Potawatomi Books, Gary E.  Mitchell]


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The new region and the geographic answer to final removal for the Potawatomi was a place called the "The Great American Desert" by early explorers to the area.

Although the area lacked the beauty of the Great Lakes, the circumstances of removal left the tribal people little choice.

Many other tribes were there to keep the Potawatomi company. And if misery loves company, then all the tribes went through the same feeling of desolation and all the emotions of displacement.

Tribes such as the Kanza, Delaware, Ottawa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kickapoo, Shawnee and the Pawnee shared the new lands and in total owned 14,328,544 million acres, but sadly not for long. All of these tribes had their own unique history and their relocation experiences paralleled the Potawatomis.

It was a history of lost homes, land, culture, and traditions. It amounted to another period of adjustment for the tribes, just like so many times in the past. History repeats, a wise man once said, because human nature hasn't changed, and these few words typified the Potawatomi removal years and the coming years.

And in short time, the new lands of the tribes became the target of further white encroachments and in rapid order the promised home became the territory of Kansas.

In early scouting reports, tribal members were fairly positive about the new area in Kansas. The new reservation, initially 30 miles square or 576,000 acres, was a combination of good land for crops with good hunting and fishing areas.

As in the previous stops expectations were high for the tribe. The Potawatomi signed the 1846 treaty with the hope for lasting peace with the whites and an opportunity to live away from the corrupting influences of the traders and their liquor trade. Most of all, they welcomed the chance to get away from the white settlers who had encroached on their lands at each stop in their westward march.

In the 1846 treaty, the Potawatomi group that located to the Linn County area after the stop in the Missouri's Platte Country rejoined the Council Bluffs Potawatomi.

But the past differences were never resolved, so the groups set up on the new reservation in totally different locations. The members from Council Bluffs set up their homes near the Big and Little Soldier creeks in present day Jackson County, while the Linn County band moved into the area of the Kansas River -- a good thirty miles from the former group.

The Potawatomi group from Linn County made an initial encampment at Mission Creek, a location within Potawatomi territory, but several miles from the Kansas River. The site wasn't far from the later Kansas town of Dover in Shawnee County.

Additionally, a major settlement was made at the junction of the three branches of the Wakarusa Creek.

In time, the Linn County group migrated toward the Kansas River where the location offered fertile lands for crops and the water courses were well wooded.

The area was a promising place for future trade such as when enterprising Potawatomi operated a ferry across the Kansas River, charging small fees to the traders and trappers on the way to the California-Oregon Trail.

The band from Council Bluffs favored a conservative approach to life and wanted to retain the traditional ways of the past. They were leery and distrustful of the white man ways and their institutions.

This was no factor with the Linn County group who wholeheartedly embraced the ways of the white man. Despite these differences, both groups agreed with the separate living conditions.

The 1846 treaty made both groups a tribe again and like a marriage, for better or worse. But such arrangements sometimes require a separation and that came to pass a few years later.

First published in the Topeka Capital Journal, Thursday, April 6, 1996 and later reprinted in the Potawatomi Traveling Times in Crandon, Wisconsin, 1996.
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