The Wyandot Nation of Kansas are descendants of Wyandots, formerly known as “absentee” or “citizen class” Wyandot. They called themselves Wendat, meaning People of the Island. However, the French explorers and traders referred to them as “Huron,” which may have referred to the roach headdress worn by Wendat men. Their ancestral homeland is considered the area around Georgian Bay, an inlet of Lake Huron. Due to war and disease, the Wyandot people were forced to disperse; one group went east to Quebec, the other south to Ohio, Michigan, and Ontario. The name Wendat was Anglicized to Wyandot / Wyandott / Wyandotte, while the tribe was in Ohio and Michigan.
In 1843, the Wyandots were forced to leave Ohio. They were the last of the Indian Tribes to be forced from their lands through the Indian Removal Act, and they relocated to Kansas. Prior to the move, they sent out three scouting parties to appraise land in the Kansas-Missouri area. It was decided that the tribe would purchase land from the Shawnee. That land is today Westport and the Country Club Plaza.
The Wyandots traveled to the Kansas City area from Cincinnati, Ohio, aboard two ferries. When they arrived in Kansas City, the sale of the land was held up by the Indian agent in the area. With no land on which to settle, the Wyandots were placed on government land, which is today the old stockyards. On December 23, 1843, the Wyandots purchased thirty-six sections of land from the Delaware Indians for $46,080. They were given an additional three sections by the Delaware in appreciation for the land they had given to the Delaware in Ohio. The spring of 1844 was warm and dry until May, when it began to rain. Rain continued for six weeks, falling every day. The Kaw River rose 14 feet above its banks, covering what is now Kansas City, Kansas, and west Kansas City, Missouri, with water. Disease spread and 100 Wyandots died. These were the first burials at the Wyandotte National Burying Ground in Kansas City, Kansas.
Little did the Wyandot ancestors realize that with their move to Kansas, they were stepping into a political and social powder keg. During the dangerous “Bleeding Kansas” period, they founded the towns of Wyandott and Quindaro, which later became Kansas City, Kansas. The town of Wyandott was established in what is today downtown Kansas City, Kansas. The names of prominent Wyandots still mark the streets: Armstrong, Tauromee, Splitlog, and Clark. In 1855, when the Wyandots became citizens of the U.S., the Wyandot purchase was divided between the tribal members into 80-acre lots. The town of Quindaro was the first free port on the Missouri River. Following the Civil War, the Wyandots that stayed in Kansas (while others moved to Oklahoma) came to be known as the Wyandot Nation of Kansas.
In response to United States government policies and procedures intended to dissolve American Indian tribes, along with repeated commercial development threats to the Wyandot National Burying Ground, the Wyandot Nation of Kansas was incorporated into the State of Kansas in 1959. The Wyandot Nation of Kansas is dedicated to the preservation of Wyandot history and culture and the preservation, protection, restoration, and maintenance of the Wyandot National Burying Ground in Kansas City, Kansas.
Learn more about the Kansas Wyandot, Quindaro, and the Wyandotte National Burying Ground at our Kansas Room Special Collections page.