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Cool Things - Map of Kansas Territory

Map of Kansas and Nebraska territories, 1854This map shows the 1854 boundaries of American Indian tribal reserves in Kansas Territory.

Our country's history is filled with legislation designed to "protect" American Indian tribes from white settlers.  Sometimes the laws were well intentioned and other times not, but in all cases they ultimately failed.

By the early 1850s it had become clear the latest legislation was not doing its job of supporting the reservations system that had reserved parcels of land for the tribes (hence the term "reservation").  Designed to buffer tribes from white settlers, the law actually had little impact.  Whites continued to encroach upon reserves despite the fact that treaties stipulated "the land the Indians lived upon should be to him and his posterity a permanent home forever."

The Office of Indian Affairs decided to institute a different approach in 1853 under its new  commissioner, George Manypenny, who believed there were no western lands where tribes could be safe from white encroachment.  Instead of the land being held in common by the tribe, Manypenny promoted allotments to individual members.   On the surface, allotments seemed to be a win-win situation for both sides.  Each person on the tribal rolls received 160 acres of reservation land.  Any excess property would be purchased by the government which would sell it to railroad companies, white settlers, and speculators.  In addition, Manypenny felt strongly that Indians living alongside and amongst whites would greatly improve their chances of becoming "civilized" according to white standards. 

Close-up of 1854 map showing Kansas Territory Indian reserves.To this end, Manypenny began negotiating with American Indians living west of the Mississippi River, convincing 11 Kansas tribes between March and June of 1854 to cede nearly 13 million acres.   This ignored a clause in the recently passed Kansas-Nebraska Act "not to interfere with the treaties, laws, & etc. made with the Indians by the United States."

This map illustrates the results of Manypenny's negotiations with tribes living in the Kansas and Nebraska territories.  It was compiled by Army Captain and cartographer Seth Eastman.  Manypenny's inscription at bottom left certifies that the boundaries drawn by Eastman were accurate and true.  The map does not reflect that one of the larger tribes, the Potawatomi, refused to give up their communally held  lands, stating, "We are far enough West.  Look over treaties, bear them in mind.  Let them sink deep into your hearts, for they are sacred pledges, and see what is our due and your duty in them."

George Manypenny's authorization of the map's authenticity.Nevertheless, Manypenny's actions opened up many Kansas lands to settlement by white immigrants.  Manypenny later came to regret the experiment with the allotment system.  In 1885 he wrote, "Had I known then, as I now know, what would result from those treaties, I would be compelled to admit that I had committed a high crime."  The Dawes Act of 1887 formalized the allotment system and further broke up the reservations.  Many tribal holdings were lost by being mortgaged, leased, or sold to whites.  By learning to use the judicial system to their advantage, though, Indians were able to protect some of their tribal lands. 

Kansas currently has four federally recognized American Indian reservations, two with off-reservation trust land.  The Iowa reservation is in Brown and Doniphan counties, the Sac and Fox reservation is in Brown County, the Kickapoo reservation is in Brown County, and the Potawatomi reservation is in Jackson County.

This map is in the collections of the Kansas Historical Society's Archives.

Entry: Cool Things - Map of Kansas Territory

Author: Rebecca Martin

Date Created: January 2012

Date Modified: December 2014

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.