A Local Guide to Native American Cultural Sites Around Kansas City | KCUR 89.3


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The Kansas City area is home to a large number of Native American nations. Around northern Kansas City, traces of the Hopewell civilization of the Middle Woodland Era (100 BC to 700 AD) and the Mississippi people (760 to 1290 AD) can be found.

The 90 mile radius of KCUR’s broadcast signal extends to the ancestral lands of the Osage, Kaw (Kansa) and Otoe-Missouria (who are part of the Očeti Šakówiŋ or Sioux people). During the 1830s, the Shawnee, Wyandot, Delaware, Potawatomi, Sac and Fox, and Kiikaapoi (Kickapoo) were forcibly relocated to the area, with each community having its own history and traditions. A few decades later, many of these nations were again forced to relocate.

Today, Native Americans make up only about 0.5% of the population of Kansas City and surrounding communities. Yet this influence is reflected in our streets and place names, historic sites and museum galleries, as well as the cultural contributions of those who preserve, expand and celebrate this heritage.

At the same time, recent acts of vandalism in North Kansas City and Lawrence, Kansas demonstrate the ongoing struggle for respect for Native American land and culture.

Many states and cities celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day on the second Monday in October, recognizing and honoring the original stewards of land around the world. Last year was the first time Kansas City officially recognized the day, with a proclamation from Mayor Quinton Lucas. This year, the day falls on October 11.

And in November, it’s National Native American Heritage Month.

To help us learn more about our area, we’ve identified some of the significant Native American cultural and historical sites in the Kansas City area, with advice from Ed Smith (Osage) of the Kansas City Indian Center.


Gilman Collection, purchase, Joseph M. Cohen gift, 2005

A photograph taken by John K. Hillers in 1881 of the Otoe-Missouria delegation. For centuries the Otoe lived near the mouth of the Platte River in Nebraska, but in 1881 the Otoe-Missouria were forced to sell their land. According to tribal history, they walked with their possessions through the state of Kansas to their new home in Oklahoma.

Despite the adoption of the names of the people who lived here, there is no longer any recognized tribal land in Missouri due to the Indian Removal Act of 1830. The Eastern and Northern nations were first moved to what was then called Indian territory (now Kansas and Nebraska), then to Oklahoma.

Learn more about Otoe-Missouria’s influence on the Missouri name with the KCUR A People’s History of Kansas City podcast. You can also read about Native Americans who lived in Missouri in this series from Missouri Life magazine and explore the resources of the State Historical Society of Missouri.

However, there are still vestiges of this history, such as Wyandotte Street which stretches somewhat discontinuously from River Market to Westport Road, connecting the points of contact between Native Americans and Europeans who traded and intermarried with each other. . The locations of the trading posts are recognized by historical markers at Case Park, West Bottoms, Chouteau Station in Shawnee, Kansas; with monuments such as François Chouteau and the Native American Heritage Fountain; and even in surviving buildings, like the one at 504 Westport Road.

The Kansas City Indian Center is also located in the Westport area. First established as a social club to conserve cultural practices, it was incorporated in 1971 as “the only comprehensive social service agency for American Indians”.

Frank Vaydik Park in Platte County is the site of the ancient Line Creek archaeological dig, which uncovered Kansas City Hopewell artifacts in the mid-20th century. For decades there was a museum and an excavation site. Although the museum no longer exists and the artifacts are in storage, it now houses the Thidaware Native American Garden of Line Creek, which is cultivated using ancient farming practices.

Wyandotte County

Argentinian fresco

Keith stokes

The Anthology of the Argentinian Mural in Kansas City, Kansas tells the story of the Argentinian community in our region.

Since Missouri and many other states forcibly withdrew their Native American populations, many nations found themselves in what became Kansas, then known as Indian Territory. The Delaware (Lenape) first established a reserve in 1829, then sold land to the Wyandots in 1843, for what is now Kansas City in Wyandotte County, Kansas.

Shortly after the Wyandots arrived in the area, around 60 people fell ill and died. The Wyandotte National Burying Ground (the name Huron Indian Cemetery is not considered correct) is located at 5th and Minnesota Ave., near the 7th Street Casino, owned by the Wyandotte tribe of Oklahoma.

