One of the most historic communities in the world plans a special celebration in recognition of its past this weekend.
“Washunga Days are planned at Council Grove on the old Santa Fe Trail, Friday through Sunday, June 19-21,” announced Lisa Boyer, treasurer of the planning committee.
“It’ll be the 33rd anniversary edition of the recognition of our community’s strong Kaw Nation heritage, the town’s prominence of importance on the old wagon train trail from Missouri, to New Mexico, and our additional other 24 national historic landmarks,” Boyer added.
Appropriately, Friday evening, June 19, will feature a Kaw Powwow. Elaine Huch, chair of the Kaw Nation, said, “‘Hawé.’ On behalf of the Kaw people, I would like to take this opportunity to invite you and your family to participate with us in this year’s Washunga Days festivities.”
Each year, Kaw citizens make the trip to Council Grove from their homes in Oklahoma and elsewhere to be a part of this celebration of the tribe’s historical heritage in the area.
“We come to honor the bond of goodwill that exists today between the tribe and the people of Council Grove. Generations of good people, native and non-native alike, have endeavored to forge and continually strengthen this important cross-cultural relationship,” Huch explained.
“It is in the same spirit of goodwill and celebration that we also gather together for the annual Washunga Days Powwow on June 19th and 20th,” Huch insisted.
This year’s Washunga Days Powwow will be in a new dance arbor located at Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park, about 3-1/2 miles southeast of Council Grove.
The area beneath the arbor is used for dancing and ceremonies and is called the arena. For the Kaw people, the arena is a sacred place.
“The ground has been blessed by the Kaw spiritual leaders. Photographs may be taken during the Powwow, but please ask permission before taking photos of individuals. Photos should never be taken during veterans’ songs, flag songs, prayers or any other time specified by the master of ceremonies. This is all part of our powwow etiquette,” Huch informed.
“This beautiful, lighted Native American dance venue features state-of-the-art sound technology, and is nestled in the scenic heart of the tribe’s park. Won’t you please join us? ‘Wíblahaⁿ,’” Huch welcomed.
According to Boyer, Council Grove’s weekend Washunga Days events actually begin with a flea market, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, all day Friday continuing through Sunday at the baseball fields.
“Kickoff and welcome” will be at the Riverwalk at 4:15, Friday, with inflatables, carnival, food vendors and beer service during the evening.
The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) group has scheduled a 5-o’clock flag raising at the Madonna of the Trail.
Friday evening entertainment schedule features Jammin’ Biscuits, 5:30, Main State; Magic by Pete, 6 o’clock, Stage 2; Call It A Night, 7:30, Main Stage; and Dirty Bourbon Band, 9:30, Main Stage.
The “TCT RunShunga 5K” is Saturday morning, June 20, at 8 o’clock, with the Washunga Days parade, expected to attract hundreds of entries from affair, is down historic Council Grove’s Main Street at 10 o’clock.
Special attractions on tap Saturday are a tractor show, car and motorcycle show, arts and crafts displays, Purple PAWS Dog Adoption, petting zoo, camel rides, afternoon swim at the CG Aquatic Center, and Derby Races as well as face painting, inflatables, food vendors, and beer service.
Special Kaw Nation programs are set for Kaw Mission State Historic Site, which served as a school for Kaw youth in the 1800s, and now is a state-supported museum. They include native philosophy, 2 o’clock; Kaw regalia and culture, 3 o’clock, and exhibition dance, 4 o’clock.
Saturday’s musical entertainment: Tallgrass Express String Band, 11:30, Main Stage; Dance Revolution Studio, 1 o’clock, Stage 2; The Clearview Band 1:30, Main Stage; Guys and Dolls, 2 o’clock, Stage 2; Tip Toz Dancers, 3 o’clock, Stage 2; Jared Pete Gile, 3:30, Main Stage;
Kan-Ducky Derby, 4 o’clock, Riverwalk Walking Bridge; Magic by Pete, 5 o’clock, Stage 2; Casey Edgar Band, 5:30, Main Stage; Tanner Dirks Band, 7:30, Main Stage; Stars & Stripes Fireworks, 9:40, Riverwalk; and Erik Dylan 10 o’clock, Main Stage.
