History of Kansas

The first archaeological finds show that the human presence in Kansas dates back to ten thousand years ago. When Europeans arrived in the 16th century, this region was inhabited by the Wichita, Kansas and Osage Indian tribes. Other tribes, such as the Cheyenne, Comanche, Arapaho and Kiowa Indians, populated Kansas starting in the 19th century.

The first Europeans who explored this territory were the Spaniards. Francisco de Coronado, arrived with an expedition in 1541 in search of the mythical land of Quivira. Later, in 1601, Juan de Onate crossed this region. Starting in the 17th century, Kansas was part of the French territory of Louisiana. The French trappers had their businesses in Kansas, but never colonized the territory. From 1762 the territory was under the control of Spain. In 1800, however, France retook the province of Louisiana which it sold three years later to the United States, a decision supported by President Jefferson, in what was the first major expansion of the Thirteen Colonies westward. Lewis and Clark explored the Kansas territory on an expedition that began in 1804 for the Pacific coast. Other expeditions that explored this region were those of Zebulón Pike (1806) and that of Stephen Long (1819).

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In 1820 the real colonization of Kansas began, thanks to the Santa Fe railway, which connected Kansas with the territories of Oregon and California. The territory was used by federal authorities to settle Indian tribes displaced from other territories, given the growing demand for land by white settlers. In 1854 the United States Congress created the Kansas Territory, separating it from the Missouri Territory of which it was a part. In 1861, Kansas was admitted as a non-slave state into the Union. During the Civil War, which began in the year of Kansas admission, 1861, the state defended the cause of the Union. After the war, which ended in 1865, conflicts with Indian populations increased, as settlers pressed for the occupation of new lands. Thus, in 1878, most of the Indian tribes were relocated from the prairies and relocated to the Oklahoma reservations. Along the railroad, the development of Kansas was associated with farming and commerce during the 19th century. Some cities such as Abilene, Ellsworth, Wichita and Dodge City, were founded, and grew as they became supply points for the transit of cattle herds to Texas.

Beginning in the 1870s, Mennonite settlers from Russia successfully introduced a variety of wheat resistant to the harsh winters of Kansas, which transformed the landscape of the state and attracted thousands of new settlers. After the First World War, the crisis in the prices of agricultural products seriously affected the Kansas economy. This crisis lasted practically until the Second World War which relaunched the local economy, close to the enormous demand for traditional agricultural products and livestock, the exploitation of its mineral resources (mainly oil, natural gas and coal) was encouraged, and new industries were created, many of them for the construction of war material.

Kansas: what to see

Even if they sometimes contest its authenticity, the men of the West have ended up assuming the image attributed to them by the cinema, convinced of how picturesque certain legends are to the point that in cities like Dodge City, in the west of the State of Kansas, they are offered to tourists, shows of the good old days.

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In the historic Front Street rebuilt as it was in 1870, near the famous Long Branch Saloon, trigger guns give demonstrations of shooting during duels, while stuntmen perform in movie-worthy fights. Towards the end of the 19th century the city was a rather infamous cattle market. Many outlaws, whose careers ended in the streets of the city, found eternal rest in the Boot Hill Cemetery, others were locked up in the Old Fort Dodge Jail by the sheriffs.

In Wichita, the nostalgic atmosphere of the Old Cow Town, rebuilt as it was at the end of the 19th century, better evokes what these cattle-trading towns could be, with 30 period houses, blacksmith shops and station from which the cattle convoys depart.

The Wagon Ho caravans, made up of awning wagons, wind their way along the dusty paths that cross the Kansas prairies and lead tourists, to the rhythm of the Old West, to discover the trails of Oregon and Santa Fé.

On these tracks were staggered forts intended to give security to convoys on their way to borders that retreated incessantly. A famous fort is Leavenworth, built in 1827 northwest of Kansas City. Its old walls now house a military school and more than one high-ranking officer has completed his studies in this historic environment, now equipped with the most modern systems. The fort’s museum displays an interesting collection of chariots from the last century, one of which allegedly carried President Lincoln. The fort’s existence soon led to the founding of one of the state’s oldest towns, Leavenworth, which houses 19th-century furniture and utensils in the County Museum.

Last remains; of this past the bison of the Maxwell nature reserve, in the center of the state, grazing in some part of that region that once belonged all to them. Today a sedentary population has transformed Kansas, which is covered with wheat, corn and beautiful fields of sunflowers; the territory is irrigated by reservoirs and artificial lakes, whose surroundings have sometimes been transformed into pleasant holiday resorts. One of the most striking contrasts between the old and the new Kansas can be seen in Wichita, the main city of the state, where the Old Cow Town is close to ultramodern aircraft manufacturing plants and where cultural life takes place in a large complex shaped circular with futuristic trends, the Century II.

Tourist and cultural places– Many of Kansas’s cultural institutions sprang up starting in the 1960s, and most importantly they were centralized in the cities of Wichita and Topeka. This fact was possible thanks to the Kansas Arts Commission, a body that was in charge of promoting cultural events. The most important cultural institutions in this state are the Kansas State Historical Society Museum, the Wichita Museum of Art, the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum, the Dyche Museum of Natural History, the Mid-American All- Indian Center, the Entomológico Snow Museum, the University of Kansas Museum of Anthropology, the Spencer Museum of Art, the Birger Sandzen Gallery and the Dwight E. Eisenhower House-Museum.

Many of Kansas’ historic landmarks pay homage to North American indigenous peoples and the era of the pioneers. Both are remembered in the historic sites of Fort Scott, and Fort Larned. The Cherokee Strip Living Museum, located near the Oklahoma border, commemorates the opening of the Indian Territory to settlers.

Curiosity – Rodeo is a popular activity in the state of Kansas, as are some popular festivals, among them the Lindsborg Festival, (dedicated to folk music, held every two years), the Svensk Hyllningsfest, (commemorates the contribution of Swedish pioneers who settled in Kansas), or others similar organized by the Czech, German or Russian communities.

Kansas State Flag

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