Two Cultures - Euro-Americans Text

European Traders

Since the late 1600s until1803 the Kaws had continuous contact with European traders. The Europeans–French, Spanish, and English–wanted the furs and skins the Kaws could provide and the Kaws wanted the guns, powder, bullets, cloth, knives, and utensils the Europeans could provide. The Europeans shipped the animal skins to Europe where they were processed into fashionable hats and robes that were much in demand. The Kaws also were involved in a slave trade. The Kaws would capture Pawnee, Wichita, and Padoucah Indians and trade these unfortunate people to the French.

Much of the early trade was conducted with the French. In 1724 a representative of the French government, Etienne de Veniard Bourgmont, visited a Kaw village on the west bank of the Missouri River in what is today Doniphan County. By 1744 the French had established a Fort Cavagnial near another large Kaw village just north of present Fort Leavenworth. For decades the French government sought to regulate the trade with the Kaws and other tribes, but these efforts met with little success. Factionalism within the tribes, cutthroat business practices, national and tribal rivalries, and uncertain markets caused considerable chaos in the European-Kaw fur trade.

After 1763, when the British defeated the French in the French and Indian War, the Kaw country was under the control of the Spanish. The Spanish government had even less success than had the French in bringing order to trade relations with the Indians west of the Mississippi River. Also the Spanish competed with the British for the Kaw fur trade, which created ongoing instability for the tribe.

Despite the fact that the French government lost possession of the Kaw domain, many of the fur traders who operated among the Kaws were French. The French were willing to inter-marry with the Kaws. Some French traders regarded marrying the daughter of a prominent Kaw chief a prerequisite to effectively carrying out trade relations with the tribe. The result was that a number of Kaw "mixed-bloods" bearing French names began to appear in the tribe. Overtime this mixed-blood group was the source of factionalism among the Kaws.

European occupation of Kaw land ended with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. From that point on the United States claimed the Kaw lands. Over the next few decades the Kaws would learn that the Americans would not be satisfied with just trading for their furs and skins; eventually these white people would want and take the Kaws’ land.

American Expansion

In the1803 land transaction known as the Louisiana Purchase, France sold to the United States a vast territory in central North America which included land that later became the state of Kansas. At this time this area was occupied by the Kaw, who were living in the Blue Earth Village near where Manhattan stands today. Since the early1700s the Kaws had associated with the French in the fur trade and had become dependent on European trade goods.

Explorers Zebulon Pike in 1806 and Stephen Long in 1819 came to the central plains and pronounced the land unfit for cultivation and permanent white habitation. It was assumed at that time that the plains were suitable only for Native Americans. In the 1830s and 1840s over twenty tribes from the east coast and Ohio Valley were relocated to reservations in what is now Kansas. Partially to make room for these immigrant Indians, the U.S. government constricted the domain of the Kaws in a series of legal actions beginning with the Treaty of 1825.

Americans traveling on the Oregon and California Trail and the Santa Fe Trail began to realize that, in fact, these prairies were quite fertile and desirable as places of settlement. The government followed suit by making plans to effect the settlement of Americans into Indian Country. Soon after Kansas becoming a territory in 1854, a series of treaties and legal machinations, some of questionable integrity, rapidly disenfranchised Indians from their Kansas lands. Most of these Indians were moved south to "Indian Territory," now Oklahoma.

The Kaws signed a treaty in 1846 which forced the tribe to give up land in northeastern Kansas. Indian agent Richard Cummings then selected a tract on the Neosho River as the new Kaw Reservation. It was twenty miles square and included the site of present Council Grove.

When Kansas became a territory, land-hungry Euro-Americans came by the thousands to establish their land claims. Unfortunately, the Council Grove Kaw Reservation was overrun by the whites. By 1859 nearly one thousand Americans had settled illegally on the Kaw Reservation. Many of these people said they had been misled by faulty maps and bad advice from Indian agents.

In 1859 the federal government forced the Kaws to sign another treaty which diminished their reservation to a tract nine by fourteen miles. Council Grove was situated just north of this new diminished Kaw reserve. However, the whites continued to pressure the Kaws and by the early 1870s hundreds of settlers had once again overrun the diminished Kaw Reservation.

In 1872 the Secretary of the Interior of the U.S. government, Colombus Delano, came to Council Grove to inform the Kaw that they would be removed from Kansas once-and-for-all. Kaw chief Al-le-ga-wa-ho made an impassioned plea to Delano with the following words: "Great Father, you whites treat us Kaw like a flock of turkeys, you chase us to one stream, then you chase us to another stream, soon you will chase us over the mountains and into the ocean." The chief’s appeal was ignored, and in June 1873 the six hundred remaining Kaws were removed south to a reservation in Indian Territory.

Santa Fe Trail

While the Oregon and California Trail was primarily a route for people to travel to the west, the Santa Fe Trail was used for trade and to transport military supplies during and after the

Mexican War. Long before the Euro-Americans "discovered" the road to Santa Fe, Native Americans had traveled over roughly the same route on trading, hunting, and raiding expeditions. The first American to travel the trail was William Becknell, who in 1821 led a party of traders to Santa Fe. Over the next few years many wagon caravans followed Becknell's route to and from Santa Fe and Missouri.