Worship Service is Sunday morning, June 21 at the Riverwalk, beginning at 10 o’clock, and food vendors are to be open until 1 o’clock.
Afternoon features at the ball fields include carnival attractions; concessions; A League of Their Own, 1:30; and Vintage Baseball, 3 o’clock.
Complete information is available at www.washungadays.com, and on Facebook.
“The Kaw Nation’s mission is to once again establish a presence in Kansas and create a gathering place to educate, promote and preserve the heritage of the American Indians for whom the state of Kansas is named, said Pauline Sharp of Wichita, vice president of the cultural committee for the Kaw Nation. .
“The Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park is especially significant because that was the site of the last Kanza villages in Kansas before our removal into Indian Territory in 1873,”continued Pauline Sharp. “This was where our ancestors lived, and I think if you talk with any Kaw tribal who has gone out to the park, it has a special feeling.
“You can feel the ancestors there. It is a very special place,” Sharp insisted.
Centuries ago, the Kaw claimed a territory that covered roughly two-fifths of modern Kansas, and parts of Nebraska and Missouri.
But, by the mid-19th century, as European settlers claimed more and more land around Council Grove, the Kaw Nation was forced into what is now Oklahoma. It ended up just across the Kansas line, near Newkirk and Ponca City.
“In 1873, when the tribe was forced from Kansas, it had fewer than 500 members. By 1902, fewer than 200 were on the tribal rolls. Today, the Kaw Nation has nearly 3,500 members,” Sharp related.
On February 28, 2000, the Kaw Nation was able to purchase 146.8 acres of land along the Little John Creek near Council Grove. Two years later, it dedicated 168 acres as Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park.
“A two-mile trail winds through a timbered valley and follows Little John Creek. In the trees are remains of the 138 limestone huts the government built for the Kanza in 1862. Very few remain today,” Sharp noted.
A monument on the property stands as a tribute to an Unknown Kanza Warrior.
The park also is the site of the Kaw Agency building where Chief Allegawaho pleaded with government officials to let his people remain in Kansas. He told them:
“Great Father, you whites treat us Kanza like a flock of turkeys. You chase us to one stream, then you chase us to another stream. Soon you will chase us over the mountains and into the ocean.”
The Kaw, or Kansa, people lived in three villages southeast of Council Grove from 1848, until their removal. The Kaw Mission, Council Grove’s oldest stone structure, showcases the heritage of the Kaw, the Santa Fe Trail and early Council Grove.
In recent decades, the Kanza have worked with local residents to re-establish ties in Kansas. For the past 33 years, Council Grove has hosted Washunga Days in June to celebrate the Kaw legacy to the community. Washunga was chief of the Kanza from 1873 until 1908.
“We have only been in Oklahoma for the past 142 years,” Sharp said. “We were in Kansas for 375 years. We were in Kansas a lot longer than we have been in Oklahoma.”
A few years ago, Sharp said, Kansas tourism and government officials approached the Kaw asking what Kansas could do to help the Kaw Nation meet its goal of establishing a presence in Kansas.
Two years ago, the Kaw Nation was awarded a $350,000 matching grant from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks & Tourism for the dance arbor and other improvements to the Council Grove park.
With the arbor, it is hoped the Kaw Nation can also help bring in cultural arts and crafts into the Flint Hills region, said Jason Murray, president of the Kansas project and a member of the Kaw National Tribal Council.
“We met with the Governor Sam Brownback and tourism officials who wanted us to come back,” said Murray of Blackwell, Oklahoma. “There was a lot of conversation about how tourism is a business in Kansas, and how the Kaw Nation could help bring tourism and marketing into Kansas.
“We think people will want to come and watch us dance and bring business to Council Grove,” Murray said.