Human activity in the Kansas Flint Hills can be traced back about 12,000 years. Human use of the area's natural resources evolved from hunting large and small mammals and gathering wild plants, to the development of ceramic technologies and horticulture, with exchange networks extending well beyond the Plains (ca 6,000 B.C.-A.D.1). Beginning about A.D.1, new subsistence and technological traits developed, including the routine production of ceramics and the use of domesticated plants, and bow and arrow hunting. From about A.D.1000, domesticated plants and associated artifacts reflect a predominantly horticultural existence, and a shift to settled village life (Jones 1999: 6-9, 14-17).
By A.D.1500 - 1825, efficient horticultural activity was combined with increased bison hunting, almost certainly due to acquisition of the horse by American Indian groups. This was a transition time between the prehistoric past and the era of written history on the
Taken from the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve General Management Plan.
The native peoples of this area consisted of the Kansa (Kaw), Wichita, Osage, and Pawnee tribes. These tribes grew crops and lived in semi-permanent homes along streams and creeks. The Flint Hills were a communal hunting ground for the tribes. Along with providing food for the tribes, the Flint Hills also provided a much needed stone known as chert or "flint" to make tools, weapons, and ceremonial pieces.
The Kansa tribe, often referred to as the "People of the Southwind," occupied the mid-Missouri Valley, near the junctures of the Missouri and Kansas rivers. Forced westward by more powerful tribes, the Kansa relocated along the lower Kansas Valley, concentrating their villages between the mouth of the Big Blue River and Stranger Creek. Although they remained in eastern Kansas during most of the nineteenth century, their tenure in the region seemed perennially in doubt. Threatened on their eastern borders by successive waves of emigrant Indians and American settlers, their westward retreat was blocked by the more numerous and nomadic Plains tribes. Ceding their homeland, they sought refuge on a series of shrinking reservations, until in 1872 they surrendered their lands in the fertile Neosho Valley. By 1873 most of the Kansa tribe had removed to northern Oklahoma.
Information provided by "The Kansa Indians; A History of the Wind People, 1673 - 1873" by William E. Unrau.
Further information and exhibits can be found at the Kaw Mission located 17 miles north of the preserve in Council Grove, KS on the Flint Hills National Scenic Byway (K-177).