In the early 1800s, the Kaw, or Kansa, claimed a territory that covered roughly two-fifths of modern-day Kansas along the Missouri and Kansas Rivers. Known as “People of the South Wind,” hey were one of the strongest and most influential tribes in the region. The Kansa suffered many reversals since the time of along the Missouri and Kansas Rivers. By the mid-19th century, as European settlement claimed more and more land around Council Grove, the Kaw Nation was forced into what is now Oklahoma. At that time, between 1872 and 1873, less than 500 people belonged to the tribe. And by 1902, less than 200 were entered into the tribal rolls.
Chief Washunga died in 1908, leaving a void among the Kaw Nation. According to an article in the Tulsa World in 1922, when the Kaw Nation was assembled to choose a tribal head, they searched for a person who was a full-blood and who could speak on behalf of the Kaw Nation but also understand the workings of a white society.
Lucy Tayiah Eads became the logical choice. On Nov. 26, 1922, the paper wrote of her: “Lucy Tayiah Eads, full blood, college graduate, trained nurse, and model housewife, who knows how to chum and sew and bake and does all of them constantly, has been elected chief of the Kaw tribe of Indians ... by a majority vote of the members of the tribe.”
She was the first woman to become a chief of the Kaw tribe. It came just two years after the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, granting women the right to vote. She is quoted as saying in the Tulsa Daily World., “I cannot tell just yet how I feel about being chosen chief of the Kaws, for the honor is too new,” She asked people to call her “Lucy.”
Lucy Tayiah Eads, 34 at the time, was the mother of seven children and the owner of 800 acres of land near the Oklahoma-Kansas state line.
Lucy was born on Oct. 4, 1888. Her father, Little Pah-Yah, died when she was 6. She grew up at a time when the federal government was pushing American Indians farther and farther away from their culture and heritage. When she and her brother were orphaned, they were adopted by Chief Washunga. She was sent to study at the Haskell Indian College in Lawrence, where she trained as a nurse.
|Unidentified Kaw Woman 1800's|
In 1908, she married her first husband, Herbert Edward Kimber, but the marriage was short-lived. She married John Eads in 1913.
Eads was a logical choice, according to J.C. Clendenning, the U.S. Indian agent then in charge at Washunga. The 1922 article quoted him as saying, “She is the finest example of what an Indian should be.”
While the Kaw Nation struggled with land claims, oil and gas rights, treaty provisions and dealings with businessmen who weren’t always ethical, Eads tried to right wrongs.
L-R: Isabelle Chouteau Bain, Sister Eads, Lucy Eads in the Kaw Mission at Council Grove, Kansas - Kaw - circa 1945
She became one of the most beloved chiefs of the Kaw Nation. She died on Oct. 11, 1961.
And although she grew up in Oklahoma, Lucy Tayiah Eads and many other Kaw Indians believed their hearts belonged elsewhere--Kansas.
This post is an example of one foot in the past, and the other in the future. I researched and wrote about the Kaw in my novel, Kizzie’s Kisses, set in the Kaw’s former homeland in Kansas. To read my post about the history of the Kaw people, PLEASE CLICK HERE.
My next novella, a shorter romance, has a heroine who also grew up in Kansas, although further west. Other than that, I won’t say much about it until closer to publication day on June 20—wait for it, wait for it—. What I will offer you is a sneak peek at the cover for Aaron’s Annulment Bride.