Turned His Face Toward Home: Black Beaver

Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Part 2 of a 2 part Series on Black Beaver

Turned His Face Toward Home

Once the garrison was safely at Ft. Leavenworth, Black Beaver retraced his route toward Washita. South of the Arkansas River, “he met his panic stricken neighbors, the people of the tribes, who were seeking safety . . . from the invasion of their own country on the Washita by Texas troops.”

They carried sad news about Black Beavers own home. What he feared had occurred,“his farm had been laid waste, his home burned and his cattle and horses confiscated and driven away.

In 1862, Black Beaver wrote a letter to the commissioner of Indian Affairs describing what happened.

In the spring of 1861 General Emery requested me to guide his command and also the combined commands from Forts Smith, Cobb and Arbuckle to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas . . I hesitated about leaving my stock until General Emery assured me that I should be paid by the United States for my losses, and on that representation I complied with his request and came with his command to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. . . When I visited my old place and found that my stock was killed some having been destroyed by the wild Indians and some by the Southern Army.” (U.S. Senate 1909, 13-14)

“What is Justly Due Him”

In 1872, Black Beaver filed a claim with the government for the property on the Washita River that had been destroyed by Confederates. The property was valued at $22,268. The commissioner on Indian Affairs recommended compensation of $5,000, which Black Beaver never received.

In response William G. Donna, Iowa and member of the committee on military affairs noted in his report:

“The command reached Leavenworth safety, and several officers certify to the great value of his services and his unflinching patriotism. . . . he is now over sixty years of age, too feeble to earn a livelihood and what is justly due him from the Government.”

Until his death in 1880, Black Beaver continued his efforts at securing compensation for the loss of his property while serving the United States. He never received the compensation promised to him by Col. Emory in the spring of 1861 despite being a“true friend to the army for many years.”

“Noted Delaware Leader”

An account of Black Beaver’s life appeared in the Wichita Daily Eagle 17 September 1922. Written by Joseph B. Thoburn, Secretary Oklahoma Historical Society, the story begins “not all great Indians were chiefs or even warriors.”  

Thoburn described Black Beaver’s early life as “extremely romantic,” as he traveled the “the unbroken wilderness of mountains, plain and prairie, he was schooled in the elements of resourcefulness and self reliance and became a  master of the lore of all that was wild and untamed.”

Black Beaver continued to be a part of history even in his senior years.  Described as a “noted Delaware leader,” he was involved with  the Medicine Lodge treaty negotiations in 1867 and attended inter-tribal councils throughout the 1870s.

He had three, perhaps four, wives and four daughters. Black Beaver converted to Christianity in 1867 and became a Baptist minister.  Black Beaver died May 8, 1880 at the age of  74. Initially buried near Anadarko, his remains were reinterred at Fort Sill in 1975.

Today, Black Beaver’s original grave site is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 73002256).


  • Thoburn, Joseph B. Secretary Oklahoma Historical Society, Wichita Daily Eagle 17 September 1922
  • Ezzo, David A. & Mike Moskowitz, “Black Beaver,” 1998.
  • Hauptman, Laurence M. “Black Beaver: Delaware Hero of the Civil War” American Indian. Summer 2015/ Vol 2. No. 2. at https://www.americanindianmagazine.org/story/black-beaver-delaware-hero-civil-war
  • Jon D. May, “Black Beaver,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=BL001.

The First Kansans

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

A question that we often get is a variation of “Which Native American  groups lived in Kansas?” Hopefully,  the following post will provide some answers.

Since there are no written records from the ancestors of current day Native Americans, we rely on what others, like Spanish explorers observed, and archaeological discoveries. A recent discovery by WSU anthropologist, Donald Blakeslee, has shed new light on Native American life and culture  on the Plains. The Wichita Indian settlement identified as Etzanoa, located near present day Arkansas City, Ks, gives evidence of a well established town much larger than was previously thought.

About the discovery, Dr. Blakslee noted:

“this was not some remote place. The people traded and lived in huge communities. Everything we thought we knew turns out to be wrong. I think this needs a place in every schoolbook.”

Throughout Kansas,  there is evidence of thriving communities pre-European settlement.

Native Tribes

Tribes that are considered native to present day Kansas include Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kanza, Kiowa, Osage, Pawnee and Wichita.

Indian Removal Act 1830

Beginning in 1803, the United States government proposed plans to move tribes from eastern United States to land west of the Mississippi. Finally, the Indian Removal Act passed in spring of 1830. The implementation of the act forcibly removed eastern tribes  to the west including present day Kansas.

Map survey of Indian lands by Isaac McCoy, 1830-36.

In 1829, the Delawares were the first tribe to sign treaties which gave them land in the Kansas territory indicated on the map by Isaac McCoy, 1830.

McCoy, a missionary to the Ottawa and Pottawatomie tribes of Michigan, agreed with US policy that removed Native Americans to land west of the Mississippi. He along with some Native American delegates explored the Kansas Territory. This map is a result of his survey.  The map was redrawn by H. J. Adams.

Courtesy the Kansas State Historical Society, Kansas Memory.

1856 Map of Eastern Kansas

The effect of the  Indian Removal Act of 1830 can be seen in the below map which includes a number of eastern tribes. Indian boundaries indicated on the 1856 map of the eastern part of Kansas include the tribes of Kickapoo, Pottawatomie, Kansas, Sac & Fox, Shawnee, Miami, Ottawa, Chippewa, Peoria, Kaskaskia, Iowa, Delaware, Wyandotte, Piankashaw, and Wea.

Map of Eastern Kansas, 1856. Courtesy Kansas Memory

Simplified Map of Historic Indian Locations

Historic Indians of Kansas, 1541- 1854.


In Harvey County

Beginning in 1855, surveyors worked to map  Kansas. The above surveyor note identified a “Kaw Village” in Township 22, Range 3 W 6th PM, 3 ch N.  The map below shows the location on the Arkansas River in Alta Township, Harvey County, Ks.


From HCHM’s Collection: Objects found in the area.

Along the borders of Harvey, Marion & McPherson Counties, evidence has also been found of Kaw life.

The Kaw

At one time the Kaw or Kanza had territory that covered about two-fifths of what today is Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri. Beginning with treaties from the 1820s and 1830s, the Kanza lands were reduced until 1873.  At that time, the tribe was forced from Kansas to make more land available for white settlement. At that time, there were only about 500 members.

Today, the Kaw Nation has 3,500 members, many live in Kaw City, OK about 70 miles southeast of Wichita, Ks.

Native Americans In Kansas Today

Today, there are four Indian reservations – the Iowa, Kickapoo, Pottawatomie, and Sac & Fox – in Kansas.


For  more information visit  American Indians in Kansas  or the city of  Etzannoa.