Monday, November 20, 2006

Representations of Indians and US Army along the Oregon Trail: Wamego, Blue Rapids, and Marysville

After leaving the Saint Mary's cluster one begins the last leg through Kansas. The road one travels on can be either US Highway 24 or the Military Trail road. The military trail road was the path patrolled by US Army cavalry from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley. The road reached its peak during Bleeding Kansas. No markers commemorate the patrols or mention the violence committed by bushwhackers and jayhawkers.

The trail goes through the town of Wamego which was incorporated in 1868. The town is supposedly named after a Indian maiden according to an urban legend. Wamego is currently trying to cash into Kansas' tie in with the Wizard of Oz but the town does have a nice park dedicated to town history. Unfortunately, the only tie-in with the areas Indian (either Kansas or Pottawatomi) past is a caricature Indian bust that is about as accurate as the cigar store Indian.

After going north one passes through the town of Blue Rapids and "passes through" is the correct use of the term. About a block away off US 77 is a small city park with plaques and murals. The plaque is dedicated to war dead from World War I to Vietnam. The lightly populated area has gave alot for freedom.

One of the murals portrays the Oregon Trail. In the mural there is a wagon train, a farmer family, and Indians hunting buffalo. The inclusion of a white farmer family pumping a well shows white permanence and claim to Kansas. The Indians are in the background and just observing (a long running theme in Oregon Trail representations).

Continuing the journey past the Big Blue River and Alcove Springs is Marysville. Marysville was founded on the site of a ferry for pioneers and also served as a station along the Pony Express.

In Marysville there is a museum officially dedicated to the Pony Express but in reality it has the town's complete history. The way Indians are represented is unique to the Oregon Trail. During the Great Depression the WPA hired a local artist to create panorama of the tribes which lived in the area. Besides the use of the stereotypical body physic the panoramas acturaely show the living conditions and life of the tribes like the Kansas.

After Marysville on is down with all the sites in Kansas. The next four-hundred miles plus is spent in Nebraska which for the eastern half will earn the title Great American Desert of Oregon Trail remembrance.

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