Lucy Tayiah Eads was a nurse, a mother of nine children and, as the first female elected chief of the Kanza people in 1922, a representative to the U.S. government for her people.
Pauline Sharp, Eads' granddaughter, will share "Chief Lucy of the Kaw Indians" at 11:30 a.m. Aug. 29 at the opening session of Bethel College's Life Enrichment fall series.
"She was born in a tipi by a creek in Indian territory in 1888," Sharp said.
Sharp will present a first-person performance as her own grandmother to share stories of her life.
"People really need to know that (history), so I've kind of taken that on, to get the word out," Sharp said. "People in Kansas need to know the heritage, to know that there are a lot of (places) in Kansas named after the Kaw or the Kanza Indians."
The Kanza — who were also known as the Kaw — had been led by Chief Washunga since 1875, shortly after their forced expulsion from Kansas to Oklahoma. Council Grove still holds an annual celebration of its history with "Washunga Days."
Washunga adopted Eads and her brother, Emmett, when they were orphaned as young children.
"He went to the orphanage and picked them up...he adopted them and raised them," Sharp said.
Eads proved to be an excellent student, learning nursing from the Haskell Institute (as it was then called) and being assigned to work at a German hospital in Brooklyn in New York City, according to Sharp.
"An English actor followed her out there," Sharp said.
Eads married the actor, Herbert Kimber, and they had twins and another daughter before divorcing. Eads realized she would need help and went back to the reservation, where she would marry John Eads and have six more children. Four of Eads' sons would go on to fight in World War II and Korea.
Washunga died in 1908, leaving the tribe without a leader until Eads' election in 1922. Oil and gas had been discovered on the Osage reservation and the Kanza realized they needed someone to negotiate with the U.S. government on their behalf.
"Because she was educated and Washunga's daughter, they elected her chief," Sharp said.
According to an article in the Tulsa Daily World on Nov. 26, 1922, the "Kaw Indians" had been trying for 20 years to work out a claim to $15 million from the U.S. government.
"It would seem that they have a just claim," the article stated, "basing this on their contention that when they sold their old reservation in Kansas in 1873 they were to receive the appraised value of $1.25 an acre. They maintain that there was then collected 10 cents an acre, which went to buy their present land in Oklahoma and that there is still due them a total of $1.15 per acre, with interest. The land involved is in Morris County, Kansas, and east and north to Topeka and along the Kaw River even as far as Kansas City."
"There's a lot of Indian history in Kansas that people aren't aware of," Sharp said. "It wasn't only the Kaw that got taken advantage of, it was all the tribes in Kansas."
Another issue mentioned in the Tulsa Daily World's article was that of rights to the oil and gas found on the Kaw reservation. The tribe maintained that all oil and gas found on reservation lands belonged to them and that any land that had been sold had not included mineral rights.
Though Eads went to Washington in 1924 to defend the tribe's claims to oil and gas rights on their land, all were denied as being contrary to provisions of the Dawes Act of 1887.
"She was trying to re-establish an agency...to deal with tribal affairs," Sharp said. "They were just trying to get re-established. None of that worked for them."
Frustrated with the lack of progress in government dealings and stung by other tribes' denunciation of their female chief, a new chief was elected in 1934, according to Sharp, adding that her grandmother always claimed she was chief for life.
Sharp remembers going to powwows with her grandmother in Oklahoma, being in camp and cleaning up after meals.
"We actually lived behind them in a house in Pawhuska," Sharp recalled. "I just remember her being really nice. She had long black hair; I loved to brush her hair. She was grandma; I didn't realize at the time that she had been chief."
More than 500 Kanza were forced to move from Council Grove to Oklahoma in 1873. By the early 1900s, only 187 were left, Sharp said. Eads died in 1961. The last full-blooded Kanza died in 2000.
"There were no facilities for them at all...the Indians were kind of left to fend for themselves. They got typhoid, that was when the population almost got wiped out," Sharp said. "We are dying out, but we still have our language and our cultures and people telling the story."
The biennial Voices of the Wind People Pageant, which commemorates and celebrates the history of Council Grove, the Kaw Indians and the Santa Fe Trail, will be held Sept. 14 and 15 in Council Grove.
"As long as the language is alive and people are practicing the culture, the tribe lives," Sharp said.
For more information about Sharp and Chief Lucy, visit https://www.kanzachieflucy.com.
The Life Enrichment series is open to all. There is a cost of $20 per semester or $2 per week to attend Life Enrichment. First-time attendees can listen for free. Life Enrichment starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends around 12:15 p.m. each Wednesday at Bethel College, 300 E. 27th St., North Newton.
For more information about the Life Enrichment program, visit https://www.bethelks.edu/life-enrichment or call 316-283-2500.