Front Page » Writers » Bio: Ron Parks » Archives: Ron Parks


Placed on the Waters of the Neosho

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - One afternoon in late November 1845, a small group of Kanza Indian men rode into a camp of freighters at the Big John Creek crossing of the Santa Fe Road two miles east of Council Grove. The Indians invited James Josiah Webb and companions to visit their village two or three miles downstream. Here a "swap" would take place, Webb trading a blanket coveted by one of the Kanza for a pail full of honey.

Sure enough, the next morning Webb and his companions enjoyed a sweet breakfast in a Kanza lodge: "They insisted we should take some honey; and a wooden bowl, or deep trencher, filled with honey, and a part of a buffalo horn so shaped that it could be used as a spoon, was set before us. And we enjoyed a feast, passing the spoon back and forth, Indian fashion." Afterwards, one of the Kanza warmed a honey-filled rawhide bag in front of the fire, occasionally kneading it, then filled a pail full to be carried on horseback to the Big John Creek campsite, where that evening Webb once again indulged in copious amounts of honey, in consequence suffering a stupendous bellyache.

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - The Kanza slept with their leggings and moccasins on despite the warm June nights. The Indians tied their horses at their heads to be ready to run while others kept an overnight watch.

From the start it had been a Fool's Errand, a situation made plain when the ten men in the exploring party reached what in 1847 white people called "Grand Point," the Kanza name "Big Bottoms," today known as Junction City. Here the Indians became apprehensive. A few days before Kanza scouts spotted their powerful enemies, Comanches, near Big Bottoms.

The leader, U.S. Indian agent Richard W. Cummins, was informed the six Kanza in his party "were unwilling to proceed any further west." Recent events validated the Indians' fears. The previous July the Comanche and Kanza battled near the Pawnee Fork [west of present Larned], both tribes suffering heavy losses. At Cummins' insistence, the little expedition pushed a little further out into the plains. If detected, they would have been easily cut off by the Comanche, although Cummins thought at least some of the Kanza could have escaped. Not far west of Big Bottoms, the agent ordered a halt, concluding "it very dangerous to proceed any further." After another deliberation, the anxious men retreated east down the Kansas River valley.

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - Where they began to die was a beautiful country. Their bodies were strewn in a ragged line across the prairie, enveloped in the lovely, sinuous sandstone hills of central Kansas, the "Smoky Hills," snow-spackled, windswept, and impassive.

The march was a flight of terror, propelled by fear that their enemies were in close pursuit. The few ponies not broken down were mounted, as was the custom, by men, the women and children left on foot. As they advanced, the dead were left in the wake, succumbing to the cold and exhaustion and hunger.

These are the facts...

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - I wrote the following piece six years ago in response to an election outcome. I chose to include it this month because it seems once again to fit the context of our times - relegating a group to second-class status through the instrument of government. The piece is bad polemics but good therapy for the writer. It was published in The Council Grove Republican. Here it is:

I've been doing some serious soul-searching during the last few days as to the error of my ways. This inner journey -- intense, agonizing, and profound -- was prompted by the recent passage [April 5, 2005] of the Kansas Marriage Amendment. Seventy percent of Kansans and 77.25 percent of the citizens of Morris County voted to add to the state constitution a ban of gay marriages and civil unions. And, yes, I admit it, I was one of the 438 unenlightened out of the 1925 in Morris County to vote NO on this measure.

The Silence Was Too Much for Us

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - "Desperately determined to do something desperate," Arthur Inghram Baker went for a walk in Council Grove one February night 150 years ago. He climbed a steep ridge he called Fountain Hill, today's Belfry Hill, looming high over the west side of the Neosho River Valley. It was "cold as blue Blixen, -- it was cloudy, too, and dark."

Standing there alone in the night, Baker felt disconsolate. In January he had become editor and publisher of the Council Grove Press, but his start in the newspaper business had been hampered by the vicissitudes of Kansas weather. During the previous four weeks one snowstorm after another had swept through. Emporia reported two feet of snow. Travel on both the Santa Fe and Fort Scott roads, Council Grove's lifelines to the outside world, was impossible.

