Friday, January 25, 2019

Chief White Plume and the Mixed Blood Allotments

Prior to Missouri becoming a state in 1821, the Kansa tribe (Kaws) gave up their land in western Missouri.

A treaty signed on September 25, 1818, by three principal chiefs and eight warriors effected this land transaction.

Among those Kansa chiefs who signed that treaty was White Plume (ca. 1765—1838). The Kaw tribe at that time occupied lands in what became the states of Kansas and Missouri. It numbered about 1500 persons. White Plume married a daughter of the Osage Chief Pawhuska. This marriage may have been important in establishing friendly relations between the closely related Kaws and Osage. Most present-day members of the Kaw Nation of Oklahoma trace their lineage back to him. He was the great-great-grandfather of Charles Curtis, 31st Vice President of the United States. His village was located at the area of present day Grantville, just northeast of North Topeka, Kansas.

White Plume was first written about as one of the Kaw signatories to an 1815 treaty with the United States. With his daughters married to French traders, American officials considered White Plume to be more progressive than his leadership rivals among the Kaws. In 1821 he was invited by Indian Superintendent William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame to visit Washington D.C. as a member of a delegation of Indian leaders. 

President James Monroe
The group met with President James Monroe and other American officials, visited New York City, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. They performed war dances on the White House Lawn and at the residence of the French Minister. White Plume was given two silver epaulettes as a sign that the U. S. government accepted him as the principal Kaw chief.

Although he did not have authority over most members of the tribe at the time, as a chief among the Kaw (Kansa, Kanza) Indians, White Plume, also known as Nom-pa-wa-rah, Manshenscaw, and Monchousia, was a member of a large delegation brought to Washington, D.C. by Indian Agent Benjamin O'Fallon in 1821-1822.  The delegation included prominent chiefs of the Missouri, Omaha, Oto and Pawnee nations.  The purpose of the visit was to impress the Native American leaders with the power and generosity of the federal government in order to maintain peace on Western borders which the government was unable to defend.

This portrait of White Plume by Charles Bird was one of several painted of this sixteen member delegation. They were the first which Mr. Bird King was commissioned to execute.

White Plume came back from Washington convinced that the future of the Kaw, and his own future, was best served by accommodation with the United States. Already eastern Indians were being expelled from the east and squatted on Kaw lands. The Missouri River served as a main trail for fur trappers and traders headed to the Rocky Mountains. In 1822 the first wagons trespassed through Kaw lands from Missouri to New Mexico on what was known as the Santa Fe Trail. Many white invaders or Americans, including the missionary Isaac McCoy, saw Kansas as the place in which all the dispossessed eastern Indians could be confined to an Indian state. White Plume lived to see the traditional lifestyle of the Kaws become increasingly unsustainable, which was why he attempted to meet the challenges facing the Kaws by cooperation with the U.S. government.

By 1825, White Plume was the principal Kaw chief signing a treaty that ceded 18 million acres to the United States in exchange for annuities of 3,500 dollars per year for 20 years plus livestock and assistance to force the Kaw to become full-time farmers. What was left to the Kaw was a pittance of land thirty miles wide extending westward into the Great Plains from the Kansas River valley.

At the time of the treaty, the family lived at Kawsmouth, the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers, near what today is Kansas City. The treaty of 1825 assigned the Kaws to a reservation 30 miles north-to-south beginning just west of present Topeka and extending far into present western Kansas.
This huge land grab in the 1825 treaty, plus a similar treaty signed by the government with the Osage, opened up Kansas to the relocation of eastern Indian tribes. The U.S. would squeeze the Kaw into ever smaller territories as they brought in more tribes. In defense of White Plume, much of the land he ceded was already lost to the Kaw and was being occupied by eastern Indians or White settlers. What culminated in the Indian Removal Act of 1830 already had it start.

In return for their land, the U.S. government promised the Kaws two thousand dollars worth of cloth, vermilion, guns, ammunition, kettles, hoes, axes, knives, flints, awls, and tobacco. These items were to be issued each September for an indefinite period. A blacksmith was also promised to keep their guns and implements in good repair. The bargain was sealed with a gift of goods valued at $460 as proof of the government's good will and motives of benevolence.

White Plume probably also foresaw that the Kaw would have to learn to live on much reduced territories and change their emphasis from hunting and fur trading to agriculture. Thus, he chose cooperation as his policy. In a letter to William Clark, superintendent of Indian Affairs, White Plume wrote:

I consider myself an American and my wife an American womanI want to take her home with me and have everything like white people.

White Plume had five children. His three sons all died when young men. His two daughters, Hunt Jimmy (b. ca. 1800) and Wyhesee (b. ca. 1802) married the French traders Louis Gonville and Joseph James. Until the United States acquired the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803, the Kaw subsisted primarily on buffalo hunting with only limited agriculture. They were dependent on selling furs and buffalo robes to French traders, such as the powerful Chouteau family, to acquire European goods such as guns. To win support for the treaty from the increasingly important mixed bloods, each of 23 mixed blood children of French/Kaw parents received a section of land, 640-acre plots, on the north bank of the Kansas River just east of the new reservation were granted in fee-simple to all 23 half-bloods of the Kaw tribe, some of which included his own grandchildren.

Two of White Plume's grandaughers-courtesy Kansapedia
That was how early in Topeka’s history a small group of women became landowners, controlling some of its most valuable acreage. Their grandfather, White Plume, was a Kaw chief who joined in signing the treaty of 1825. His participation secured land for his mixed-blood grandchildren and their heirs. These powerful women with French names—Josette, Julie, Pelagie, and Victoire—were each deeded one-square-mile tracts along the Kansas River, long before Kansas was a territory. Their mothers were Kansa and these women were among 23 mixed-blood Kaws who received special reservations.

