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Fool Chief's Village

Fool Chief VillageThe Kansa were living at Blue Earth Village, Manhattan vicinity, when they signed a treaty in 1825 creating a new reservation to the east. The reservation, opened in 1827, included large farms run by the Indian agency to provide additional food for the Kansa and to encourage a more agricultural subsistence.

At the time the Kansa people were a horse and gun culture, relying heavily on seasonal bison hunts. They spent half the year in their village and the other half on the hunt. These hunts corresponded to the seasons with planting in the spring, followed by a summer hunt, then a return to the village in the fall for harvest, followed by a winter hunt.

American Chief and Hard Chief established villages along Mission Creek south of the Kansas River in western Shawnee County. Fool Chief (Ka-he-ga-wa-ta-ne-ga, for brave and courageous) established his village between the Kansas River and Soldier Creek. Fool Chief’s was considered the principal Kansa village with 30-50 lodges that sheltered a population of 700-800 people.

The Kansa had deeply integrated themselves into trade networks, and mass-produced trade items were readily available to them. They continued to practice seasonal hunting and agriculture, living a semi-sedentary way of life. Hunting, however, took on new meaning as the acquisition of hides gave the Kansa access to markets, and competition and warfare periodically raged between the Kansa and the Pawnee and other tribes.

The villages that they occupied for half of the year consisted of bark-covered lodges that would house up to 10 people and were about 10-12 meters or 30-35 feet in diameter. Four to eight (depending on the size of the house) large central support posts surrounded a central hearth. Smaller posts supported the outer walls, which were covered with bark or hide with an opening in the center of the roof to allow smoke to escape. The houses had sleeping bunks along the walls and a blanket or hide covering on the entry.

It was a tumultuous period when important cultural and economic changes were disrupting their communities. White settlers encroached on the already diminished Kansa lands, and the Kansa saw their way of life change dramatically.

Item found at Fool Chief's VillageIn 1844 they abandoned the village after one of the largest Kansas River floods ever recorded. Richard W. Cummins, the Indian Agent to the Kansa at the time, reported that the river was “... overflown from bluff to bluff, sweeping off all the fencing, houses, & c.”

Fool Chief relocated his village to the mouth of Vermillion Creek. Two years later a new treaty was signed, and the Kansa were relocated to Council Grove.

Items found during archeological excavation at Fool Chief's villageLittle is known about how these communities acted and reacted to the rapid changes unfolding in the world around them. Through study of the archeological record, some of the missing pieces of this story have been revealed. The site was originally mapped at this location based on eyewitness accounts and historical data.


Items found during archeological excavation at Fool Chief's VillageAn archeological study in 2012 found the location of about 20 that are probable houses. Excavations concentrated on five potential house features and a large area of animal bone, mostly deer, which had been left in the area. The investigation uncovered new insights about the life of the Kaw at the time they had first contact with Americans.

Other items found during excavation at Fool Chief's Village:

Item found during excataion at Fool Chief's VillageSilver earrings



Item found at Fool Chief's VillageSpun-back buttons

Entry: Fool Chief's Village

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: May 2016

Date Modified: June 2017

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