Nepaholla Dreams (Part Four of Four Parts)

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - I think a term useful for rediscovering the sacred in the Kansas landscape is liminality. The liminal is related to a sensory threshold that, like all boundaries, both separates and joins worlds. Liminal places in the Kansas landscape are present, interstices amidst the monoculture fields and development grids. These places can still be found because the land and water, up to a point, are resilient, as are our minds and bodies. From way back all of us, humans and more-than-humans, are wired up for liminal experiences.

Now I'm going to go a bit autobiographical on you. In 2009, I floated the Nepaholla River (aka Solomon River) in a canoe from the Waconda Lake Dam to the Nepaholla's mouth at the Smoky Hill River near the Solomon, a small town located between Salina and Abilene. The trip, actually a series of trips, starting in May and concluding in mid-November, covered 172.4 river miles. Here's what I want to share with you:

  • During the hundred hours or so I was on the water I saw a total of six people: four solitary fishermen, one wood-cutter, and one farmer checking his irrigation equipment.

Nepaholla Dreams (Part Three of Four Parts)

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - So we have completed two regional visits, dabbling a bit in the mysteries of story and geography. What are we to make of this? What, indeed, is the point?

A full explication will not be forthcoming here. I will only position a few signposts, five to be exact, that help me, and perhaps you, engage the challenge posed by the somewhat immodest title of this article -- "Reclaiming the Sacred in the Kansas Landscape." Each of these warrants a full essay in itself, a task deferred for now.

The signposts:

1. Acknowledge the losses.
2. The sacred is located in relationship.
3. Language matters.
4. Place matters.
5. It's not over, it's just beginning.

Nepaholla Dreams (Part Two of Four Parts)

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - So we're back in Manhattan ready for another road trip. This time we head east on Highway 24, cross the Big Blue River, its Kanza name Man yinka tu hu u dje', and as we approach the sales barn on the right, we salute the site of the Kanza village of Igaman-sabe', Euro Americans called it the "Blue Earth Village," occupied by the entire tribe from about 1800 to 1830.

After leaving the Blue Earth village the Kanza split into at least three village bands, remaining fractured until their occupation of Kansas ended in 1873. A few miles east of Wamego we come to Vermilion Creek on which Hard Chief's village was located from about 1834 to 1845, the Kanza name for both the creek and this village is Tce xu'li'n.

Nepaholla Dreams (Part One)

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - It beckons. An ancient Kansas holy site west a couple of hours or so. Come pilgrim, join me for a visit. We'll do a day trip, we'll journey to Nepaholla.

At Manhattan we get on Highway 24, driving on over to Tuttle Creek Boulevard, moving up the Big Blue River Valley. Just past the dam of Tuttle Creek Reservoir, we ascend into uplands. On the right are the Blue Hills, a land of trapezoidal mounds deeply etched by tree-lined creeks and ravines draining east toward the lake. We turn west toward the town of Riley, passing through gentle folds of agricultural land interspersed with pastures. Just west of Clay Center we cross the Republican, known as the River of Geese by the Kanza Indians. At this point we enter the sandstone hill country forming the eastern edge of the Smoky Hills. Whereas the Blue Hills projected repetitive, geometric lines, this hill country, though mostly gradual inclines and gently arced mounds, surprises with pockets of buttes, saddles, high ridges, and cliffs stippled with outcroppings of rugged, ferruginous rocks.

What the Numbers Say

chief.jpgCOUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - Numbers can help us understand the story of Council Grove and the Kanza.

In September 1860, the Council Grove Press summarized the federal census conducted earlier that summer, giving us a snapshot of Council Grove and Morris County at that time. Two years later a detailed census conducted on the reservation by officials of the Office of Indian Affairs provided a picture of the Kanza people.

In July 1860, 775 Euro Americans lived in Morris County. Of these 230 -- all white males either born in the United States or naturalized Europeans -- could vote. In the column labeled "colored persons" there were none. There were 443 males (57%) and 332 females.