Louis Gonville, a French trader, arrived at Kawsmouth in 1807 to hunt and trap along the Kansas River. Gonville married White Plume’s daughter, Hunt Jimmy, and they had two daughters, Josette and Julie. When their marriage ended around 1818, Gonville married White Plume’s younger daughter, Wyhesee. Several children were born to this marriage—it appears only Pelagie and Victoire lived to adulthood.

Location of 23 Half-Kaw Allotments -
The 23 "half-breed tracts," as they were called, began at the eastern edge of the 1825 reservation extending 23 miles east on the north bank of the Kansas River, from present-day Topeka nearly to Lawrence. Josette and Julie received tracts three and four, Pelagie and Victoire received tracts five and six.

Josette, also known as May Josephine, moved to the Kansas City, Missouri, area when she was young to live with the Chouteau family. There she served as an interpreter. Around 1839, Josette married Joseph Pappan. Soon after Julie married Louis Pappan, Victoire married Achan Pappan, and Pelagie married Annabel Francouer. The families moved to their tracts in the spring of 1840. Seizing an opportunity, the Pappan brothers began a ferry business to transport travelers across the river.

Begun around 1841, the first ferry consisted of one or two log canoes, which were propelled by long poles. The Pappan’s ferry business prospered as more people headed west, until flooding destroyed the ferry and log cabin in June 1844. Following their loss, the Pappans lived in Kansas City until about 1849, when they returned to discover a competing ferry along the river. They purchased a franchise and resumed their business.

The value of the bottomland had greatly increased by the 1850s and the Pappans received many offers to sell their land. Julie Pappan was a wealthy landowner. She and Louis lived comfortably in their log cabin and cultivated between 15 and 20 acres of the prime bottomland. Their daughter Ellen married to Oren Curtis, had two children, Charles and Elizabeth. In an effort to secure the future of her grandchildren, Julie left 40 acres to her daughter and grandchildren, omitting her son-in-law’s name from the deed. When Ellen died a few months later, legal battles ensued. The minor children, Charles and Elizabeth Curtis, were eventually awarded the deed to the property in 1875. Julie sold her remaining property by 1865 and she and Louis lived their remaining years on the Kaw Reservation near Council Grove.

The rest of the tribe received no such  special consideration, which led to factionalism within the tribe.

White Plume himself did not live on the half-breed allotments, but at the eastern edge where a brick two story mansion about 18×34 had been built for him. This house stood about 50 yards north of the present Union Pacific depot in the village of Williamstown, Jefferson county. White Plume discovered his residence was over the line on the Delaware lands. While there would never have been any objection to this mistake or oversight of the white men who located the Agency buildings, White Plume was too proud to live on the land of another tribe. He abandoned his house and moved up the Kansas River.

When asked why he left the princely mansion, he simply explained, “Too many fleas.” Those who examined the home found it overrun with vermin. Most of the wood trim, doorjambs and window sashings were gone, burnt for kindling. All that remained was a pile of stone and a two story chimney. 

A hasty examination made of the house justified the wisdom of his removal. It was not only alive with fleas, but the floors, doors and windows had disappeared and even the casings had been pretty well used up for kindling-wood,

Thomas L. McKenney, one of the authors of the book, History of the Indian Tribes of North America first published in 1838, recalled Monchonsia as “a man respected by his tribe, cautious, fearless, and brave….

“White Plume (Wom-pa-wa-ra, "He who scares all men"), a chief of the Kansas Indians, was born about 1763 and died past 70 years of age. He is described by Catlin as "a very urbane and hospitable man of good, portly size, speaking some English, and making himself good company for all persons who travel through his country and have the good luck to shake his liberal and hospitable hand." The government built a substantial stone house for White Plume about 1827 or 1828,…”

Father P. J. De Smet, the Jesuit missionary, in speaking of White Plume, says: "Among the chiefs of this tribe are found men really distinguished in many respects. The most celebrated was White Plume." John T. Irving, in his Indian Sketches, thus describes this dignitary: "He was tall and muscular, though his form through neglect of exercise was fast verging towards corpulency. He wore a hat after the fashion of the whites, a calico hunting shirt and rough leggings. Over the whole was wrapped a heavy blanket. His face was unpainted and although his age was nearly seventy, his hair was raven black and his eye was as keen as a hawk's. He was the White Plume, chief of the Konza nation."

John C. McCoy, in a letter to Mr. Cone, dated August, 1879, says: “I first entered the territory August 15, 1830. . . .
“We passed up by it in 1830, and found the gallant old chieftain sitting in state, rigged out in a profusion of feathers, paint, wampum, brass armlets, etc., at the door of a lodge he had erected a hundred yards or so to the northwest of his stone mansion, and in honor of our expected arrival the stars and stripes were gracefully floating in the breeze on a tall pole over him. He was large, fine-looking, and inclined to corpulency, and received my father with the grace and dignity of a real live potentate, and graciously signified his willingness to accept of any amount of bacon and other presents we might be disposed to tender him.”

In my most recent book, Charlie’s Choice, I make reference to the special land consideration given to the mixed bloods in the days of Chief White Plume. It is also a reason the father of the beautiful Kansa woman who seeks him out has a negative attitude towards those of mixed blood. Read more in the book description which you will find along with the purchase link by CLICKING HERE.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

What ever became of those 23 tracts of land? Terri Weatherly