Welcome to the Kaw Nation

Kanza culture


Pappan Ferry was a flatboat crossing the Kansas River at Topeka. It was guided across the river on a rope stretching from bank to bank, and poled across the stream. The operators used to live in a cabin nearby and the passengers often had to lie down in the grass at the site to sleep until morning when the ferry began business. The original use of the ferry was the movement of troops from Ft. Leavenworth.

Owners of the ferry were the sons of a Canadian Trader who came to the Kansas City area and on the St. Louis in the latter part of the 18th Century. The sons were Joseph, Ahcan, Louis and Euberic Pappan. Joseph and Ahcan founded the ferry in 1842, Louis joined them later. The three brothers married half-Indian sisters, Josette, Julie and Victoria Gonvil, daughters of Louis Gonvil, a trader.

By the Treaty of 1825 the Kanza Gonvil girls were entitled to a section of land on the north side of the Kansas River, which prompted the Pappan Brothers to move the reservation and start the ferry.

The ferry did a thriving business until the flood of 1844 washed away both the ferry and their houses. They moved to Kansas City after the flood but were back in Topeka by 1846.


In the buffalo days, a Plains Indian mother didn’t have much time to recuperate from birth. There was too much work to be done. On a typical day, a baby would wake from a night asleep on soft furs, eat and be bathed. The mother would then put the baby on a soft hide that was covered with an absorbent plant material such as burst cattail down or moss. The baby’s arms were placed by his sides, and he was snugly wrapped with only his head protruding. He was then laced into a baby carrier. The mother kept the baby in his carrier in her sight as she worked. At the end of the day, after they returned to the tepee, the baby was removed from the carrier, and the cattail or moss diaper was discarded. When the baby was clean and fed, he was again free to crawl around naked and play.

When children misbehaved, they were never spanked. Indian people wanted their children to be active and energetic to best cope with the world. Hitting them would cause pain and perhaps break their spirit.

The children had extra parents that they would learn from the adults that were the age of your parents were mother and father. If your father had two sisters and your mother had one you would have four mothers. There was no concept of aunt and uncle. The children of the extra parents were not cousins but brothers and sisters. The sons learned from the fathers and the daughters learned from the mothers but all children learned from the grandparents. Grandparents often times were the care givers and raised the children they were responsible for teaching the old ways. The children were never pushed into any activity. They were given the time to observe and make their decision. The children were free to learn as an opportunity arose. For an Indian child this freedom was short-lived. By the time girls were 12, they had family responsibilities. Boys were expected to be food providers and protect the community.

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