The Kansas City area has been home for thousands of years to the American Indian community, the region’s oldest ethnic population. In Missouri, census data estimates the American Indian community at 60,099; Kansas estimates its population at 47,363.
Until 300 A.D., the Hopewell tribe hunted the area around Kansas City. The Mississippi tribe occupied the area between 760 and 1290 A.D. These tribes, which were stationary, were joined by the tribes of Kansa, Osage, Otos and Missouri. They spread over the states of Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. The tribes depended on the large supply of buffalo and wild game for their sustenance.
In 1825, the federal government forced the Kansas and Osage tribes to give up their land along the Missouri River and move to reservations in Central Kansas. There are no reservations in Missouri; in Kansas, the Kickapoo and Pottawatomie tribes have federally recognized reservations.
The Wyandot tribe, whose original lands extended along Lake Ontario, had been moving west following a bloody conflict with the Iroquois. In 1842, the Wyandot were removed from their lands in Ohio with the lure of 148,000 acres of free land west of the Mississippi. The promise was an empty one. The Wyandot eventually were awarded a tract of land by the Delaware tribe at the mouth of the Kansas and Missouri rivers. The tribe bought additional acreage and platted Wyandot City that was later to become Kansas City, Kansas.
The influence of the Wyandot is everywhere in the area from the namesake of Wyandotte County to such street names as Sandusky and Tauromee. The Huron Indian Cemetery is a nationally recognized historic site. The Oklahoma branch of the Wyandot maintains land in the area where a new casino is helping generate income for the tribe. In 1999, the Wendat Confederacy was re-established and reconciliation of the diverse branches of the tribe was begun.
An Act of Congress in 1924 allowed American Indians to leave the confinement of the reservations. Increasing numbers of Native Americans began to move to cities after the end of World War II in search of economic opportunity. In the last 10 years, the Kickapoo and Pottawatomie tribes have successfully begun several Indian-owned and operated corporations to bring economic stability to their tribes.
Currently there are more than 98 American Indian tribes in the Kansas City area.