Kansas Camping Circle

The Tribal Circle of the Kansas

The tribal circle of the Kansas is shown here. It is also known as the camping circle. The figures indicate where the gentes camp or live. The tribal circle is divided into two half-circles—or, in fact, the tribe is separated into two the tribe is separated into two divisions or half-tribes. On the right side of the line dividing the tribal circle live the Ictunga half-tribe, composed of clans or gentes, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. On the left side of the tribal circle lives the Yata half-tribe, embracing clans or gentes, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16. It will be observed that the gentes are so placed on the tribal circle that those having odd numbers are opposite one another, and that those having even numbers are opposite one another. No man was permitted to marry a woman of his half-tribe or from his half of the circle. And, for that matter, he was prohibited from marrying any woman related to him by blood even in the remotest degree.

The lot of the woman was a hard one. Those who remained unmarried were menials—slaves. They planted, tended and gathered the crops, did the cooking, brought the wood, and carried the water. Upon the marriage of the eldest daughter, all her sisters became subordinate wives of her husband. She was in control of the lodge, and her mother was subject to her will. If the husband died, she mourned a year, when his eldest brother took her to wife without ceremony, regarding her children as his own. If there was no brother, the widow married whom she pleased.

The social organization of the Kansas conformed in all respects to the religious development of the tribe. Primitive man was always hedged about with fear. He did not know. The earth and its elements had power to harm him. He added to his list of terrors many imaginary monsters lying in wait in rivers, lakes, on mountains, under certain bluffs and hills, in the sky, invisible in the air—every where to injure or destroy him. It was his object to propitiate these awful beings. His religion was one of propitiation rather than of worship. He was much more interested in preventing some power from visiting calamity upon him than in praising some object or influence in hopes of a favor. Ceremonial societies were instituted to induce some god to send the buffalo, to cure some sickness, to make the corn grow, to keep enemies off, to give success in war, and for many other purposes. Certain gentes of the Kansas had certain duties in these ceremonials.  Their word for a god—and their idea of God was not like that of the Christian—was wakanda. Anything might be a wakanda. The great forces of nature were wakandas. Perhaps the sun was a wakanda— the Wakanda. Anything which exerted a force which the Kansa did not understand was a wakanda. They believed there were immense horned monsters dwelling under certain bluffs along the Missouri River. The Missouri itself was a wakanda. Their life was centered about this river. Islands in it came to have secret or evil significance. The great island just north of the site of Fort Leavenworth came to have some influence on their religious customs. Perhaps ceremonies were performed there, for they lived about this island for some generations. It is now called Kickapoo Island. It may have been the seat of their religion. It is at this time regarded as one of the sacred villages of the dead. Lewis and Clark landed on it July 2, 1804, and replaced a broken mast. They found it named “Wau-car-da-war-card-da, or Wau-car-ba War-cand-da, the Bear-medicine island.” Commenting on this name, Dr. Elliott Coues said:

One word with five hyphens. At first sight it looks like a misprint meant for two forms of one word, as “Wau-card-da.” I have been informed that probably it is meant for Wakan’da wakhdhi’, (where) “Wakanda was slain”—Wakanda being something named after the Thunder-god. This conjecture is borne out by the translation, “Bear Medicine,” showing that there was some mystery or superstition about the place, as anything that an Indian does not understand is “medicine.” But Clark’s MS. gives occasion for a different reading. His words are: “called by the Indians Wau-car-ba War-cand-da [two words with two hyphens apiece] or the Bear Medisin Island.” Here the second word, not the first, is “Wakanda” or “Medicine,” and the first word has b where the last prints d. Lewis’ MS. has a similar word not quite the same.


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