Wyandotte Nation

Published on June 7, 2012 by Amy

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Wyandotte Nation
Wyandotte Nation

The Wyandotte Nation is a federally recognized Native American tribe in Oklahoma. They are descendants of the Wendat Confederacy and Native Americans with territory near Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. Under pressure from Iroquois and other tribes, then from European settlers and the United States government, the tribe gradually moved south and west: to Ohio, Michigan, Kansas and Oklahoma in the United States.

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Smaller organized groups of Wendat descendants live in Kansas and Michigan in the United States. The Huron-Wendat First Nation has a reserve at Wendake, Quebec, Canada, with a population close to that of the Wyandotte Nation.

Government

The headquarters of the federally recognized Wyandotte Nation is in Wyandotte, Oklahoma, and their tribal jurisdictional area is in Ottawa County, Oklahoma.

Leaford Bearskin is the elected Chief, currently serving a four-year term. He has been repeatedly re-elected, serving as chief since 1982. The Wyandotte Nation issue their own tribal vehicle tags and operate their own housing authority. They have a seven-man police department providing 24-hour law enforcement response to the Nation and surrounding area.

Of the 4,957 enrollment Wyandottes, 1,218 live in the state of Oklahoma. Enrollment is based in lineal descent; that is, the tribe has no minimum blood quantum requirement.

Economic development and programs

  • The tribe operate the Bearskin Fitness Center, the Wyandotte Nation Environmental Department, and the Bearskin Health and Wellness Center. The Turtle Speaks is the tribal newspaper.
  • The tribe also owns the Wyandotte Nation Casino in Wyandotte, Oklahoma. Additionally, the tribe owns a truck stop, a fuel station, and a smoke shop. They issue their own tribal vehicle tags.
  • They also own the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in Kansas City, Missouri and have legal control of the nearby Wyandot National Burying Ground. The Wyandotte Nation has recently acquired land in Park City, Kansas, with the stated intention of building a gaming casino and hotel.
  • Events

    The tribe’s annual powwow is held in Oklahoma during the first weekend of September and features contest dancing, gourd dancing, and a social stomp dance.

    History

    The Wendat, their name for themselves in their language, or Wyandotte, as they came to be called after merging with other related groups, are Iroquoian-speaking Indians from the eastern woodlands. Their name is thought to mean “dwellers on a peninsula” or “islanders.”

    The first Wendat Confederacy was created around 1400 CE, when the Attignawantan (Bear Nation) and Attigingueenongnahac (Cord People) combined forces. They, in turn, were joined by the Arendaronon (People of the Rocks), Ataronchronon (People of One Lodge), and the Tahontaenrat (Deer Nation). At one time scholars believed these peoples to be remnant bands of the St. Lawrence Iroquoians, who established villages located near present-day Montreal visited by early French explorers.[8] But, archeologists have excavated large, 16th-century settlement sites north of Lake Ontario, with extensive evidence leading them to conclude that this was the original site of the coalescence of the Wendat people. They later migrated to the area near Georgian Bay, where they were encountered by French explorers in the early 17th century.

    French explorers encountered the Wyandotte around 1536 and dubbed them the Huron. They were fierce enemies of the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, then based in present-day New York. Decimated by smallpox epidemics, the Wendat Confederacy became seriously weakened during the early decades of the early seventeenth century. In 1659, they were defeated by the Iroquois and most migrated southwest for safety, where they settled with Odawa and Illinois tribes. Others moved east into Quebec.

    Remnants of the associated Wendat and Petun peoples came together as a new group, which became known as the Wyandot of Wyandotte. By the beginning of the 18th century, the Wyandotte people had moved into the Ohio River Valley, extending into areas of what would become West Virginia, Indiana and Michigan. Around 1745, large groups settled near Sandusky, Ohio. After the American Revolution, a treaty signed with the United States in 1785 confirmed their landholdings. However, the 1795 Treaty of Greenville greatly reduced its size.

    The 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs reduced the Wyandotte lands drastically, leaving the people only small parcels in Ohio. In 1842, the Wyandotte lost all of their land east of the Mississippi River, under pressure of the United States government policy to remove the Native Americans to the West. They made a treaty with the U.S. government by which they were to be compensated for their lands.

    They were removed to the Delaware Reservation in present-day Kansas, then considered Indian Territory. During this migration and the early months, their people suffered much illness. In 1843, survivors buried their dead on a high ridge overlooking the Missouri River in what became the Huron Cemetery in present-day Kansas City, Kansas. In 1971 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now called the Wyandot National Burying Ground.
    After the American Civil War, Wyandotte people who had not become citizens of the United States in 1855 in Kansas, were removed a final time in 1867 to present-day Oklahoma. They were settled on 20,000 acres (81 km2) in the northeast corner of Indian Territory. In 1893, the Dawes Act required that the tribal communal holdings in the Indian Territory be divided into individual allotments. The land was divided among the 241 tribal members listed on the Dawes Rolls. The Wyandotte members in Oklahoma retained some tribal structure, and still had control of the communal property of the Huron Cemetery, by then annexed into Kansas City.

    Huron Cemetery

    For decades, the Huron Cemetery was a source of controversy between the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma and Wyandot descendants in Kansas. The former wanted to sell the property for redevelopment. Kansas City was also eager for that development, as the city had annexed all of the property in the area. By 1907 it was a prime site; nearby was a new Carnegie Library, the Brund Hotel, and the Masonic Temple under reconstruction after a fire.

    In 1906, the Wyandotte Nation authorized the Secretary of Interior to sell the cemetery, with the bodies to be reinterred at nearby Quindaro Cemetery. This proposal was opposed by Lyda Conley and her two sisters in Kansas City, who launched what became a multi-year campaign to preserve the burying ground. They achieved much support. In 1916 Senator Charles Curtis of Kansas, who was of partially Native American descent, won passage of a bill protecting the cemetery as a national park and providing some funds for maintenance.

    Over the years, the Wyandotte Nation continued to explore ways to increase revenues for the tribe, including redevelopment of the Huron Cemetery. Descendants in Kansas vigorously resisted these efforts. In 1971, the cemetery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1998, the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma and the Wyandot Nation of Kansas reached agreement to preserve the Wyandot National Burying Ground for religious, cultural and related uses appropriate to its sacred history and use.

    Reorganization as a nation

    In 1937, seizing the opportunity presented by the US Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1934 to regain tribal structure and self-government, the Wyandotte organized themselves into the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma,[7] later changing their name to simply Wyandotte Nation, and achieved federal recognition. The act enabled Native Americans to hold property in common again, and to develop self-government and sovereignty.

    Wendat Confederacy

    In August 1999, the Wyandotte Nation joined the contemporary Wendat Confederacy, together with the Wyandot Nation of Kansas, Huron-Wendat of Wendake (Quebec), and the Wyandot Nation of Anderdon in Michigan. The tribes pledged to provide mutual aid to each other in a spirit of peace, kinship, and unity.

    This followed an important meeting of Huronia reconciliation in Midland, Ontario, Canada, attended by representatives of the Iroquois Confederacy, Wyandotte nations, British, French, Dutch, Anglican Church and Catholic Jesuit brothers. The weekend of events was organized by the Huronia Reconciliation Committee.

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