Saturday, August 26, 2006

Representations of Indians and US Army along the Oregon Trail: Kansas up to Topeka


After leaving Independence heading west I quickly entered the state of Kansas. Not many people know that Kansas was once the original Indian Territory. Tribes like the Pottawatomi, Sacs and Fox, and Delaware were forced from their eastern homes and made to live with the Osage, Pawnee, and others. Whites could enter Kansas to trade, emigrate out west, and a few were allowed to live in Kansas as government agents and missionaries (not always exclusive in nineteenth-century America). The United States Army, based at Fort Leavenworth, kept the piece in Indian Territory until 1854 with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act which made Kansas a territory and singled the end of for the aborted Indian land.

The first city one enters in Kansas is Kansas City, Kansas. Here some of the main, historical roads are based on old Osage paths that connected the various nearby villages. No acknowledgement can be found by markers along the roads in either Kansas or Missouri.

The Oregon National Historic Trail Auto Tour Route then takes a highway along side the interstate through Lawrence and passed Lecompton, sit of the pro-slavery capital of Kansas, and into Topeka; which is the capital of Kansas and served as the anti-slavery capital of Kansas.

In Topeka there are three sites of interest. The first is Burnett Hill. The hill is named after Chief Burnett who was a leader of the Potawatomi Tribe. The hill was named by John "The Pathfinder" Fremont. The hill is now the resting place for Burnett. The cemetery is on private property but the landowner does his best to preserve its history. A little marker tells of Burnett. No mention of Fremont is made.

The next stop is the Kansas State Historical Society Museum. The Museum is full of history from pre-Cambrian times to modern day. The Indians section; with everything from paelo-Indians of the Clovis time up until circa 1850 was between the entrance and the pioneer section. The chosen symbol for this on the floor map is a teepee, the seemingly international symbol for American Indian. This ignores the fact that most of the native and transplanted Indians of Kansas lived in either wigwams or wooden lodges. Some members of the Citizen Band of Potawatomi lived in single family housing made in the style of the average white American farm house. The displays are kept separate from the continuous stream of white Kansan history. A shame really because the local Oregon Trail and many local towns were key meeting points for both whites and Indians. While there was a section dedicated to Bleeding Kansas there was no mention of Fremont, Pike, Kearny, or the other Army explores who went through Kansas.

The main affront (and I may be completely wrong about this; further research is need) is the White Buffalo Monument. I blogged about this before and I still can only locate evidence that Sioux, a group found nowhere in Kansas, worshiped white buffalo historically.

The compensation was the Pottawatomie Baptist Mission near the museum. The mission museum shows what life was like for the Indian students who went to the school detailing duties, schooling, and showing off the rooms were their days were spent. The exhibits point out most of the students were mixed blood.

So concludes the brief time from Kansas City to Topeka. Next up were the relatively unknown towns of Rossville, Saint Marys, and Marysville. These towns were to be of monumental value of study covering the three themes of accurate portrayal, "all Indians are the same," and "nothing to see here." Making key appearance would be the mixed bloods of the Pottawatomi and Father DeSmet.

Category: Oregon Trail

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