Honoring the Past at the Huron Indian Cemetery

Honoring the Past at the Huron Indian Cemetery

Kansas City, Kansas isn’t as old as some of the other large Midwest cities. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have just as colorful a history as the others. A recent visit to the Huron Indian Cemetery, on 7th Street just north of Ann Avenue, reminded us just how unique our beginnings were. The name Huron was a derogatory nickname bestowed on the Wyandot Indian tribe by the French, in reference to the headpieces worn by tribe members. The grounds were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1971. The cemetery has been officially renamed Wyandot National Burying Ground.

In 1843 members of the Wyandot tribe made their way toward Kansas, after having ceded their lands in the east to the government. While they were camped along the Missouri River, between 60 and 100 of them perished from what is believed to be typhoid. Their bodies were carried across the river and interred on a ridge overlooking  the river bottom area, in what became Huron Cemetery. The Wyandot tribe purchased a total of 39 sections of land from the Delaware tribe. In 1844, another epidemic struck the Wyandot Indians, and over 100 more burials were performed in the cemetery. In the mid 1850’s, the tribe approved a sale of some of the land for the creation of the township of Quindaro. In 1855 tribal status was removed from the Wyandot when they agreed to accept communal land by household. The tribe members were declared citizens, and the tribal government was dissolved. Most of their lands were seized by the government, except for those deemed as burial grounds or communal property.

The majority of the Wyandot moved to Oklahoma in 1967, and maintained tribal and communal property. Over the years the Huron Indian Cemetery grounds have been the topic of many legal battles. Many were attempts to sell the grounds by the federally recognized Wyandot Nation of Oklahoma, for the purpose of commercial expansion. These plans were fought off by the much smaller Wyandot Nation of Kansas, which preferred to preserve the grounds. The Conley sisters, who erected a shack and resided in the cemetery in order to stifle these attempts, were three of the biggest opponents to the sale. Lyda Conley became the first Native American female attorney to be admitted to the bar of the U.S. Supreme Court, and fought the case there.

Kansas Senator Charles Curtis, a member of the Kaw tribe who would eventually become the Vice-president for Herbert Hoover, fought the battle in Congress. In 1916 legislation was passed that entered the federal government into a maintenance agreement with Kansas City, Kansas. While only a small number of graves are marked, many historians believe that there could be between 400 and 800 bodies buried within the grounds. The prolonged future of the sight became steadier after the Native American Graves Protection Act was passed in 1990. The cemetery was named as a National Historic Landmark in 2017. Today members of the Wyandot tribe still call Kansas City, Kansas home. The Huron Indian Cemetery is free to the public, and open from dawn to dusk daily.

By |2018-04-21T07:21:40+00:00March 12th, 2017|Historical Visits|24 Comments

About the Author:

We are Jeff and Crystal, a Baby Boomer couple who love exploring this big blue marble we all call home. After spending the first portion of our lives together raising a family, the empty-nest syndrome finally caught up with us. This has given us the opportunity to spend more time traveling, and seeking out new destinations. We developed this travel blog with the goal of showing how we “Visit Like A Local”. Our itineraries are designed to get us off the interstates, and into the heart of the places we visit. We believe this will allow our readers to choose a cultural experience, and eventually head home with a real flavor of the places they visit. We hope you are enjoying our website and will consider sharing it with your friends. Please come back often, as we post new articles three times per week.

24 Comments

  1. Brooke March 13, 2017 at 1:36 am - Reply

    Thanks for sharing this post – it’s sad to hear of the struggles of Native Americans in their own land but I’m glad that the cemetery has been successfully preserved.

    • Jeff & Crystal March 13, 2017 at 5:31 am - Reply

      Thanks for your comment. It is an ongoing struggle throughout many regions.

  2. Kelly March 13, 2017 at 8:31 am - Reply

    I have never been to Kansas City but this cememtery looks cool and seems to be filled with a wealth of history, even though the city isn’t that old. So cool that you guys found this!

    • Jeff & Crystal March 13, 2017 at 9:30 am - Reply

      Perhaps some day you will have a chance to visit our corner of the world.

    • Mary May 7, 2017 at 3:32 pm - Reply

      I believe my ancestor is buried there. Is there a list of those buried there? Marie Trail died in October or November of 1864. Her husband had been killed by Bloody Bill Anderson about 6 weeks before her death. Other relatives lived at White Church. Phillips was her maiden name. Thanks

      • Jeff & Crystal May 8, 2017 at 5:32 am - Reply

        I’m not sure if a list of all who are buried there exists. You may wish to check with a local historical society.

  3. Melissa March 13, 2017 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Sounds like an interesting place to visit to learn about the struggles of the native Americans. I like to learn about a countries history when visiting.

    • Jeff & Crystal March 13, 2017 at 3:13 pm - Reply

      Most certainly. It’s always good to understand the struggles and victories of the country you visit.

  4. Nicole March 13, 2017 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    Sounds like an interesting place. I haven’t been there. Its good to have an understanding of the past.

  5. Gokul Raj March 13, 2017 at 11:27 pm - Reply

    A good dose of history for the day. These are places that don’t catch attention. Thanks for writing a post on that.

  6. Sonali Aggarwal March 13, 2017 at 11:36 pm - Reply

    I like visiitng interesting places, one more added to my list. I am exciting to visit here.

  7. Bhushavali March 15, 2017 at 2:51 am - Reply

    OMG! That’s such a sad history. May their soul rest in peace! Glad atleast today its a protected site!

  8. John March 15, 2017 at 11:09 am - Reply

    Definitely going to have to add this to my road trip list. I am glad the site has been protected, and definitely want to read some more.

  9. neha March 19, 2017 at 8:37 am - Reply

    Interesting read. How even cemeteries tend to arouse our interest. Though I read through your post that the government was interested in commercial expansion at this area, but not sure if that would be a good idea. Also, it seems like an interesting place to visit, so why not let it be at peace and let people visit this offbeat place.

  10. Judy Johnson April 19, 2017 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    My Greek grandfather John Xarhis was buried there, as well as his daughter Ester. Our family are Wyandot descendents. (Zane) When I lived there as a child our family would go on Memorial Day and put flowers on their graves, the Connolly sisters, and others. Thanks for posting this!

    • Jeff & Crystal April 19, 2017 at 6:46 pm - Reply

      You are welcome. Thanks for sharing your family’s link to the site.

  11. Bill Bolinger April 19, 2017 at 10:04 pm - Reply

    My brother and I hired on the General Motors Assembly plant on May 7, 1962 and lived for six months in the YMCA at 7th and Ann. I remember going to the cemetery but at a later date probably 1964 sometime! Actually I do not remember much. I think the Library was located on the north side because I spent a lot of time at the library. Bill Bolinger

    • Jeff & Crystal April 20, 2017 at 5:28 am - Reply

      The library is just East of the cemetery. They have an access from that end, as well, but it is currently in disrepair. We hope that the powers to be begin better funding the upkeep of this historic site.

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