Defeat of the Plains Indians

Sunday, April 27, 2pm

Defeat of the Plains Indians in Kansas

Presented by: Leo E. Oliva – Santa Fe Trail Historian

Leo E Oliva This presentation examines the conflict of cultures between Euro-Americans and Plains Indian tribes in Kansas, including an overview of the “Indian Wars” with focus on why the tribes were defeated and driven from Kansas. It is easy to judge this as a form of ethnic cleansing, but we need to seek understanding by evaluating the causes and consequences of the defeat and removal of the Plains tribes.

A brief overview of the Euro-American “invasion” of their territories (the westward expansion of the nation) sets the scene for the conflicts that followed. The effects of the overland trails (Santa Fe, Oregon, California, and Smoky Hill), establishment of military forts, war with Mexico, opening of Kansas Territory, Civil War, construction of railroads, and settlement of western Kansas are assessed. Special attention is given to recent research about the influence of the illegal alcohol trade to Indians as a cause of conflict.

The motives for warfare and peace treaties are considered, with mention of engagements and negotiations during the period from the 1820s to the 1870s. Indian resistance to the invasion of their homelands increased as westward expansion of the U.S. grew. Several specific battles and treaties are evaluated. Hancock’s War (1867) serves as a prime example of how misunderstandings led to destruction.

Leo E. Oliva became interested in frontier military history during the 1959 centennial celebration of the founding of Fort Larned and has been researching and writing about frontier military posts, trails across Kansas, and Indian-white relations ever since. A graduate of Fort Hays State University, he earned graduate degrees at the University of Denver. He is the author of Soldiers on the Santa Fe Trail, six of the eight volumes in the Kansas Forts Network series, and Fort Union and the Frontier Army in the Southwest. He has written several other books and many articles, most dealing with the frontier army, trails, and the Indian Wars. He is a student of Kansas history and writes a weekly newspaper column on “Our Kansas Heritage.” He served as editor and publisher of the Santa Fe Trail Association quarterly, Wagon Tracks, for 25 years. He is former chairman and current treasurer of the Fort Larned Old Guard, friends support group for Fort Larned National Historic Site. He is a frequent lecturer on Kansas history, the frontier army, overland trails, and the Indian Wars.

This event is co-sponsored by the Kansas Historical Society and the Friends of Kaw Heritage, Inc.  Connect with us!

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