Want to read more posts by Ron Parks? We surely have more! By default, this page only lists some of the recent stories by this writer. Most of the stories that our authors post are very timeless and relevant, regardless of when their articles are originally published. We encourage you to look back through all of the archives for Ron Parks. The archives for this author are listed left sidebar on this page.

To see the rest of this author's entries, just click on any of the months shown in the left column of this page!


Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links below (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press:



About This Page

This is the main archives page for Ron Parks. To learn more about this author, you can also read a short biography of Ron Parks here.

Just a few of the most current posts by Ron Parks are excerpted in the center of this page. However, we have links to this author's complete archives, listed below.

Other Archives

Do you want to browse some more? You can find archives for other KFP writers by reviewing our complete Directory of Authors and Writers here.

Interested in specific topics perhaps? You may wish to poke around in our Table of Contents.

Recently Featured Stories

Roasting with the Drouth

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - "Yesterday the wind was very high, and the stronger it blew the hotter became the temperature," reported the August 18, 1860 Emporia News. "It felt exactly as though emanating from a heated oven, and most …
Paying Tribute to the Sleeper Below

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - When on the evening of July 16, 1861, Judge J. H. Watson observed several Indian graves on the brow of a hill overlooking the Cottonwood River and Middle Creek in western Chase County, he proceeded …
A Wild, Roving People

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - On Sunday, June 17, 1860, Luke Parsons was returning home from the sandstone "buttes" southwest of Salina, when he decided to visit a nearby camp of Kanza Indians. Although Salina was located about 65 miles …
Speaks Volumes for the Future

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan. - One hundred fifty years ago Council Grove was a bustling commercial center for the New Mexico trade. From April 24 to June 24 "there passed the Grove" en route to Santa Fe 1,400 wagons, 372 …
Mere Intruders Upon Their Soil

COUNCIL GROVE, Kan.- One hundred fifty years ago the fledgling town of Emporia, located seven miles south of the southeast corner of the Kaw Reservation, received visits by two groups indigenous to the Flint Hills. "A party of ten …

News and Opinion





Get Connected

See our FB page!
Subscribe for free!
[Feeds & Readers...]
Follow Kansas Free Press on Twitter, too!
Make Kansas Free Press your home page!

Journalists, sign in.

We're reader supported!

Whenever you use the specific links below to begin any of your online shopping, a portion of your sale goes directly towards the support of this site.

Tech Depot - An Office Depot Co.


Our sponsors help us stay online to serve you. Thank you for doing your part! By using the specific links above (clicking through from our site) to start any of your online shopping, you are making a tremendous difference. By using the shopping links provided on a Kansas Free Press page, you are directly helping to support the Kansas Free Press.

Thank you for your help!

Visit Our Friends!

Kansas Free Press began as a wish expressed by Kansan writers, many of whom write at Everyday Citizen, the widely acclaimed national site. We hope you will continue visiting EverydayCitizen.com, KFP's national birthplace. Many Kansas writers write there, too!

Notices & Policies

All of our Kansas Free Press journalists are delighted that you are here. We all hope that you come here often, sign in and leave us comments, and become an active part of our community. Welcome!

Our writers are credentialed after referral to, and approval by, the editor/publisher of KansasFreePress.com. If you are interested in writing with us, please feel free to let us know here. We are always looking for Kansans who want to write about Kansas!

All authors here retain their own copyrights for their original written works, original photographs and art works. They welcome others to copy, reference or quote from the content of their stories, provided that the reprints include obvious author and website attribution and links to the original page, in accordance with this publication's Creative Commons License.

Our editor primarily reviews stories for spelling, grammar, punctuation and formatting and is not liable or responsible for the opinions expressed by individual authors. The opinions and accuracy of information in the individual stories on this site are the sole responsibility of each of the individual authors. For complete site policies, including privacy, see our Frequently Asked Questions. This site is designed, maintained, and owned by its publisher, Everyday Citizen Media. The Kansas Free Press, KansasFreePress.com, and Kansas Free Press are trademarked names.

© Copyright, 2008-2012, all rights reserved, unless otherwise specified, first by the respective author, and then by KFP's publisher and owner for any otherwise unreserved and all other content.