NORTH NEWTON, Kan. — A Kansas woman who sold land that was farmed by her family for five generations has donated a portion of the profits to help preserve the heritage of the Kaw Nation, the Native American tribe that claimed the land as its territory more than a century ago.
Florence Schloneger, a retired Mennonite minister in North Newton, said she gifted $10,000 to the nonprofit Kanza Heritage Society to acknowledge that her family’s ownership of the McPherson County land “came at a great cost” to the Kaw, or Kanza, people.
Schloneger’s family owned 320 acres of prairie that was historically Kaw hunting grounds before several treaties with the federal government reduced the tribe’s holdings. The tribe was forcibly removed from Kansas to Oklahoma in 1873, and its population declined drastically over the years.
Schloneger’s great-great grandfather, Henrich Gronemann, settled on the homestead in 1879. The land was available for settlement because of the passage of the Homestead Act in 1862, which gave away public land under the terms that individuals would live on the land for at least five years and improve it through cultivation.
“As my eyes have been opened, I have experienced great sorrow,” Schloneger wrote in her donation letter to the nonprofit. “Not only were your hunting grounds appropriated, but your rich culture and language were nearly lost through assimilation. My hope is that this small gift can help build and restore the strength of Kanza traditions for coming generations.”
Jim Pepper Henry, the nonprofit’s board president, said Schloneger’s donation is a first for the tribe.
Henry believes many are starting to understand the lands their families acquired over the years were swindled, coerced and forcibly taken from the Kaw people.
“Our intent is that this could set an example for others who want to help with the preservation of Kansas history, especially with the Kaw Nation,” Henry said.
The Kaw Nation currently has about 3,500 members and its reservation is located in Kaw City, Okla.