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Indian Emigration

The arrival of Europeans in North America had a great impact on the Indian populations living in the country. The differences in cultures and the battle for control of the land and fur trade caused conflicts between these groups. Hostilities among European nations and their Indian allies in eastern North America forced many of the weaker Indian tribes to move further west into the Mississippi Valley region. 

The Europeans also spread diseases, including cholera and smallpox, for which the Native Americans had no immunity. This caused a devastating number of deaths among the Native American population. As the number of white travelers and settlers increased in Kansas, these diseases also caused many deaths among the Indian tribes living there.

As the white population increased in the eastern part of the United States in the early 1800s, the demand for land also grew. The land occupied by many of the eastern Indian tribes became too valuable to white settlers and businessmen to remain in the Indians' possession.  In 1825, the United States government negotiated treaties with the Osage and Kansa Indians. They gave up much of their land to resettle many Indian tribes living in the northeast and the upper Mississippi Valley region in Kansas.

The Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830 and forced all Indian Nations living east of the Mississippi River to move to areas west of Missouri and Arkansas. This removal of Indians from the east caused great hardship for the emigrant tribes. Many Indians died on the trip. Once they arrived, the Indians found land that was very different from their original lands east of the Mississippi.

The Indians native to Kansas also suffered because of this action. They were moved from their traditional lands and restricted to much smaller reservations. These changes caused hostilities among the emigrant and native Indian tribes, as well as between the Indians and the white travelers through Kansas. Fort Leavenworth and Fort Scott were established as main outposts for the U.S. Army as it tried to maintain the peace with the Indian tribes in Kansas.  The route which troops traveled between these forts was called the Frontier Military road.

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The Grinter house in present day Kansas City, Kansas operated a ferry across the Kaw River for troops traveling between Fort Leavenworth and Fort Scott.

Map of Indian Reservations in Kansas - 1846


1 - Otoe and Missouri
2 - Iowa
3 - Sac and Fox of Missouri
4 - Kickapoo
5 - Delaware and Wyandotte
6 - Kansa
7 - Shawnee
8 - Sac and Fox of Mississippi
9 - Chippewa
10 - Ottawa
11 - Peoria and Kaskaskia
12 - Wea and Piankashaw
13 - Potawatomi
14 - Miami
15 - New York
16 - Cherokee Neutral Lands
17 - Osage
18 - Cherokee Strip
19 - Quapaw Strip

The United States government attempted to civilize the Indians by having them attend Christian schools, such as the Shawnee Methodist Mission and the Kaw Methodist Mission. These Indian missions were generally not well received by the Indian tribes. Many Indians felt that the teachings at the missions were contrary to traditional Indian beliefs. 

Some white men who came west, such as Jotham Meeker, truly believed he had the Indians well being at heart by converting them to Christianity. Others who followed would not be so concerned about the Indians, and only hoped to make money from the land. They found the presence of Indians to be a hindrance to the development of commerce in Kansas. As a result, it would not be long before the Indians would be forced to move once again to Indian Territory in Oklahoma.

Additional Resources

bulletRead more about Kansas Indians.
bulletLearn more about the effects of immigration on Native Americans.

Study Guide Questions:

  1. What impact did the arrival of white Europeans have on Native Americans?
  2. Why were eastern Indians forced to move west and how did this affect the Indians living in Kansas?
  3. What effect did the increasing presence of white settlers and travelers in Kansas have on the Indian tribes living in Kansas?
  4. How did the United States government's try to "civilize" the Indians and what were many Indians' reaction to this effort?

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