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Wyandotte County, Kansas




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The Story of Kansas City, Kansas

"The Kansa Indians"

You need no introduction to the Kansas Indians.  They are known also as the Kanzas or the Kaws.  Their name is found all about us.  It is the name of our state, our city, and our river.  One of the main streets in Armourdale is Kansas Avenue.  [Annotation:  Prior to 1886, State Avenue was Kansas Avenue.]  Our newspaper is the Kansan.  Many business firms have Kansas or Kaw as part of their names.

The word Kaw has no meaning and is only a nickname.  No one knows where the Indians got it.  One old Osage once said his tribe called them Kaws, or cowards, because the Kansas refused to help the Osage in a war against other Indians.  However the word came about, it is used to name the Indians and the river as often as is the word Kansas.

You have spelled Kansas so often that you think you could write it in your sleep.  It was not always so easy to spell.  Over the years there have been about one hundred twenty-four spellings for it.  Some of the most common are Akansea, Cansez, Kansa, and Kanza.  The word referred, no matter how it was spelled, to the Indians who were the "People of the South Wind."  No one is sure whether Kansas is an Indian, French or Spanish word.

Over two hundred years ago the Kanzas, or Kansas, lived in villages on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River near the present location of the city of Atchison.  French traders paddled up the river to the village to buy furs.  They made friends with the Kansas, slept in their lodges, and married Indian girls.

The cliffs on which the villages stood made good lookouts.  The Indians watched for canoes bringing men and supplies up the Missouri.  When the boats drew near, the Kansas would climb into them and examine everything.  They would then help themselves to whatever they wanted.

After the Kansas had driven the Pawnees from this part of the state, they settled on the hills above the Kaw River.  They build a village on a high spot near the present town of Edwardsville.  This village is said to have measured a mile across when traces of it were still visible some years ago.  The Indians roamed the hills of what became later the cities of Wyandotte, Rosedale and Argentine.  In the lowlands along the river they planted gardens where they raised corn and vegetables.  The men and boys enjoyed buffalo hunts beyond the hilly country where the prairies began.

In 1825 this pleasant life ended for the Kansas.  The "Big Knives" as the white men were called, asked the Indians to leave their hills and woods and make way for other Indian tribes.  They were removed from their farms and hunting grounds and placed on a reservation near Council Grove on the Santa Fe Trail.  [Annotation:  The possession of swords and similar weapons suggested among many tribes the names “knife-men”, “big knives”, “long knives”, “people of the big (or long) knives”, etc. This name is on record very early, for “knife-men” is the meaning of the Narragansett Chauquaquqck of Roger Williams, and the Massachusetts Chogqussog of Cotton. The term seems to have been used later of the English-Amerians in particular, for whom a name signifying “long knives”, or “big knives” occurs among many Algonkian and Siouan dialects.]

The Kansas had no religion or education to guide them.  When they were exposed to whiskey drinking and other evil habits of the white men traveling along the trail, they became shiftless and lazy.  By 1873 all their land had been sold to white settlers.  The Kansas then left forever the river and the state which bear their name today.

The Delaware

Return to Index for "The Story of Kansas City, Kansas" by Nellie McGuinn

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Contact the History Webmaster - Patricia Adams

History Site created on December 02, 2002
Page last updated: 02-Jan-2012

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