Parent Category: Kansas State History Articles
Category: Kansas People
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Kansas Belonged to the Indians 

During the years when the white men were traveling back and forth across Kansas they were not making settlements here. The country remained in the undisputed possession of the Indians. The white men did not want it as yet. They looked upon these vast prairies, not as a resource, but as so much land to be crossed in reaching places farther west. But changing conditions in the states east of the Mississippi River made people begin to look upon Kansas in a different light. The country there was becoming thickly settled and the people wanted the lands of the eastern Indians.


Removal of Eastern Indians to Kansas 

Soon after the Louisiana purchase was made people began to talk of an Indian reserve, of a state set aside for the Indians, and it was believed that these western prairies would be useful for such a purpose. Nothing definite was done, however, until 1825, when the National Government began the "removal policy." The eastern part of Kansas was occupied by two tribes of Indians, the Kanzas, or Kaws as they are often called, north of the Kansas River, and the Osages south of it. In 1825 the National Government made treaties with these two tribes. Under the provisions of these treaties each tribe retained only a small part of its territory, the rest being ceded to the Government. In return, the Indians were to receive certain annual payments and were to be supplied with cattle, hogs, and farming implements. The Government was also to provide them with blacksmiths and with teachers of agriculture. With these two tribes restricted to their reservations, a large part of eastern Kansas was left to be apportioned into reservations for Indians from the East.

In 1830 Congress passed an act setting aside an Indian country, which included eastern Kansas. Then the removal policy was carried out. Under this arrangement the Government made treaties with the various eastern tribes by which they gave up their lands in exchange for certain tracts in the Indian country. The Shawnees had come in 1825, and during the ten or twelve years following 1830 about seventeen tribes were located on reservations in Kansas. Among these were the lowas, Sacs and Foxes, Kickapoos, Delawares, Chippewas, Pottawatomies, Wyandottes, and Miamis. By 1850 there was not a tribe left east of the Mississippi River. The Indians had all been moved to these western plains, and no white man could settle on any of the reservations without the consent of the Indians.

Indians Removed from Kansas 

According to the treaties the Indians were promised their land "so long as grass should grow or water run." But it soon developed that the white men wanted Kansas also. In 1854 we find the tribes being again transferred, this time to the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, where the remnants of the various tribes still remain.

Although Kansas was not used during those early years to make homes for white settlers, a few hundred people came here. They were of three different classes; fur traders, missionaries, and soldiers.

The Fur Traders 

It is impossible to say when the first hunters and trappers came to these western plains, for they were generally obscure men and little was known of their comings and goings, but they were the real pathfinders of the West. There are records of fur traders here in the very early years of the nineteenth century, and they gradually went farther and farther into the vast wilderness. The streams of travel across Kansas in the '40's followed paths that had been pointed out by the fur traders.

The fur companies established many trading posts, which served as forts for protection against the Indians and as places to which hunters and trappers could bring their furs. Some of the hunters and trappers were employed by the fur companies, and others worked independently. Many Indians also engaged in this trade, and often they were given tobacco, whisky, and weapons in exchange for their furs. In this way much of the work of the missionaries was undone. In the earlier years the hunters and trappers found many kinds of wild animals in Kansas: the buffalo, the wolf, the fox, the deer, the elk, and the antelope, and along the streams the beaver, the otter, the mink, and the m u s k r a t. Later the main supply of furs came from the mountains, and the whole fur trade gradually moved west of what is now Kansas. Father Padilla, the First Missionary in Kansas. The attempt to civilize the Indian began in the days of the early explorers, and it was on' Kansas soil that the first missionary's life was lost in the cause. This man was Father Padilla, a Jesuit, who came with Coronado on his journey to Quivira. Father Padilla became much interested in the Quivira Indians and remained to do missionary work among them. His preaching was of short duration, however, for he was soon killed, whether by the Quiviras or some other tribe is not known.

