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Osage - Civil War Era

This is a photograph of three unidentified Osage chiefs taken during the 1860s.As conflicts between the states increased, the Osage were caught in the middle of another nation’s fight. Osage lands were frequently subjected to armed intrusions during the “Bleeding Kansas” conflicts between 1854 and 1861. During the Civil War, between 1861 and 1865, both the Confederacy and the Union tried to use the Osage in a number of ways to thwart each other. Osage villages were sometimes burned and pillaged during the war by Euro-American soldiers. Although it was the era of abolitionism, which was progressive for that time, there was no recognition of the injustices suffered by Native Americans, as the belief in manifest destiny endured. This is evident through the following statement made by Abraham Lincoln , “Although we [whites] are now engaged in a great war between one another, we are not as a race, so much disposed to fight and kill one another as our red brethren.”







This is a portrait of the abolitionist, John Brown, who was a leader of several armed skirmishes against proslavery factions in Kansas between 1855 and 1859. His activities along the northern border of Osage territory provoked armed intrusions from both sides of the conflict into Osage villages.


The Osage attended the 1867 Council at Medicine Lodge as observers, because it was held in Osage territory approximately 60 miles south of Fort Larned, Kansas. The treaty at Medicine Lodge failed to keep the peace on the plains. New United States policies in 1868 restricted tribes to stay on their reservations. Eventually, these restrictions were enforced for the Osage. The Osage Removal Act was passed in 1870.

These men were photographed in front of the first house built in Independence, Kansas in 1869. Independence is located in Montgomery County, Kansas, which was part of Osage territory that was illegally settled by homesteaders.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s popular book, Little House on the Prairie tells the story of her family’s time spend as illegal intruders in Osage territory in present-day Kansas. The Ingalls family settled illegally on Osage land between 1869 and 1870. They believed that the land would be opened to homesteaders before long and wanted to claim the best land. Although the author depicts her father as more sympathetic to the Osage than the other intruders, the story does not condemn manifest destiny and the descriptions of the Osage depict the tribe as rude, uncivilized, and animal-like. Near the end of the book, the Osage are forced to leave Kansas. As the Osage are leaving, the author recalls crying to her father, demanding an Osage woman’s baby.

Osage removal from Kansas was a slow and difficult process. The removal policies in conjunction with Euro-American activity and settlement into the Osage lands put pressure on the traditional practices of the Osage. They stopped their traditional hunts by 1881 because there were no longer enough bison on the plains. Manifest destiny led to the end of many plains tribes’ traditional cultures due to Euro-American settlements and the decimation of the bison. Settlers’ activities had drastically changed the land to the degree that the Osage way of life could no longer be sustained, and the Osage culture was nearly destroyed.

Entry: Osage - Civil War Era

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: September 2015

Date Modified: December 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.