Undergrad Student Spotlight: Kinsley Searles

Kinsley Searles (BA ’22)

This post is the second in a two-part series featuring undergraduate researchers mentored by faculty members Lisa Tatonetti and Mary Kohn, with support from the College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Award program. Part 1, featuring the work of Haley Reiners (BA ’22), appeared earlier this week. Below is Part 2 by Kinsley Searles (BA ’22).


Kansas State University takes great pride in being the very first land grant university in the United States. However, the details of how the land for the land grant were acquired have been murky at best. Our project, known as the Kansas Land Treaties project, seeks to research these treaties and accounts from scholars for the creation of educational materials for all schooling: from K-12 to collegiate.

As some may know, the land on which K-State sits once belonged to the Kaw Nation (formerly known as the Kanza) before they were subjected to many different treaties that forced them to leave their home. These treaties were written by the United States government, with little input from the Kaw Nation.  The first treaty, The Treaty of 1825, pushed the Kaw to present day Ottawa County.  This treaty (also known as Cession #124) promised livestock, merchandise, and a small amount of money in exchange for acres upon acres for land.  Despite this, however, there is debate about if this exchange ever even took place. The language in this treaty also points blame towards the Kaw Nation and encourages “friendship” between the Kaw and the U.S. government. Additionally, the land that the United States government allocated for the Kaw was constantly encroached upon by white colonizers moving west. The movement was continued with the Treaty of 1846, which pushed the Kaw even further west.

Kaw Nation Treaty of 1825.

In addition to annotating the Treaty of 1825 for readers, I also conducted an interview with local scholar Ronald Parks. Parks worked with the Kaw Nation for years before going on to write his book, The Darkest Period: The Kanza Indians and Their Last Homeland, 1846-1873.  In this interview, we discussed how education about land ownership needs to change. Parks noted that he finds his work vital because “we, as Kansans, need to know this story. We need to really get it integrated into our understanding of who we are and who we have been.” Additionally, Parks talked about the many Kaw monuments, including the desecrated Waconda Spring in Mitchell County and the Big Red Rock that was stolen by the City of Lawrence and now resides in Robinson Park. I highly recommend checking out the Robinson Park Project, a Kaw-run movement to return the Big Red Rock into the hands of its rightful owners.

big_red_rock_lawrence_ks

This research project has been eye opening. Not only have I learned more about the details of land ownership, working on this project has  also taught me about the minutia necessary for a research project. I was lucky enough to work with a wonderful research team. I am so grateful for Dr. Mary Kohn, Dustin Vann, and Kimberlee Wescott with the Chapman Center of Rural Studies for all of their hard work and support throughout the duration of the project. Also among the amazing team are Dr. Lisa Tatonetti, Professor of English, and Dr. April Petillo, Professor of American Ethnic Studies. Last, but certainly not least, is my fellow student researcher, Haley Reiners (BA ‘22). This group of people has been integral in maneuvering the difficulties associated with virtual research and communication.

This project and the work Haley and I have done so far is simply one step toward acknowledging the erasure of history that commonly occurs in Indigenous-U.S. relations. Although it may seem less complicated to ignore the errors of the past, it is necessary to recognize the truth of what happened on the land that we stand on.

—  Kinsley Searles (BA ’22)

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