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Kansas: Its Native People

The People of the South Wind – the Kanza Indians – once inhabited the region now called Kansas. In fact, the state was named after these original inhabitants.

Relics and artifacts from tribes that lived in Kansas are preserved in many of the state’s museums, like the Kansas Museum of History in Topeka and The Pawnee Indian Village Museum near Republic.

An impressive remainder of Plains Indian life is found at the fully preserved and excavated El Cuartelejo Pueblo Ruins near Scott City.
American Indian art can be seen at various galleries, art shows, and markets across the state like the American Indian Art Center in Abilene.

All four tribes operate Indian gaming casinos on their reservations in northeastern Kansas. The Golden Eagle Casino near Horton is operated by the Kickapoo. The Sac and Fox Casino is north of Topeka. Harrah’s Prairie Band Casino is run by the Potawatomi in Jackson County. Casino White Cloud is operated by the Iowa tribe west of White Cloud.


Home, home on the range …. these are more than just words in the Kansas state song. They are words that describe the experiences and down home hospitality visitors will discover when they visit Kansas. KANSAS HOTELS

When Dr. Brewster Higley wrote these words on the banks of Beaver Creek near Athol, Kansas, in 1872, he was writing about his Kansas experiences of blue skies and endless prairie.

Over the years Higley’s song became popular across America and was performed by singers ranging from 1920s cowboy singer Vernon Dalhart to Gene Autry and even Frank Sinatra.

In 1932, President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed it his favorite song and his enthusiasm spread across the country. That same enthusiasm for the song is part of the real Home on the Range experience offered in Kansas today.

Located in the geographic heart of the US, Kansas conjures up images of cowboys, Old West gun fighters, pioneer trails, cattle drives, frontier forts, and American Indian culture. And all of these images exist today in tourist attractions found across the state.

In the open prairie of the Flint Hills, cowboys can still be seen working the cattle, much like their counterparts from the 1800s.

Go back in time at the C.O.W.B.O.Y.S. (Cockeyed Old West Band of Yahoos Society) Fall Round-up or Spring Gathering in Ellsworth and experience an 1870s cowboy camp featuring gunfights and a cowboy ball.

The J.L. Canyon Ranch in Brookville, the Moore Ranch near Bucklin and the Victorian Veranda Country Inn in Lawrence each offers city slickers the opportunity to participate in real cattle drives.

The larger-than-life cowboy legends of the Old West were born on the frontier plains and in the cattletowns of Kansas.

Wichita grew from a cattletown to the largest city in the state. A visit to the Old Cowtown Museum a 17-acre living history village with costumed characters recreating 1870s Old West life, or the Prairie Rose Chuckwagon Supper for all you can eat barbecue and cowboy entertainment. WICHITA HOTELS

You can also visit the Hopalong Cassidy Cowboy Museum and see cowboy memorabilia Hollywood-style.

Few towns capture the spirit of the American cowboy as Dodge City. Stroll the streets of the Boothill Museum, a re-creation of the original frontier town where fact and fiction go hand-in-hand. Dodge City celebrates its history with Dodge City Days each summer. Or you can settle in for an evening of entertainment at the Marchel Ranch and Wild West Show. DODGE CITY HOTELS

There are other original cowtowns in Kansas with museums dedicated to their role in the cattle drives. Historic Abilene showcases the history of the Chisholm Trail at the Dickinson County Heritage Center. Museums with exhibits relating to the Chisholm Trail can also be found in Wellington and Caldwell.

For many Kansans, the Old West remains part of modern day life. The Flint Hills Rodeo in Strong City is the oldest continuously held rodeo in Kansas. The Dodge City Rodeo is rated one of the top PRCA rodeos in the country.

Other major professional rodeos take place in Medicine Lodge, Phillipsburg, Pretty Prairie, Coffeyville, Abbyville, Abilene, and Mound City.

The Wild West wouldn’t be wild without the outlaws. The Dalton brothers gang stands out as perhaps the most infamous in Kansas. In October 1892, they attempted to rob two banks at the same time. Visitors can learn more of the Dalton story at the Dalton Defenders Museum in Coffeyville.

The settling of the West brought pioneer traffic on the Santa Fe, California, Oregon, and Smoky Hill trails and with it a frontier military history. Fort Leavenworth, Fort Riley, Fort Hays, Fort Larned, and Fort Scott were gatekeepers to the American West and have excellent museums and living history programs on 19th-century military life. Two of the forts, Fort Scott and Fort Larned, are National Historic Sites.
The state is named after the Kanza Indians, meaning “People of the South Wind”. The state’s American Indian culture is honored in many museums, including the Mid-America All-Indian Center in Wichita, the Pawnee Indian Village Museum near Republic, the Native American Heritage Museum near Highland, and the El Cuartelejo Pueblo Ruins near Scott City.

The Kaw Mission in Council Grove and the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway are state historic sites with living history programs.

The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Strong City and the Konza Prairie Natural Area near Manhattan are just a few of the places to experience the beauty of the prairie.

Kansas is still home on the range for American bison. Two state wildlife refuges, the Sand Sage Refuge in Garden City and the Maxwell Wildlife Refuge in Canton, offer guided tours into the prairie to view these magnificent creatures up close.

Other herds can be viewed up-close at the Smoky Hill Bison Company near Lindsborg, or from a distance at Big Basin Preserve near Ashland, Fort Hays, and north of Pittsburg.


PHOTO: Cowboy and Friends – Photo courtesy Kansas Department of Commerce


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