Kanza Heritage Trail

The two-mile long Kanza Heritage Trail loops through the beautiful and historic 158-acre Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park owned and managed by the Kaw Nation, a self-governing tribe of 2,900 members. Currently based in north central Oklahoma. The Kaw Nation is actively working to regain its cultural heritage, which was nearly lost when the Tribe was forcibly removed from Kansas in 1873. By walking this Trail, you will engage a wonderful landscape steeped in natural beauty and the rich cultural history of the Kanza people who once lived here
Note:  Click on map or pictures for a larger image.

1.  Pause Point #1
A bronze plaque of the Kaw Tribal Seal is located at the center this pause point. Cast stone centerpieces contain patterns of ribbon weaving for which the Kanza are famous. Images are engraved in cast stone sections with relief areas filled with color epoxy. A prayer that is written in the outer rim of the circle reads: "Wakanda - Bless all who walk here. May we know and respect all your creation and what you have taught our people. Wiblaha."
2. Proposed Visitor/Interpretive Center
In time to come a 4,100 s.f. circular building will be built at this location to house display areas, exhibits, auditorium, gift shop, offices, kitchen and restrooms. Future plans include park staff to assist visitors, distribute information and facilitate tours.

3. Monument to the Unknown Kanza Warrior
The limestone tower you see near the beginning of the trail was erected by local citizens in 1925. The thirty-five-foot high spire was built as a tribute to the memory of the Kanzas' presence in the area. This commemorative act was prompted by the discovery of a warrior's remains exposed by cut bank erosion in a nearby streambed. The warrior and his burial paraphernalia were entombed in the base of the monument in August 1925 during an elaborate dedication ceremony attended by several members of the Kaw tribe. The Kaw Nation asks that you honor the deceased by maintaining a respectful distance from the monument.

4. Little John Creek Valley Overlook (2,929 feet)
The timber stretching north-south in the valley below marks the course of the Little John Creek. This valley offered the Kanzas abundant timber, water, grass, and rich soil. During the Kanza occupation of the Council Grove Reservation from 1848 to 1873, they lived nearby in a village. The first village chief, Peg Ah Ho Shee, died in the late l860s. He was succeeded by ChiefWah Ti An Gah.

5. Promontory (4,646 feet)
This highest point in the park affords a wonderful view of the surrounding Flint Hills landscape. You have entered one of the last vestiges of a vast tallgrass prairie that once covered much of the Midwest. As the white frontier expanded west thousands of "sodbuster" plows tilled the prairie grasses under. But here on the western edge of that vanished tallgrass expanse, prairie plants still flourish in regions of thin-soiled uplands known as the "Flint Hills." Note: Visitors with health restrictions may want to skip the steep climb to the point.

6. Prairie Restoration (5,464 feet)
The Kaw Nation has converted thirty-five acres of bottomland into tallgrass prairie. Native tallgrasses such as big bluestem, switch grass, Indian grass, and indigenous wildflowers now flourish where farm crops once grew.

7. Grandfather Oak (5,976 feet)
This fabulous bur oak easily pre-dates the Kanza occupation of this valley. The Kanza word for bur oaks is tta ska hu. Like the Kanzas, Bur Oaks are native to this area. The Bur Oak is a long-lived species; some like this one have survived for more than two hundred years. The resiliency and strength of bur oaks are qualities reflective of the tenacity and purpose of the Kaw Nation in reclaiming a portion of the tribe's former homeland in Kansas.



8. Wah Sko Mi A's Hut (6,494 feet)
These stone ruins are the remains of one of 138 huts the U. S. government built as dwellings for the Kanzas in 1862. The stones were quarried from the side of the hill you just descended. The mortar is made up, in part, of the gravel from the streambed of Little John Creek. The measurements of the three huts in this park are 16 by 20 feet. The Kanzas chose not to live in these structures, using them as stables for their horses instead.


9. Fallen Cottonwood (7,018 feet)
Today most of this immense cottonwood sprawls across the ground, nurturing the variegated fungi sprouting from its lifeless hulk. The cottonwood held spiritual significance to the Plains Indians. The slightest breeze will make the cottonwood leaves shake and clatter like raindrops. The seemingly constant rustling ofleaves reminded them of the wind, which the Indians believed served as the path and voices of Higher Powers. The Kanzas are strongly associated with wind, as the original version of the tribal name, aca, has been translated to mean People of the South Wind.

10. Kick A Poo's Hut  (7,018 feet)
Why did the Kanzas reject these huts? They preferred round dwellings, such as their tipis and bark-and-mat lodges, in which they had lived comfortably for generations. The huts were designed as single-family dwellings similar to that of the Euro Americans whereas the Kanza had lived communally for centuries with an entire family inhabiting one dwelling. In 1862 the government was assigning 40-acre allotments to each member of the tribe. The whites hoped that the Kanzas would spread out over the reservation, farming the land adjoining their new huts in the European way. The Kanzas preferred to remain in their three villages, where they could continue to practice their ancient communal traditions.
11. Little John Creek (8,007 feet)
The source of this creek is just a few miles north. Little John Creek is an intermittent stream, with water running through it in wet seasons and after significant rainfall. But even in dry times, you can find a few pools. The Little John joins the Big John Creek less than a mile southwest of this point. Big John Creek shortly flows into the Neosho River, which joins the Arkansas River in Oklahoma. People have mined the Little John Creek in the past for gravel; some of the mounds you have seen along the trail are the residues of these excavations.


12. Ke La Lah Heo's Hut (8,242 feet)
The huts had one room with a fireplace. After the Kanzas were forced to leave, the settlers lived in these structures. Later, after they had built their homes, the white people used the huts as outbuildings for their farms. The panels of corrugated metal in the vicinity of the huts are relics of the Euro-American period of occupation.

13. Kanza Earth Lodge
This 25' diameter replica of a Kanza earth lodge gives park visitors an opportunity to learn about the traditional Kanza life style. Visitors can experience 'first hand' what it was like to live as a Kanza in homes of this type in the Council Grove area. The Kanza used at least two different types of homes. When traveling to hunt buffalo the tipi was typical. The more "permanent" home was a bark or earth lodge. The earth lodge structure, funded through the Atchison County Historical Society Challenge Cost Share Grant and the Kaw Nation, was built over a two-year span of time by volunteers and Kaw Nation staff.

14. Pause Point #2
At the center of this pause point is a cast stone pattern taken from a beaded Kanza belt. Sixteen Kanza clan camp names are engraved in the outer rim of the circle. Interspersed with the clan names, patterns taken from the beaded belt work appear on the north, east, south, and west sections of the rim. All images were engraved in cast stone sections with relief areas filled with color epoxy.

15. End of the Trail (10,380 feet)
As you leave the park, take a minute to visit the stabilized ruins of the "Agency Building" and speculate on the events which may have occurred there as the Kanzas interacted with the government officials. It was at the Kaw Agency in June 1872 that the great Kanza chief Allegawaho made his eloquent protest against his people being forced once again to move from their beloved homeland.

Today you have walked in the path of the Kanzas who lived here, the farmers who plowed the fields, and the deer who created the woodland track. Research will continue to inform and shape our interpretation. We hope you will return to experience the park as it evolves.