Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation of Kansas

I’m working on the last few states of the WWI Draft registrations for the Native Names project.  Today, I’m in Kansas.  I’ve noticed a couple of quite interesting things.

There are a lot of registrations, but many, probably about half, are for people born in Mexico.  Many were working on or for the railroad.  They need to be included, because if they were born in Mexico in the last quarter century of the 1800s, their descendants will be living in Kansas today, some 135 years later, or about 5 generations.  We’re quite likely to find their DNA one of these days in an unsuspecting descendant.

Another interesting fact is that many people registered in Brown County, Kansas.  Not huge groups of people with the same name, but still quite a few people.

I ran across Francis Kitch-kum-me.  That is very clearly a Native name and I was actually very surprised to see it near 1920.  The registration board had no idea what to do with a hyphenated name like that, so it became Francis Kitch Kum ME in the index.  One would never find it.  The name also bears a striking resemblance to how one says the Native word for Lake Superior, Gitchi gumee.

Francis was born in 1892 in Holy Cross.  He attended Indian School, someplace, where he participated in military drills.  He farms near Mayetta, Kansas.  We have enough information to determine more about Francis.

I began with Mayetta, Kansas, and sure enough, it lead me to a casino, located in Mayetta, owned by the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation.

The Mshkodésik (“People of the Small Prairie”) division of the Potawatomi were originally located around the southern portions of Lake Michigan, in what today is southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois and northwestern Indiana.  One of the draft registrants with a Native name gave his next of kin as living in Wisconsin.

As part of the Council of Three Fires (Ojibwas, Potawatomi and Odawas) , the Prairie Band were signatories to the 1829 Treaty of Prairie du Chien. Independently of the Council of Three Fires, the Prairie Band were also signatories to the 1832 Treaty of Tippecanoe as the Potawatomi Tribe of Indians of the Prairie.

Under the Indian Removal Act, the Prairie Band were forcibly relocated west, first to Missouri’s Platte Country in the mid-1830s and then to the vicinity of Council Bluffs, Iowa in the 1840s, where they were known as the Bluff Indians. The tribe controlled up to five million acres at both locations. After 1846, the tribe moved to present-day Kansas. At that time, the reservation was thirty square miles which included part of present-day Topeka.

On their website, the tribe provides both a brief history and a historical timeline. It’s interesting that the Potawatomi settled in Michigan in about the 1400s and begs the question of where they lived previously.

One thing is for sure, the Potawatomi weren’t terribly different from other tribes.  We think today of tribes as stable, staying and living in one place, but they weren’t always that way.  Just in this brief timeframe, we track the Potawatomi to Michigan, from Michigan (Great Lakes area) to Missouri, Iowa and finally Kansas about 1840.  And that just takes into account the time we have knowledge of from about 1400 through the mid-1800s.  Where they were and what happened to them in the hundreds of preceding years is still a mystery.

When you visit the tribe’s website, don’t miss the wonderful “Historic Image Gallery.”

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About Roberta Estes

Scientist, author, genetic genealogist. Documenting Native Heritage through contemporaneous records and DNA.
This entry was posted in History, Kansas, Michigan, Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatomi. Bookmark the permalink.

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