Welcome to the Kaw Nation

Beaver Creek Wetland Tours

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The Kaw Nation Environmental Department guided students from four area schools on tours of the Beaver Creek Wetland between May 1 and 7. Students from Blackwell Middle School, Newkirk Middle School, Braman School and Shidler Middle School explored the wetland habitat as they learned about its role in mitigating effects of climate change.

“The wetland is a huge filter for pollutants,” Environmental Specialist Daniel Ceniti explained to Blackwell students.

The KNED taught students about the wetland’s part in water storage and filtration, sediment trapping, nutrient cycling and flood control.

Students played plant identification games in a pond area and amid tall grass.

“We found a black snake by the creek. It came out of a hole,” Cody Chrisler of Newkirk declared as he and a few friends climbed from the creek bed.

Ceniti taught students about water quality, showing them how to read water quality monitors and look for indicators like turbidity and acidity.

After he relayed a reading with high acidity in the pond, KNED Director Dr. Dejene Alemayehu noted that an oil spill had occurred up the hill in April, explaining that this spiked the acidity of the water. He said, “We advise oil drillers to drill away from bodies of water.”

Alemayehu and Ceniti introduced the children to the concept of soil divisions. Alemayehu dug up and offered students chunks of earth so that they could compare the moisture and texture of different soil levels.

Students also visited the Kanza Museum during the trip. Kanza Museum Director Crystal Douglas told them the history of Kaw Nation.

As Newkirk students played the drum, Douglas appeared and explained the relationship of the drumkeeper to the drum.

“When you bless a drum, spiritually, it’s like a brother or a sister. You feed it. You give it light. You take care of it and make sure it doesn’t split,” she said.

Discover Salina Naturally


Kaw Nation gave a dance exhibition on Sunday in Salina, Kan., at the Discover Salina Naturally festival, an afternoon dedicated to Salina’s nature.

Kaw Nation Tribal Council Secretary Elaine Huch thanked the Discover Salina Naturally festival board for inviting the nation and spoke of how the Earth is considered in tribal decision-making.

“As Chief Seattle said many, many, many years ago—and I’m paraphrasing this—‘Whatever decisions you make, think of how it will affect seven generations down.’ Being on Tribal Council, we make some pretty important decisions. And when we make decisions, we pray on it. And we ask for God’s wisdom. We think about how it will affect our children and our children’s children,” she said.

They demonstrated the grand entry, a memorial dance, round dances, the southern cloth dance and the fancy shawl dance. Also, a song was dedicated to families of veterans.

Head Singer Kinsel Lieb explained to the crowd how the singers cherish the arena and the drum.

“To go along with this sacred circle that was referred to earlier by my brother [Curtis Kekahbah], we all can admonish the ways of this circle, both Indians and non-Indians,” he said.  “We treat this drum with utmost respect. We cherish this drum because it has many, many meanings to all of us, both spiritually and physically.”

Other Discover Salina Naturally activities included a nature walk led by the Smoky Hills Audubon Society and plant displays.

Flint Hills Day


Kaw Nation presented the part of Kansas culture for which the state is named during Flint Hills Day at the Flint Hills Discovery Center in Manhattan, Kan., on Saturday. The day was dedicated to displaying different aspects of the state.

Pauline Sharp greeted Discovery Center visitors and discussed the Kanza story with them.

“Did you know the state of Kansas is named after the Kaw Nation? We call ourselves the Kanza,” she quizzed people.

Curtis Kekahbah and Erin Pouppurt related Kanza stories to visitors.

While discussing his experiences as a traditional counselor at a Veterans Affairs hospital, Kekahbah told of the Native concept that ailments affect the spirit, mind and then the body.

“You are at dis-ease,” he said, adding that the goal in the spirit-mind-body approach is to bring the patient back to ease.IMG_3209

Also, he spoke of the importance of extended family in tribal communities. He said that aunts and uncles have traditionally held roles as parent figures, teaching children of siblings. Plains Indian children had as many fathers or mothers as there were brothers or sisters of the parents.

“That’s why I feel bad for people who say they don’t have any family,” he said, speaking to the value of having those connections.

Pouppurt talked about Native American traditions and regalia.

Flint Hills Discovery Center Director Fred Goss explained tribes’ significance to the Flint Hills.

“It’s the use of the buffalo and its byproducts, how they hunted in the central and western part of the state, and wood and water here and how people adapt,” he said.

Other Flint Hills Day activities included a bird display by the Millford Nature Center and Native American craft-making for children. Goss said that the center is happy to continue its relationship with the tribe and is planning the 2015 Flint Hills Day.

In the evening, the Kanza gave a dance exhibition at the Blue Earth Plaza.

Luther Pepper explained how the Kanza people value the powwow.

“When all of us made it through a bad winter, we would celebrate. When we had a good harvest, we would celebrate the good crops or whatever Wakanda had blessed us with,” he said.

He added that each element of the powwow is treated with sanctity.

“These songs that we sing are sacred. This regalia is sacred,” he said. “But we don’t worship them.”


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