Also in Kansas City is Kaw Point, where the Kansas River (Kaw) and the Missouri River converge. The place has also become the symbol of the convergence of Native Americans and Americans of European descent. The waterfront park includes a memorial to Native American nations.

Although Quindaro is known as a community of African Americans, the name also comes from Wyandot, which means “bundle of sticks,” symbolizing strength in unity.

In the Argentine district of Kansas City, there is the former site of “Prophetstown” of Tenskwatawa. He was known as Prophet Shawnee, and his final home is White Feather Spring, now on private property, where there is a marker located at the end of a quiet street.

Johnson County

The brick exterior of the North Building of the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway, Kansas.

Carlos moreno

The Shawnee Indian Mission Historic Site was established in 1839 as a residential school for Native American children.

While many stories have been forgotten, there are still those who try to preserve them and right the wrongs of the past. The Shawnee Indian Mission State Historic Site (in what is now Fairway, Kansas) was established in 1839 as a manual training school for Native American children.

Recently, the Shawnee Mission Post reported that the town will be working with the Shawnee Tribe to rewrite the history of the residential school, to remember and honor the children who lived there.

When the Shawnee established their reserves in 1826, there were different views regarding relations with the white government and the neighbors. Some, including Chief Charles Bluejacket (who was also a Methodist minister), chose assimilation, while others, like Chief Black Bob, worked to maintain distinct traditions within their community. Either way, they were ultimately forced to leave Kansas.

Throughout Shawnee, Kansas, we find references to Bluejacket including a street, fountain, and apartment complex. There is also the Shawnee Indian Cemetery (the last burial was in 1870). In Olathe (which means “beautiful” in Shawnee), references to Black Bob include a park, a street, and an elementary school.

Beyond Kansas City

KU FNSA pow-wow

Laura Kingston

Each year, the KU First Nations Student Association hosts a powwow and indigenous cultures festival.

Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, also began as a residential school. Learn more about the university and the locals at the Cultural Center and Museum. You can also take a guided walking tour of the campus.

Lawrence was the first city in Kansas to declare Indigenous Peoples Day. The Lied Center at the University of Kansas will host the 33rd KU FNSA Powwow and Indigenous Cultures Festival in April 2022. (You can watch the 2021 virtual event on Facebook.)

There are still a few reservations in Kansas. Check out the latest bison hunt of the Potawatomi Prairie Band or the Kansas Kickapoo Tribe in Horton. Near the Nebraska border, the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri has a museum in the reservation, Kansas, and the seat of governance for the Iowa tribe of Kansas and Nebraska is in White Cloud.

In Council Grove, you’ll find the Kaw Mission and Faint Hope Shop, run by the Kansas Historical Society (though currently closed for reinterpretation).

About 30 minutes from downtown Kansas City is Fort Osage in Sibley, Missouri, a living history museum that chronicles the days of the early 1800s when it was a military and trade post. The fort was established by William Clark in 1808 and operated until 1827. For a few years during its operation, the Little Osage tribe also lived in the area.

Reconstruction began in 1941 and in 1961 the fort was recognized as a national historic site, in part due to its relationship to the archaeological sites of Hopewell and Osage and the Santa Fe Trail, which began as a commercial route used originally by Native Americans.

Many displaced nations in this region were then forcibly returned to Oklahoma. The First Americans Museum (FAM) recently opened in Oklahoma City, telling the stories of the 39 tribal nations now in Oklahoma.

Native American art and culture


Many local museums include Native American art and artifacts in their collections, both ancient and modern, including the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art at Johnson County Community College, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the St. Joseph Museum and the Kansas City Museum.

But Native Americans don’t just exist in the past. Traditions endure and many people express these traditions through contemporary settings. On the KCUR Real Humans podcast, host Gina Kaufmann shares the story of Alexandra Holder (Lakota), a runner from Haskell Indian Nations University who grew up in Lawrence, Kansas.

Native Spirit Radio broadcasts music to many people from all over the Americas every Sunday at 5 p.m.

The UMKC Art Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition by Gregg Deal. “Yadooa Hookwu (I Will Speak Now)” explores “Indigenous identity through multiple forms of expression”. Deal (Paiute Tribe of Pyramid Lake) is a multidisciplinary artist who addresses race relations, American history and Indian stereotypes in his work.

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