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Munsee communities still here

Recently, your paper did a news article on New Gnadenhutten, Mich., and the Moraviantown Munsee Nation of Ontario. I greatly appreciated this article. I've worked with the relatives of this tribal nation that pursued an 1824 executive order promising 24,000 acres of land west of the Mississippi if they returned to the United States.

The Christian Munsee people came down the Mississippi River to St. Louis from Prairie du Chien in 1839 and up the Missouri to Westport. They found there was no land set aside for them as promised. They lived between what is now Muncie Station, Kan., and Edwardsville, Kan.

The Kansas River Flood drove them north, where they stayed until they purchased four sections of land in the 1854 Delaware Treaty. Railroad speculators pushed them off of this land after the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed in 1854. By 1859, the Munsee or Christian Tribe of Indians was poised to move onto the reservation of the Black River and Swan Creek Chippewa west of the Ottawa reserve. A June 16, 1859, treaty accomplished this union of tribes on that reserve.

The state of Kansas and the U.S. federal government spent the next 41 years trying to get the Munsees to go to Indian Territory as many of the tribes in Kansas did. The U.S. government succeeded in terminating the Munsees' recognition with an act of the 55th U.S. Congress in 1897. This act was finalized on Nov. 8, 1900. Each tribal member got a per capita payment and 40 acres of reservation land as the Munsee tribe was dissolved legally.

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I've worked since 2004 to get this tribe restored to federal recognition by the U.S. Congress. I've had success finding tribal rolls and documents, and the Munsee people drafted a tribal constitution in 2005. The Munsee people have a fraction of their former reservation in tribal hands while the Church of the Bretheren in Bethlehem, Pa., still holds title to the tribal cemetery in the Chippewa Hills, west of present-day Ottawa, Kan. It is my hope that many will realize that there are vibrant Munsee communities in Ontario, Wisconsin and Kansas, and that they aren't gone into history's past.

- Mike Ford

Baldwin City, Kan.