Kaw Nation oral history suggests original homelands around the Great Lakes, but by the mid-1800s the Kanza were the predominant tribe in what was to become the state of Kansas, named after the Kansas Nation. Their territory extended over most of present-day northern and eastern Kansas with hunting grounds extending into the West. Euro-American intruders coveted the tribe's desirable lands along the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, and a succession of treaties undermined the Kaw Tribe and their culture. The results were devastating and over time the tribe's original 20 million acre domain was reduced to only 80,000 of the poorest acres, sub-divided into 40-acre plots for each family at present-day Council Grove, Kan.
Promised annuities were seldom delivered or were obligated to unscrupulous traders, while disease decimated the tribal population. Finally in 1872, over the strong protests of Chief Allegawaho and his people, a federal act moved the Kanza to a 100,137-acre site in northern Kay County, Okla. From a population of several thousand, the Kaw declined through disease and starvation to 1,500 by 1800 and to 194 by 1887. Yet even in Indian Territory, their land claim was not safe.
The Kaw Allotment Act of 1902 legally obliterated the tribe until federal reorganization in 1959. The Kaw Nation survived adversity and today is growing stronger as a federally recognized, self governing tribe recovering its cultural heritage and working to preserve and revive its language. The site of the last Kaw village in Kansas, Little John Creek Reserve, located three and one half miles south of Council Grove, Kan., has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and is being restored as Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park to tell the story of Kanza. The tribe built the Kanza Museum to preserve their culture and heritage and host an annual Oklahoma Powwow at Washunga Bay Powwow grounds.