Welcome to the Kaw Nation

Our Name, Our Culture

The name of the people: The first Europeans to come into the Mississippi Valley and Great Southern Plains were the French. The interest of France in America was for commerce and trade and these pursuits required a working of the American geography, the American people and the American languages. The Frenchmen asked the people, “What do you call this river… That valley… this tribe” and, he would eagerly record the answers in ledgers and on maps. But, “what he wrote was the result of phonetics.””U-Moln-Holn, Dweller-on-the-Bluff, became the Omahas, and the Uga-Xpa became the Quapaws. The Paw-Hahln became the Poncas… the Pa-Iln became the Pawnees, and the Wi-Tsi-Ta became the Wichitas…the A-Pa-Tsi became the Apaches.” (Mathews) Wah-Sha-She became phenoticized to Ouazhazhi by the French, to Ozazged by the English and finally to Osage. And so it was that Koln-Za or Kanza became phoneticized by first the French, then the English to Kansas and Kaw.

In 1726 Jacques Marquette asked the name of the great River that flows toward the convergence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. The Frenchman was told and he faithfully recorded the name KANZA because the River and the territory around the River was their domain. Euro-Americans coming later continued to refer to the territory as KANZA (KANSAS). Later still, when the territory became a State, the name KANZA (KANSAS) remained. Not every one in Kansas is aware that the trails they travel stretch into the past and into the future as surely as they stretch north and south, and east and west. However, many are well oriented in time and space.

William I. Koch, president of Koch Petroleum, is a native Kansan and winner of the 1992 America’s Cup and the 1990 and 1991 Maxi Yacht World Championship. Mr. Koch formally requested and was granted permission from the Tribe Council at the 1992 America’s Cup. Koch represented the United States of America in this world-class event and the Kanza Tribal Chairwoman, Wanda Stone, christened the Yacht. Koch is a sailor and good sailors understand, like the Kanza, the power of the wind. They understand they can not control the wind, but seek to gain a relationship with the wind. Mr. Koch is one of the Kansans that is aware of his orientation in time and space and knows his ally’s is his ally. Is it any wonder Mr. Koch consulted the People of the South Wind.

The good citizens of Council Grove, Kansas consider themselves friend of the Kanza. Every June, Council Grove sponsors a Washunga Day Celebration which is widely attended by tribal members. In September 1992, Council Grove presented the premiere performance of “Voices of the Wind People.” The multi-media outdoor performance was billed as “an historical drama of the Kaw Indians, the Santa Fe Trial and Council Grove, Kansas.” Ron Parks, historian and Kaw Mission Museum Director, wrote the play giving editorial rights to the Kaw Nation. Chairwoman Wanda Stone stated she was very pleased with Parks’ historical representation.” I think he did a very good job,” said Chairwoman Stone, “in showing the way it really was. They sought our involvement from the beginning. He gave us the right to edit the script…but really we only made one change.” Kaw and Osage dancers and drummers from Haskell Indian Junior College were among the participants. Vice Chairman Luther Pepper narrated the role of Allegawaho and presented the author a trade blanket at the final curtain call “I think it really got to him,” Pepper said. Pepper said Parks told him it meant a lot to him and that Parks said, “It’s just something I never expected.” Co-Chair Pepper said no one expected a box office of over 1,000 either. “With such a turn out,” he said, “the likelihood it will be repeated every other year is pretty good.”

The Kaw Tribal Dances are held every October at the powwow grounds near the Old Council House. Other Tribes are invited and there are dancers in every category. There is great excitement at the Parade-In and everyone seems joyous and happy at coming together again. Many people come from out of state and it is obvious this is their “Home Coming.” The high excitement of Parade-In remains during the entire three days and settles down only after the last contest winner is announced. Although all Tribes are welcome, and many Tribes attend and contests are held, there is little doubt the Dance is Tribal and it is Kanza. All in attendance understands recognizes and appreciates the basic and unique nature of being a member of an American Indian Nation.

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