Pauline Sharp, Granddaughter of Chief Lucy Tayiah Eads, Great Granddaughter of Chief Washunga, connects the past with present Native American Experience
Students in Dr. Bonnie Lynn-Sherow’s History of Indians in North America class recently visited the Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park located southeast of Council Grove, Kansas. Pauline Sharp, granddaughter of Chief Lucy Tayiah Eads, guided the students along the Kanza Heritage Trail located on a recently re-patriated Kaw Nation village site. Sharp used the site to bring to life the story of the Kaw People of Kansas and Oklahoma and what it means to her as a tribal member. Professor Lynn-Sherow explained her purpose in choosing to take her students to this site to meet with Pauline.
“Over the past 20 years teaching North American History, I’ve taken students to museums, archaeological digs, mission sites, and more. These repositories are interesting and informative, but have never satisfied my desire to connect history students with contemporary native people. Having Pauline Sharp lead us through the Kaw Village was a wonderful experience and brought home the reality of what it is like to be a contemporary native person in a way that historical interpretive centers cannot.”
The State of Kansas is named for the Kaw Nation (who prefer the name “Kanza”). In 1922, the Kaw selected Pauline’s grandmother, Lucy Eads, as the first woman Chief following the death of her adoptive father, Chief Washunga. Chief Washunga was deeply respected for his steady leadership during the difficult transition from Kansas to Oklahoma (1873 – 1908) and the annual Council Grove
Washunga Days is named for him. Pauline, member of the Kaw Cultural Committee, shared several family stories with the class, including how Chief Washunga would travel from Oklahoma to Haskell Institute to visit daughter Lucy and her younger brother, Emmett – in full tribal regalia–frightening the citizens of turn-of-the-century Lawrence!
In 1925, the grave of a warrior, his horse, and burial kit were discovered near Little John Creek on the site of one of the three government mandated Kaw villages just three miles from Council Grove. The Kaw warrior was re-interred nearby at the base of a 35-foot high monument, honoring the “Unknown Kanza Warrior. The Haucke family donated the land for the monument and local citizens celebrated the monument honoring the Kaw. Vice President of the United States, Charles Curtis, native Kaw and Kansan, dedicated the “Unknown Kanza Warrior” monument to the people of the South Wind.
In 2000, the Kaw Nation, still headquartered in Oklahoma, purchased 168 acres of their native Kansas homeland, including the village site and the Unknown Kanza Warrior Monument—thus ending their 127-year absence from the state that bears their name. This unspoiled stretch of tallgrass prairie, bluffs, ravines, and streams is now known as Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park. Named in honor of Chief Allegawaho, who led the Kaw Nation during the 1873 U.S. Government’s relocation of the tribe to Oklahoma, the park was dedicated in April 2002.
In April 2015, a ceremonial arbor was dedicated at Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park where Kaw singers, dancers and drummers once again celebrated their tribe and traditions in Kansas.
Numerous ruins remain in the park of the limestone huts the U.S. Government built in 1862 to house the Kaw after their removal from Council Grove. Instead of sleeping in the cold huts, however, the Kaw used them to stable their animals and chose instead to live in their more comfortable traditional Kaw structures. The village was later sold to white settlers and the Kaw were relocated one last time – to Oklahoma (1873). According to Pauline, the Kaw were certain they was doomed to extinction from disease, dislocation and hardship. Between 1873 and the present, Kaw people “lost every sacred possession they owned”; most “are in museums across the country.” The recent renewal of Kaw traditions at Allegawaho Park then is even more significant in light of their near tragic past.
The students visiting the Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park in November, walked the two-mile Kanza Heritage Trail, encountered an earthen lodge, the ruins of huts, the monument to the Kanza Warrior, areas of prairie restoration and a Burr Oak (Grandfather Oak) predating the Kaw occupation of the area. They ended the beautiful fall day as a den of coyotes yipped and yowled in the setting sun.
Today, there are an estimated 3,376 Kaw people in the Nation. Though the Nation is now headquartered in Oklahoma, the Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park is the site of the last Kaw village in Kansas and home to the Kaw Nation PowWow held in June in conjunction with Washunga Days. The annual Kaw PowWow is held on tribal ground at Kaw Lake in Oklahoma each August.
For more information about Kaw history, culture, or present-day tribal endeavors, visit www.kawnation.com.