European Traders
Since the late 1600s until1803 the Kaws had continuous contact with European traders. The Europeans–French, Spanish, and English–wanted the furs and skins the Kaws could provide and the Kaws wanted the guns, powder, bullets, cloth, knives, and utensils the Europeans could provide. 

The Europeans shipped the animal skins to Europe where they were processed into fashionable hats and robes that were much in demand. The Kaws also were involved in a slave trade. The Kaws would capture Pawnee, Wichita, and Padoucah Indians and trade these unfortunate people to the French.

Much of the early trade was conducted with the French. In 1724 a representative of the French government, Etienne de Veniard Bourgmont, visited a Kaw village on the west bank of the Missouri River in what is today Doniphan County. By 1744 the French had established a Fort Cavagnial near another large Kaw village just north of present Fort Leavenworth. For decades the French government sought to regulate the trade with the Kaws and other tribes, but these efforts met with little success. Factionalism within the tribes, cutthroat business practices, national and tribal rivalries, and uncertain markets caused considerable chaos in the European-Kaw fur trade.

After 1763, when the British defeated the French in the French and Indian War, the Kaw country was under the control of the Spanish. The Spanish government had even less success than had the French in bringing order to trade relations with the Indians west of the Mississippi River. Also the Spanish competed with the British for the Kaw fur trade, which created ongoing instability for the tribe.

Despite the fact that the French government lost possession of the Kaw domain, many of the fur traders who operated among the Kaws were French. The French were willing to inter-marry with the Kaws. Some French traders regarded marrying the daughter of a prominent Kaw chief a prerequisite to effectively carrying out trade relations with the tribe. The result was that a number of Kaw "mixed-bloods" bearing French names began to appear in the tribe. Overtime this mixed-blood group was the source of factionalism among the Kaws.

European occupation of Kaw land ended with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. From that point on the United States claimed the Kaw lands. Over the next few decades the Kaws would learn that the Americans would not be satisfied with just trading for their furs and skins; eventually these white people would want and take the Kaws’ land.

The Euro-Americans
European Traders
American Expansion
Santa Fe Trail
Historical Council Grove

Find out more about the American Expansion.