Final Years in Kansas 1861-1873

Kaw Mission Exhibit
During the American Civil War at least seventy Kaw warriors served in the Union army as members of Company L, Ninth Kansas Cavalry. Read More...
Following the war an increased influx of settlers into the region increased pressure on the Kaw to withdraw entirely from the state. 
The Kaw were able to hang on to the Neosho Valley Reservation longer than many other Kansas tribes because of infighting among white factions coveting the Kaws’ diminished reserve. At least four fairly distinct groups: local merchants - speculators, absentee land jobbers, squatter farmers, and railroad interests fought each other over which group would prevail in acquiring possession of the Kaw land.

In the meantime in August 1868, a conflict took place on the Kaw Reservation between the Cheyenne warriors and Kaw warriors. The Cheyennes had approached Council Grove from the west, seeking revenge for a bloody encounter with the Kaws the previous winter. The Cheyennes caused panic among Council Grove whites. Women and children fled to the Kaw Mission for protection.

The Cheyennes engaged the Kaws in a largely bloodless skirmish about four miles southeast of Council Grove. After a few hours of trading insults and staying out of each other’s firing range, the mounted Cheyennes withdrew with one minor casualty. White men had made a social occasion of the skirmish, watching the battle from nearby hilltops.

One of the witnesses of the "battle" was eight-year-old Charles Curtis. Charles had come to live with his maternal grandmother on the Council Grove Reservation in 1866. One-eighth Kaw, little Charlie returned to Topeka soon after the Cheyenne skirmish. He went on to a successful political career both on the state and national levels.

In 1929 he was elected to the vice-presidency of the United States on the Republican ticket headed by Herbert Hoover. He served as vice-president from 1929 to 1933, the only person of Indian descent ever to occupy either the office of vice-president or president in U.S. history.

In 1869 the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas Railroad (KATY) was constructed through the diminished Kaw Reserve. The reservation boundaries became increasingly porous as land-hungry whites squatted illegally on Kaw land in the early 1870's. These "settlers" cut down timber, broke the virgin prairie sod, turned their livestock loose to roam the reservation. The Indians protested, but to no avail.

In June 1872 U.S. Secretary of Interior, Columbus Delano came to Council Grove to tell the Kaws that they must submit to relocating to a new reservation in Indian territory (modern Oklahoma). Most of the Kaw chiefs protested vigorously. Chief Al-le-ga-wa-ho said to Delano: "You whites treat us Kon-zey like a flock of turkeys; you chase us from one stream, then to another stream - soon you will chase us over the mountains and into the ocean."

But Delano insisted that the Kaw go. The following spring the government gave the Kaw permission to travel to Western Kansas for one last buffalo hunt. This hunt was successful; then in June 1873, the six hundred remaining Kaws made a seventeen-day journey south to the new reservation in Indian Territory.

"The matter was not left to a vote of the tribe. After hearing the speaker of the Indians in this council attended by possibly twenty or thirty of the leading men, Secretary Delano again spoke and this time gave no chance for argument. He told them emphatically, it was the policy of the President to remove the tribes in Kansas to the (then) Indian territory and that they must move. I heard no further protest after this speech - except the wailing of women at the graves of the dead, night and morning for months before the removal."

Interpreter Addison Stubbs’ description of the 1872 meeting between Secretary of the Interior Delano and the Kaw chiefs.