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Kansas Archeology Training Program Field School

Archeological Investigation of the Kaw Mission (14MO368)

The Kansas Archeology Training Program field school investigated the Kaw Mission State Historic Site (14MO368), 500 North Mission Street in Council Grove, June 2-17,Kaw Mission 2018. Kaw Indian Mission was built in 1851 by the Methodist Episcopal Church South and served as a school for boys in the Kaw or Kansa tribe between 1851 and 1854. Thomas Sears Huffaker, a 24-year-old teacher, was director of the school. The school building and lot were acquired by Huffaker in 1865. Reportedly, there were other owners of the mission in the last decades of the nineteenth century before the Huffaker family acquired it again. The family sold it to the state of Kansas in 1951. Kaw Mission was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and is also a contributing element of the Council Grove Historic District. The school is now operated as Kaw Mission State Historic Site by the Kansas Historical Society.

Previously uninvestigated archeologically, systematic metal detection survey and limited archeological testing were carried out at Kaw Mission during the 2016 KATP field school and 2016 KAA Fall Fling (see KAA Newsletter 38(3):1 and 38(4):5-6). In April 2017 a geophysical survey was conducted on the property.

KSHS Archeologist Tricia Waggoner was the principal investigator. She has been immersed in Kansa archeology since directing a year-long highway project at Fool Chief’s Village (14SH305), of which the 2012 KATP field school was a small part. Her draft report of that massive project is under review. She presented a talk at the 2017 Plains Anthropological Conference in October 2017, “Preliminary Investigations at Kaw Mission.” Waggoner earned an M.A. in anthropology from Wichita State University in 2005 and has been with the KSHS since 2006. In addition to the Kansa Indians, her research interests include fiber and textiles. Tricia is currently president of the Professional Archaeologists of Kansas and a member of the Plains Anthropological Society, Nebraska Association of Professional Archeologists, and the Kansas Anthropological Association.

Waggoner has formulated nine research questions that were addressed during the field school.

1. What evidence exists of the different uses that were reported for the Kaw Mission site, i.e., mission school for Kaw boys, schoolhouse for area white children, council house, courthouse, private residence, tourist attraction, and museum?

2. What can archeology teach us about changes in property use over time?

3. Is there evidence of Kansa influence at the mission?

4. Is there evidence for property uses not previously recorded, e.g., Civil War-era camp?

5. How did different communities (e.g., white and Kaw) view, use, and interact with the Kaw Mission and how did those factors change over time?

6. Is there evidence of a relationship to the Santa Fe Trail?

7. From what era and how intact are the extant cultural deposits?

8. Can the outbuildings that once stood on the grounds be located, their functions revealed, and their dates of construction and razing determined?

9. What is the effect of repeated flooding and other impacts on the property?

The project started on Saturday, June 2, 2018 and the final day of the project was Sunday, June 17, 2018.

For more information about the KATP program, contact: Nikki Klarmann or Tricia Waggoner, Archeologists, 6425 SW 6th Avenue, Topeka KS 66615-1099, 785-272-8681, ext. 266 and 267; Nikki.Klarmann@ks.gov and Tricia.Waggoner@ks.gov.