16. Accessed Nov 25, 2017. Douglas, Crystal. A timeline history of the Kaw Nation, Kaw City: Kanza Museum
  17. Accessed Feb 15, 2019. Truthout: The last time the US wanted a wall 70,000 were sterilized. As Dorothy Roberts notes in Killing the Black Body: In four Indian Health Service hospitals alone, doctors performed more than 3,000 sterilizations without adequate consent between 1973 and 1976. For small Indian tribes, this policy was literally genocidal. One physician reported that: all the pureblood women of the Kaw tribe of Oklahoma have now been sterilized. At the end of the generation the tribe will cease to exist..
  18. Ranney, Dave. "Researchers try to preserve Indian languages."[permanent dead link] accessed 8 Apr 2011
  19. [Ranney, Dave. "Researchers try to preserve Indian languages.", accessed 12 Apr 2011]
  20. OK/IT GenWeb. "The Kansas/Kanza/Kaw Nation." Accessed 30 Nov 2011

Other websites[change | change source]