Merriam Historic Plaza Walking Path
From the late 1600's until the early 1800's, the Kansa (or Kaw) Indians lived in northeast Kansas. The Indian word Kansa means "People of the South Wind," and both the state of Kansas and the Kansas River take their name from this tribe.
The Kansa culture was semi-nomadic. The men were hunters, trappers, and warriors. Kansa warriors were noted for their distinctive hairstyle consisting of a strip of hair on the top and back portions of the head. In addition to caring for the children, Kansa women planted, tended, and harvested crops and foraged for nuts, berries, and roots.
Beginning in the 1820's, the Kansa surrendered their land through a succession of treaties and forced moves. The Kansa were designated land farther to the west and eventually settled on a reservation in Oklahoma.
Between 1826 and 1833, the Shawnee Indians were moved to the Kansas Territory from their original settlements in Ohio and Missouri. The Shawnee established themselves along the banks of the Kansas River and surrounding area, including tributaries such as Turkey Creek. The area had many springs, good timber, and stone suitable for building.
Regarded as skillful farmers, the Shawnee kept cattle, swine, oxen, and draft horses, and they were particularly known for the variety of fruits they raised. Contemporary accounts of Shawnee settlements noted fenced fields and log cabins. The Shawnee were also skilled craftsmen and prospered as traders with overland travelers.
About the ImagesLittle White Bear (Meach-o-shin-gaw) -
This portrait of a Kansa warrior, by artist George Catlin, typifies Catlin's memorable career. Probably painted at Fort Leavenworth in 1832, the original oil painting hangs in The Smithsonian. Catlin traveled extensively to Indian villages across the Midwest in the 1840's. His paintings represent some of the most significant chronicles of Indian life and culture ever produced.
Shawnee War Party -
Black and white studio portrait of a group of Shawnee Native American men in ceremonial dress, circa 1860-1870
Indian Lands in Kansas -
The Shawnees were removed westward in the 1820's and 1830's to present day Kansas and exchanged their lands to the east for 1,600,000 acres in Kansas. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act established Kansas Territory and the Shawnees were allotted 200 acres on an individual basis. This reduced their holdings to about 200,000 acres.
Did you know?
The 1.6 million-acre tract of land selected for the Shawnee tribe included all of Johnson County.