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American Indians in Kansas

The land we now call Kansas had been home to many American Indian peoples. The Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kansa, Kiowa, Osage, Pawnee, and Wichita are tribes that are considered native to present day Kansas. The area has also been inhabited by many emigrant tribes. Emigrant Indians are those people who have been moved to a new geographic region after being displaced from their original homelands. As non-native peoples became more numerous in the eastern part of the United States, plans were developed to move Indian tribes farther west.

As early as 1803, President Thomas Jefferson proposed a plan that offered eastern tribes land west of the Mississippi River. This offer was extended to volunteers but did not prove successful. In 1825 and 1830, however, Congress passed specific acts that forced removal of the Native American peoples. These acts were based on the belief that Indians could be moved west to make room for European American settlement. Many of the lands in the West, including present-day Kansas, were determined to be unsuitable for white settlement.

In 1829, the Delawares were the first Indians to sign a treaty giving them land in what was to become Kansas. After 1830, nearly 30 tribes were given land in the areas. Among these tribes were the Cherokee, Chippewa, Delaware, Iowa, Iroquois, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Munsee, Ottawa, Peoria, Piankashaw, Potawatomi, Quapaw, Sac and Fox, Shawnee, Stockbridge, Wea, and Wyandot. Although these emigrant tribes were assured by the federal government that they would not be moved again, Kansas Territory opened for settlement in 1854 and once again forced the removal of native peoples. Many settlers moved into Kansas Territory after the Civil War, accelerating the movement of Indians off the land.

Today, Kansas is home to four Indian reservations--the Iowa, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Sac and Fox. American Indians of various tribal affiliations also reside in the cities and towns of the state. At one time, each tribe maintained its own language, religion, and customs. Although cultural distinctions still exist, the traditional way of life has changed over time. When many tribes live close to each other there often occurs a blending of traditions.

Entry: American Indians in Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: August 2012

Date Modified: November 2020

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.