Kaw Reservations

Prior to Missouri becoming a state in 1821, the Kaws gave up their land in western Missouri.

A treaty signed on September 25, 1818, by three principal chiefs and eight warriors effected this land transaction. 

In return for their land, the U.S. government promised the Kaws two thousand dollars worth of cloth, vermilion, guns, ammunition, kettles, hoes, axes, knives, flints, awls, and tobacco. These items were to be issued each September for an indefinite period. A blacksmith was also promised to keep their guns and implements in good repair. The bargain was sealed with a gift of goods valued at $460 as proof of the government’s good will and motives of benevolence.

Beginning in 1825, and continuing well into the mid-1840’s, the federal government forcibly removed nearly one hundred thousand Native Americans into "Indian Territory," land which later became Oklahoma and Kansas. Among the relocated tribes were the Shawnees, Delawares, Wyandots, Kickapoos, Miamis, Sacs and Foxes, Ottawas, Peorias, and Potawatomies. Such action required that the Kaws sign treaties whereby vast acreage was ceded to the government in return for annuities and promises of educational, agricultural, and other forms of material assistance.

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1825 The Kaws agreed to a reduction of their twenty million acre domain, which comprised roughly the northern half of future Kansas, to a two million acre reservation. The eastern boundary of this reservation was just west of future Topeka near the headwaters of the Saline and Solomon Rivers. For this huge cession the Kaws were awarded a $3,500 annuity for twenty years, a quantity of cattle, hogs, and domestic fowl, a government blacksmith and agricultural instructor, and schools to be funded from earlier Kaw land sales in the Kansas City area.

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And, as a special concession for Chief White Plume’s vigorous support of this treaty, 640-acre plots along the north side of the Kansas River just east of the new reservation were granted in fee-simple to all twenty three half-bloods of the Kaw tribe. The rest of the tribe received no such benevolence thereby greatly encouraging factionalism.

Article Eleven of the 1825 treaty said nothing about granting Euro-Americans the right to move through Kaw land on the overland trails. By 1825, the commercial value of the Santa Fe Trail had increased substantially, and there lurked the danger that the Kaws might obstruct this vital traffic.

In 1825, Sibley, Benjamin H. Reeves, and Thomas Mathers, members of the government survey team, met several Kaw Chiefs at the Sora Creek crossing of the Santa Fe Trail, just south of present-day McPherson. Here the Kaw chiefs and headmen agreed to allow the survey party to continue its work unmolested for $800 in cash or merchandise paid directly to tribal leaders. The trail was to be "forever free for the use of the citizens of the United States and of the Mexican Republic."

Artist Charles Goslin

The old Kaw village near the mouth of the Big Blue River was partially abandoned about 1830; during that year, the tribe established three villages lower down on the Kansas River. The village of American Chief was on the creek of the same name (now Mission Creek) about two miles south of the Kansas River. 
This band, of about one hundred had twenty good sized lodges, in which they lived until the Kaws removed to Council Grove in 1848. About a mile from this village was Hard Chief’s village situated on a high bluff on the south bank of the Kansas River. This village had about 500 people and 85 lodges. It was about 1 and 1/2 miles west of the present-day Kansas History Center.  The third and largest village, that of Fool Chief, was on the north bank of the Kansas River, on the western edge of present north Topeka.

The treaty language stipulated that a government agent, farmer, and blacksmith were to reside at or near the principal villages. Yet in the two decades after the treaty was ratified, this provision was loosely enforced or completely ignored. Never did the agent (or subagent) live closer than twenty miles from the main tribal villages. In some instances the distance was between fifty and seventy-five miles. Moreover, a chronic turnover in official personnel assigned to the Kaws, along with continual reorganization of the Department of Indian Affairs at the agency level, resulted in a confusing array of agents, subagents, assistant agents, special agents, commissioners, blacksmiths, and farmers. Often there was no one to look after the government’s obligations to the Kaws.

1846 Reservations in Kansas
 1.Otoe & Missouri
 2. Iowa
 3. Sauk & Fox of Missouri
 4. Kickapoo
 5. Delaware & Wyandot
 6. Kansa
 7. Shawnee
 8. Sauk & Fox of Mississippi
 9. Chippewa
10. Ottawa
11. Peoria & Kaskaskie
12. Wea & Piasnkashaw
13. Pottawatomie
14. Miami
15. New York Indians
16. Cherokee Neutral Lands
17. Osage
18. Cherokee Strip
19. Quapaw Strip
W. Lands in common use by 8 & 9

The next major land cession treaty was signed by Kaw chiefs in 1846. The Kaw sold their two million-acre reservation established in 1825 to the U.S. government for just over ten cents an acre. This money was to be dispensed to the Kaw tribe over a thirty-year-period at a rate of fifteen thousand dollars a year. The Kaw were to be relocated to a twenty-mile-square reserve located in preset southern Morris County and northern Lyon and Chase counties.

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In the spring of 1848 the 1600 remaining Kaws moved, establishing three new villages in the area, which were located in the Neosho Valley approximately three, seven, and ten miles downstream from Council Grove.

Each village was led by two generations of chiefs during the 25 years the Kaw lived on the Neosho Valley Reservation. Initially, the chief of the village closest to Council Grove was Peg-Gah-Hosh-She. He was succeeded by Wah-Ti-An-Gah. Ish-Tah-Lesh-Yeh was chief of the middle village, being succeeded by Ka-He-Ga-Wa-Ti-An-Gah. And the first chief of the village ten miles from Council Grove was Ka-He-Ga-Wa-Che-Cha. His successor was Al-Le-Ga-Wa-Ho, who in 1867 became the head chief of the entire Kaw Tribe.

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Traders and government agents soon followed the tribe to the new location. Seth M. Hays, the first permanent white settler at Council Grove, established his home and trading post in 1847 just west of the Neosho River on the north side of the Santa Fe Trail.

When Kansas became a territory in 1854 hundreds of land-hungry whites already had settled illegally on the Kaw Reservation. An 1859 treaty diminished the reservation to an area nine by fourteen miles. The Kaw agency was moved from Council Grove to a point about four miles southeast of the town.

There, a new agency building and stone huts for the Kaw were constructed; the remnants of which can still be seen today. Educational efforts of the new agency were placed in the hands of the Quakers, but these efforts, like those of the Methodists, met with little success.

The living conditions of the Kaw on the Neosho Valley Reservation were not conducive to good health and happiness. The tribe was frequently ravaged by contagious diseases, especially smallpox, and the population declined from 1600 in 1848 to about 800 in 1860 to 600 in 1873. Meanwhile, the Kaw were under constant pressure from land speculators and squatters.

In 1872 the secretary of the interior of the U.S. government, Colombus Delano, came to Council Grove to "negotiate" a final treaty which would remove the Kaw from Kansas once and for all. 
Al-Le-Ga-Wa-Ho made an impassioned plea to Delano with the following words: "Great Father, you whites treat us Kansa like a flock of turkeys, you chase us to one stream, then you chase us to another stream, soon you will chase us over the mountains and into the ocean and we will have no place to live. We do not want to leave the Neosho Valley."

The Kaw chief’s appeal was ignored, and the 600 remaining Kaw were removed to a reservation in Oklahoma, then called "Indian Territory." Their numbers in Oklahoma continued a rapid decline; with only 217 members listed on the Tribal rolls in 1900