The history of the Wyandotte National Burying Ground at 7th and Minnesota Avenue dates back to the arrival of the Wyandot people in Kansas in 1843. When the Wyandot tribe was removed from Ohio to Kansas, they settled in a low-lying area near the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. During their journey, many tribal members became ill, and disease spread quickly. Between 60-100 died once they reached their new home. Survivors buried their dead on a ridge overlooking the Missouri River, which became known as the Huron Cemetery.
As Kansas City, Kansas, grew, the cemetery was repeatedly threatened by commercial development. Situated so close to the business district, the cemetery had become valuable commercial property, and attempts were made to sell the sacred ground and remove the bodies to the Quindaro cemetery. Lyda Conley, an attorney and member of the Wyandot tribe, along with her sisters Helena and Ida, dedicated their lives to protecting the cemetery. Lyda took her case to prevent the sale of the cemetery to the Supreme Court, becoming the first Native woman to argue a case before the high court. Although it was ultimately dismissed, Conley’s case and passionate defense of the cemetery attracted national attention and support from local lawmakers. In 1912, Senator Charles Curtis introduced a bill in congress to preclude the sale of the cemetery. In the decades after Lyda Conley’s death, several more attempts were made to sell the land. However, the cemetery had become known and appreciated as a historic landmark, and no buyers materialized. In 1971 the cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and in 2017 it received National Historic Landmark status and was officially renamed the Wyandotte National Burying Ground.
It is believed that between 400-800 people are buried at the cemetery; the exact number is unknown. Many of the markers and headstones have been vandalized over the years, and efforts are underway to restore the markers and preserve the beautiful grounds. More information about Wyandot history and the Wyandotte National Burying Ground is available in the Kansas Room at the Main Library.