In July of 1843, 664 members of the Wyandotte Nation were moved from Ohio to Kansas. While camped along the Missouri River, illness went through the camp and 50 to 100 of the Wyandots died. Their bodies were carried across the river to the Kansas Territory, to a ridge which overlooked the Kansas and Missouri Rivers and Kansas City's Huron Indian Cemetery was established.
Later that year, the Wyandots were granted the land that included the ridge and it continued to by used as a cemetery. When the local members of the Wyandotte Nation were dissolved as a tribe and its members became American Citizens in 1855, the cemetery continued to be used. Four years later, the Town of Wyandot was incorporated and the Huron Cemetery was within its boundaries. This community would become part of Kansas City in Wyandotte County.
By the 1890s, the Huron Indian Cemetery was prime land and developers, wanting to purchase the cemetery land, negotiated with the Wyandotte Nation in Oklahoma. In 1906, the Secretary of the Interior was instructed to sell the land with the remains to be moved to the Quindaro Cemetery.
The daughters of Andrew Syrenus Conley (who is buried in the cemetery) moved onto their family's burial ground, erected a small shelter that was nicknamed "Fort Conley," padlocked the gate, and posted a sign, "Trespass at Your Peril." They maintained a vigil for over 2 years and in 1909 Eliza (Lyda) Burton Conley became the first Native American woman admitted to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Although the court was sympathetic it didn't not rule in her favor.
In 1913 Congress repealed the bill authorizing the sale of the Huron Indian Cemetery, but the dispute between those wanting to preserve the cemetery, and those wanting to develop the land continued year after year. One year Lyda Conley was arrested for shooting a policeman in the Huron Indian Cemetery. Even the placing of the Huron Indian Cemetery on the National Register of Historic Sites years later in 1971 didn't stop those wanting to exploit the land. Controversy continued until 1997 as the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma tried to turn the cemetery into a gambling place. There finally seems to be piece at the cemetery, as the Oklahoma Wyandottes have their 7th Street Casino in the adjacent former Scottish Rite Temple.
It is believed that there are over 400 bodies buried in Huron Indian Cemetery, though only a small number of the graves are marked. In 1991 the City of Kansas City Kansas, installed over 70 new grave markers, but the new markers and few remaining original grave markers continue to vandalized.
The Huron Indian Cemetery is open dawn to dusk. The grounds are attractive, but unkempt and vandalism continues. The neighborhood is one in which you may meet unusual people.
copyright 2006-2014 by Keith Stokes