Route 66 barely passes through Kansas, its 13.2 miles of asphalt curving just across the southeast corner of the state, taking travelers through Galena, Riverton and Baxter Springs. The area is perhaps best known for its history of lead and zinc mining, and Route 66 was not only a conduit for the transport of mineral ores, but also an economic diversifier. The three towns experienced a period of growth as hotels, restaurants and gas stations were opened to travelers.
Several American Indian tribes called Kansas home long before it became a state. To the Osage, Arapaho, Comanche, Kanza, Kiowa, and Pawnee, Kansas is ancestral homeland. Occasionally the Cheyenne joined the Arapaho and ranged into northwest Kansas. The Wichita from Oklahoma and Texas also pushed into southern Kansas as the pressure of white settlement forced them northward. In the 1820's, the U.S. government designated Kansas part of Indian Territory and moved several eastern tribes into the area, including Cherokee, Chippewa, Delaware, Iowa, Otoe, Kickapoo, Miami, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Sac and Fox, Seneca, Shawnee and Wyandot. The tribes already in Kansas had to make room for the newcomers.
By the late 19th century, most of these tribes were forcibly removed again. Kansas was opened to White settlement in 1854 and gained statehood in 1861, shrinking the boundaries of Indian Territory to the area of present day Oklahoma, where many still live. Only the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation remain in Kansas today, along with the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri (who reside in Kansas and Nebraska).
The Osage Nation, or Wah-Zha-Zhi—whose ancestral lands in southeastern Kansas include those 13.2 miles of Route 66—were removed to a reservation in Indian Territory in 1872.
The name Kansas comes from the Kanza tribe, known as the “People of the South Wind.” The name was adopted by French mapmakers in the 17th century.
Today, the Kanza are the federally recognized Kaw Nation headquartered in Kaw City, located northeast of Ponca City, Oklahoma. The Kanza are related to the Osage, Ponca, Omaha and Quapaw tribes who, prior to the 15th century, all lived as one people in the lower Ohio Valley region.
For more information about the Kanza people and the Kaw Nation, visit www.kawnation.co
Charles Curtis was the 31st Vice President of the United States, serving 1929-1933. Curtis was an enrolled member of the Kaw Nation and was also of Osage and Potawatomi descent.