Munsee Tribe forms partnership with Camp Chippewa

Greg Mast
The Munsee Indian Cemetery will be refurbished after the tribe formed a partnership with Camp Chippewa.

The Munsee Tribe in Kansas recently formed a partnership with Camp Chippewa, run by the Great Plains United Methodist Camp, to help with the beautification of the Munsee Indian Cemetery.

This a project the Munsee Indian Cemetery Committee has working on for some time. The cemetery is located at 1599 Kingman Road in Franklin County.

Camp Chippewa director James Rickner hopes to put a display in the cabin, at the entrance of Camp Chippewa, for the public to view. The display would depict the history of the Munsee Tribe in Kansas and Camp Chippewa.

Camp Chippewa sits in the central part of what was the Chippewa and Munsee Reservation of 4,395 acres between 1859 and 1900.

In the 1859 Chippewa and Munsee Treaty, each tribal member was assigned a 40-acre allotment of land. The 8,360-acre reservation was originally assigned to the Black River and Swan Creek Chippewa Tribe of Chief Eshtonoquot or Frances McCoonse and his followers in 1836-1837, as they removed from near Detroit to an area west of the Roche De Boeuf and Blanchard's Fork Ottawa Tribe.

The Christian Munsee Tribe found sanctuary in Franklin County with the Black River and Swan Creek Chippewa Tribe after they were pushed by squatters and the Kansas territorial government from their Leavenworth reservation in 1858.

After attempts at dissolving both tribes in 1864 and the early 1870s, U.S. Sen. Charles Curtis, of Kansas, proposed a dissolution bill in 1896, that the Munsee and later Chippewa people would accept, as it became the Law of June 7, 1897, that led to the gathering of Munsee and Chippewa people on Nov. 8, 1900, to accept 40 acres of allotted land patented in fee and $491 of treasury trust funds.

For some time, Munsee descendants have sought to reorganize their tribal nation and this cemetery holds their ancestors, such as Ignatius, Rufus and Sabilla Caleb, and Spooner, Viex and Kilbuck Munsee descendants. It's important to the identity of the Munsee and Chippewa people who've stayed in this area, along with the Chippewa Cemetery to the east, said Connie Hildebrandt, interim chairperson for the Munsee Tribe in Kansas.

Camp Chippewa itself was founded after a land donation of 219 acres of former Munsee and Chippewa lands from the Rev. and Mrs. Charles E. Funk at the 1958 United Methodist Annual Conference in the memory of Barbara Funk, who died in a car accident when she was 14, for a nature camp.

The United Methodist Church has set itself apart from other religious denominations in this country with its reconciliation work with tribal nations, such as the Kaw Nation of Oklahoma, Wyandotte Tribe of Kansas, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes in Oklahoma, Wyoming and Montana.

“It's our hope that this combined work, creates a local historical narrative to fill in the blanks of neglected local indigenous history since 1900,” Hildebrandt said.

Those who would like to support the Munsee Tribe in Kansas and Camp Chippewa with the development of these two projects may call Camp Chippewa at 785-242-6796.