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Native American Tribe Puts The Kaw Back In Kansas

The Native American tribe that gave Kansas its name will dance in the state for the first time in 142 years.   

The Kaw or Kanza tribe once occupied most of what became Nebraska, and nearly half of modern day Kansas. Tribal spokesman Ken Bellmard says bad treaties and European diseases decimated the tribe.

"Our reservation got smaller and smaller until it was just basically in the Council Grove Area," says Ballmard. "And this Allegawaho park was a location of some of our villages, and there’s the ruins of an old council house that the government built us."

The Kanza were forced out of Kansas and into the Oklahoma Indian Territory in 1873. But Ballmard says the Kanza, or "People of the South Wind" left something behind.

"Kansas took its name from our tribe," says Ballmard. "We consider it our aboriginal homeland."

Tribal leaders are celebrating a homecoming of sorts this Saturday: the opening of its Allegawaho Heritage Park.  The park’s just south of Council Grove, a couple of hours southwest of Kansas City.  Tribal dancing is scheduled to get started at 3:30 p.m.

I’ve been at KCUR almost 30 years, working partly for NPR and splitting my time between local and national reporting. I work to bring extra attention to people in the Midwest, my home state of Kansas and of course Kansas City. What I love about this job is having a license to talk to interesting people and then crafting radio stories around their voices. It’s a big responsibility to uphold the truth of those stories while condensing them for lots of other people listening to the radio, and I take it seriously. Email me at frank@kcur.org or find me on Twitter @FrankNewsman.
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