Kansas Missionaries of the Nineteenth Century

Centuries later, when Kansas became a part of the United States and was explored and traversed by white men, missionaries were among the first to arrive. They came to instruct the Indians in the Christian religion and to persuade them to adopt the customs of civilization. Of the many who came, Rev. Isaac McCoy probably deserves first mention. He had spent many years in work among the Indians and strongly urged the removal policy. He believed that if they could live in a separate state, free from contact with the white race, the Indians could be civilized, and he gave his life to this work. Jotham Meeker and his wife were among the most devoted of the missionaries, but there were many others, both men and women, who placed the welfare of human beings above mere gain and who endured the hardships of life among the savages for the sake of the good they might do.

Missions Established 

As soon as the eastern Indians were removed to Kansas a number of missions were established by Baptist, Methodist, Presb^'terian, Friends, and Catholic churches. The work of the missionaries was not confined to religious instruction. Schools were established,^ books were printed, the Indian girls were taught cooking and sewing, and the boys were taught farming and such trades as blacksmithing and carpentry. The most noted mission in Kansas was the one estab-lished by the Methodist Church for the Shawnee Indians near the present site of Kansas City. This mission was opened in 1830 and continued its work for more than a quarter of a century. It had a large tract of land and good buildings, and maintained a successful school. Rev. Thomas Johnson, who took a prominent part in early Kansas affairs, was in charge of the mission.

The Soldiers 

The third class of people who came to early Kansas was the soldiers. Their presence was necessary for the protection of the few white people against the Indians. Fort Leavenworth was established by the National Government in 1827, as headquarters for the troops. This was shortly after the beginning of the Santa Fe trade. During the '40's this fort was used as a base of supplies for the soldiers of the Mexican War, and as an outfitting point for many of the California gold seekers and Mormon emigrants. Fort Leavenworth is today one of the most important of the national forts. A number of other forts were established, among them Fort Riley, Fort Dodge, Fort Scott, and Fort Hays, but all of these have been abandoned except Fort Riley. Population of Pre-territorial Kansas. Kansas remained in possession of the Indians until 1854, when it was organized into a territory. With this date a new era began. At this time the white population consisted of about twelve hundred people, one half of them soldiers and the other half connected with the trading posts and the missions.


When the country that is now Kansas became a part ot the United States it was occupied by four tribes of Indians. In 1825 the Kanza and Osage tribes ceded a large part of their lands to the Government and the eastern quarter of the State was made a part of the Indian country by the Act of 1830. Following this a number of eastern tribes were removed to reservations in Kansas, where they remained until Kansas was organized as a territory, in 1854, when they were moved to Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. During these years there was much travel through the State, but up to 1854 the white population numbered only about twelve hundred. These people were of three classes; traders, missionaries, and soldiers.


Prentis, History of Kansas, pp. 50-64.

Andreas, History of Kansas, pp. 58-74.

Gihon, Geary and Kansas, chap. ll.

Inman, The Old Santa Fe Trail.

Elson, History of the United States, chap. ll.

Kansas Historical Collections, vol. vin, pp. 72, 171, 206, 250;

vol. IX, p. 565; vol. x, p. 327; vol. xi, p. 333; vol. Xll, pp. 65, 183.

Holloway, History of Kansas, chap. vni.

Blackmar, Kansas, vol. I, pp. 655-703; vol. li, p. 291.


1. What use did the white people make of Kansas during the first half of the nineteenth century?

2. How did the condition of the Indians here differ from that of the Indians in the East?

3. What was the removal policy? Name some of the Indian tribes brought here. What promise was made them?

4. Name the three classes of white people who came to Kansas during this period.

5. Who was Father Padilla? Name some of the missionaries. What work did they do?

6. Tell of the fur traders and their relations with the Indians.

7. Why were the soldiers here?

8. When did Kansas cease to be an Indian country?

Source: A History of Kansas / Anna E. Arnold. pp.45-54

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