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Museum - Early People

Early People section in the main gallery of the Kansas Museum of History

Explore the stories of American Indians—the Kansa, Osage, Pawnee, and other native tribes at the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka.

 You'll see:

People have lived in Kansas for thousands of years. The Osage, Wichita, and Kansa are just a few of the tribes who made the Plains their home for centuries.

Native American culture changed dramatically when Eastern tribes were forced westward because European settlers moved onto their lands. Tribes sometimes clashed with each other as they vied for Plains hunting grounds. Making matters worse, the United States government often didn't enforce treaties setting aside lands for tribes.

Human effigy headTraffic on the Oregon and Santa Fe trails, the slaughter of buffaloes by whites, and construction of new railroads put many pressures on Plains Indians. Some raided white settlements. By 1870 the federal government had forcibly removed many Kansas tribes to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).

Today, over 20,000 Kansans claim Native American roots. More than 20 percent live in Wichita. The Iowa, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, and Sac and Fox tribes own reservations in northeastern Kansas.

"Long before the Europeans found them, they had named the animals, the fishes, the trees, the plants, and the birds, and had named themselves, Ni-U-Ko'n-Ska, Children of the Middle Waters."
--John Joseph Mathews, Osage historian