by Ron Parks

DECEMBER 21, 2001 (Revised February 7, 2002)

Summary of the Proposal:

Each spring from 2002 through 2004 approximately 300 bur oak seedlings will be planted in the rail right-of-way between Council Grove and the Kaw Nation Heritage Reserve located 3.2 miles southeast of Council Grove. Over time 807 bur oaks will be established as living memorials to the 807 members of the Kaw tribe listed in the 1862 census.

On April 5 and on Earth Day weekend, (April 2022) 2002, 300 bur oak seedlings will be planted in the above-mentioned railroad right-of-way area. Currently managed by the Kansas Horseman Foundation, this linear property is contained by the historical Kaw Reservation inhabited by the Kaw Indians from 1848 until their removal from Kansas in 1873. Local organizations such as the Friends of Kaw Heritage, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kaw Mission State Historic Site, Council Grove CVB, Council Grove High School FFA, local Boy and Girl Scout troops, with the assistance of the Kansas Horseman Foundation and the Kaw Nation, will cooperate in project planning and funding, seedling planting, and tree maintenance.

On April 5 the fifty high school students from across Kansas attending the Steam-a-Link program in Council Grove will participate in the project by planting 100 to 150 seedlings. The Steam-a-Link program is sponsored by the Kaw Valley Heritage Alliance.

Why Bur Oak?

Like the Kaws, bur oaks are native to this area. They are a long-lived species, some surviving for over three hundred years. They are hardy, fire-resistant, and sturdy. Though slow-growing, bur oaks can attain enormous stature. These ruggedly beautiful trees provide shade and aesthetic pleasure for humans, food and shelter for wildlife, and environmental benefits for the planet. Following the Euro-American invasion, oak trees in the Neosho Valley were harvested by the thousands because their hard wood was useful for a wide variety of commercial purposes. Just a few ancient oaks, including two historic Council Grove treesBthe Post Office Oak and the Council Oak, survived this initial onslaught. Now, like the Kaws, bur oak trees are regenerating in the Neosho Valley area. 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.


According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Council Grove, units of 50 bur oak seedlings can be purchased for $28.00. The total purchase cost for the first year of planting is approximately $168.00. Funding possibilities are local foundations, Friends of Kaw Heritage, RC&D. Costs of maintenance will need to be estimated. The sharing of maintenance costs and responsibilities by the supporting entities would be desirable. During a site inspection on February 6, 2002, John Hamel, district forester of the Kansas Forest Service, recommended that the trees be mulched rather than applying weed mats. We will ask the Morris County Transfer Station to provide the mulch material.


As Trustees of the Flint Hills Nature Trail, board members of the Kansas Horseman Foundation will, with consultation with its co-sponsors, especially forestry experts with the Kansas Forest Service, select the sites within the3.2 mile trail segment where the trees will be planted. A special event on April 20 will be planned and promoted at which time representatives of the sponsoring organizations and media will gather for a special commemorative planting, preferably on the Little John Creek Reserve. Ron Parks, curator of the Kaw Mission State Historic Site, will be responsible for chairing a committee to plan, promote, and carry out both the opening commemorative event and the actual planting of the 807 bur oak seedlings. Work teams made up of members of the Kansas Horseman Foundation, Friends of Kaw Heritage, Kaw Nation staff, FFA, Scouts, and other supporting organizations and individuals will then be directed to the sites in the trail right-of-way for the actual planting. Leaders will provide planting instructions, seedlings, tools, and water.


Maintenance of the seedlings, especially during the first three years, will require considerable time and resources. This, too, will require a combined effort of the Kaw Nation, Friends of Kaw Heritage, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Kaw Mission staff, FFA, Boy Scout troop, Kansas Horseman Foundation, and perhaps other individuals and entities who want to support this project. Mulching will be imperative, as will watering during the dry, hot months. Monitoring for wildlife damage and appropriate remedial actions will be a continuing and important responsibility for the project's sponsors. Resources will need to be pooled. For instance, Ron Parks can provide a 475-gallon water tank that fits into a pickup bed to facilitate the watering.


We will produce and erect a panel which identifies the position of each tree and attributes a Kaw name to each tree. At some point in time when the young trees are well established we may wish to place at the base of each tree granite markers engraved with the names of the individual Kaws.


1. Memorialize the historical presence of the Kaw people here.

2. Broaden public understanding of and support for the Kaw Nation Heritage Preserve, Flint Hills Nature Trail, and the Kansas Horseman Foundation.

3. Cement relations between the Kaw tribe, the Council Grove community, and FHNT supporters.

4. Enhance heritage tourism in Council Grove.

5. Provide oak trees for the benefit of future generations of humans and non-humans.

Final Thoughts:

I think the symbolism of this project will be powerful. The 1862 census lists each Kaw by name and also defines the location of their 807 forty-acre allotments. We will honor the Kaws' historical presence here in a way that combines both natural and cultural history. We will also pay tribute to the Kaw people as individuals by means of 807 living, lovely, and enduring memorials.

Your assistance is welcome! To participate, call 620-767-5410 
or e-mail

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