In 1825, an official government survey of the Santa Fe Trail was completed by George C. Sibley. In order to insure good relations with the Osage Indians along the route, a treaty was signed in August, 1825 in Council Grove. It gave Americans and Mexicans free passage along the Santa Fe Trail through Osage territory in exchange for trade goods valued at eight hundred dollars. A few days later, the Kaw Indians signed a similar treaty near present-day McPherson, KS.

About two-thirds of the trail's eight hundred-mile-length crosses through Kansas. Thousands of individual and freighting company wagons traveled in this region from 1821 to1866. By 1842, caravans of fifty to sixty wagons each were hauling $130,000 in goods over the Trail each season. Pulled by oxen and mules, the heavy freight trains traveled three or four abreast for better protection from the Indians. The ruts they left made the trails easy to follow.

Normally, it took six to eight weeks to get from Missouri to Santa Fe with the wagon trains averaging twelve to fifteen miles a day. In 1848, on a bet, French-Canadian Francis Aubry set out to prove that it was possible to take three caravans to Santa Fe in one season. His shortest trip from Santa Fe to Independence took only five days and sixteen hours, but he ruined at least six horses.

Trade flowed both ways on the trail - manufactured goods, especially cloth flowed into New Mexico in exchange for silver, wool, and donkeys which traders took back east.

In 1880, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad reached Santa Fe, thus ending the Santa Fe Trail Era.

Historical Council Grove

"During our delay at the Council Grove, the laborers were employed in procuring timber for axle-trees and other wagon repairs, of which a supply is always laid in before leaving this region of substantial growths; for henceforward there is no wood on the route fit for these purposes. . ."

–from Commerce of the Prairies
by Josiah Gregg

Council Grove is one of the most historic communities in Kansas. It was named by U.S. Commission George C. Sibley in August 1825. Sibley met with the chiefs of the Big and Little Bands of the Osage Indians in the large grove of hardwood timber on the east bank of the Neosho River about three hundred yards from where the Santa Fe Trail crossed this stream. Here the Osage leaders signed a treaty granting free and safe passage to Euro-Americans on the Santa Fe Trail. Sibley stated in his diary: "I suggested the propriety of naming the place ‘Council Grove’ which was agreed to."

The site of Council Grove was a camping and meeting place for Native Americans, explorers, soldiers, and Santa Fe Trail traders. Here they found ample water, grass, and abundant wood due to the extensive groves of hardwood timber. As a rendezvous point for caravans moving west on the Santa Fe Trail, Council Grove provided both Hispanic and American travelers an opportunity to repair wagons and secure provisions in preparation for the long overland trip to Santa Fe.

During the Mexican War the U.S. Army built a wagon repair depot here. Soon afterwards, when stagecoach service began on the Santa Fe Trail, the firm of Waldo, Hall & Company operated a station, shops and corrals. Seth Hays, a great grandson of Daniel Boone and a cousin of Kit Carson, came to Council Grove in 1847 to establish a trading post for the neighboring Kaw Indians. Then in the late 1850s Hays built a mercantile building to trade with the Kaws and Santa Fe Trail travelers. This building became known later as the "Hays House," which today is a fine eatery.

When Kansas became a territory in 1854, Council Grove was located within the boundaries of the Kaw Reservation. The only white people that were legally sanctioned to live here were government-licensed traders, the Kaw Mission staff, and their families. However, territorial status brought a flood of American immigrants to Council Grove and its environs. By 1859 an estimated one thousand white people were living illegally of the Kaw Reservation. The Treaty of 1859 diminished the Kaw Reservation, placing Council Grove outside its boundaries, thereby freeing the town to function as a legal entity.

Most prominent citizens of pre-Civil War Council Grove originally came from the "Border States" and were strongly influenced by the southern culture. The wealthiest man in town, Malcolm Conn, was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Two prominent Council Grove slave-owners were Kentuckian Seth Hays and Missourian Thomas Huffaker. The town's southern roots was probably a major factor in Council Grove escaping an attack by the infamous "Border Ruffian" Dick Yeager when he and his men rode through during the Civil War.

Because of prolonged legal wrangling in the wake of the Kaw Treaty of 1859, the Council Grove Town Company did not receive a town patent from the U.S. government until 1863. During the Civil War the town held its own economically due mainly to the trade with the Kaw Indians and travelers on the Santa Fe Trail . However, in 1866 the Union Pacific Railroad, Eastern Division, was constructed to Junction City, and that town became the eastern terminus of the Santa Fe Trail, which thereafter circumvented Council Grove.

When the Kaw Indians were relocated to Indian Territory in 1873, Council Grove merchants no longer benefited from the tribe’s annual expenditure of twelve thousand dollars in government annuities. However, by this time Council Grove had been transformed into a fairly prosperous regional trade center serving area farmers and ranchers, and the town’s period of historical significance had receded into the past.

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