White Feather Spring - Kansas City, Kansas
White Feather Spring in the Argentine Neighborhood of Kansas City, Kansas was the site of the final home and eventual grave site of the spiritual leader Tenskwatawa, The Shawnee Prophet.
Tenskwatawa (also called Tensquatawa, Tenskatawa, Tenskwatawah and Lalawethika) was an influential spiritual and political leader and the younger brother of Tecumseh, who was the main leader of a multi-tribal Native American confederacy in the early 1800s. Inspired by a vision, Tenskwatawa denounced the European American way of life and encouraged the traditional Indian way of life. In 1808, he and Tecumseh established the village of Prophetstown in Indiana. Native Americans led by Tenskwatawa fought the US Army near Prophetstown and were defeated at the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 7, 1811.
Tenskwatawa moved to Canada for many years, but returned to the United States in 1824 to assist the Shawnee when the United States government forced them to move west. The Shawnee Prophet arrived at the new reservation with 250 followers to found a new Prophetstown near present South 26th Street and Woodend Avenue in Kansas City, Kansas in 1828, but he never had the level of respect that he had 18 years earlier and the community did not grow. Tenskwatawa left the Shawnee community to live at this location until his death in 1836.
Today, all that is visible from the street is a memorial marker. The spring and former cabin site are on private land, sacred to the Shawnee. While we were photographing the marker (photos on this page), a neighbor (Ernesto Arvizu) introduced himself and asked if we would like to see the mural. He walked us back to the ravine.
The spring feeds into a creek which flows down through the ravine. Art has been added to the retaining wall where the creek leaves the property through a culvert. There are steps which were built in 2015 and a short walkway, but most of the ravine was muddy and not very good walking.
Along the way, Ernesto told us about his wife Lupe Arvizu and him moving into the house next door over 20 years earlier. He started mowing some of this adjacent private land and was contacted by two of the three federally recognized Shawnee tribes, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and the Shawnee Tribe (also in Oklahoma). In time they formalized a relationship where Ernesto and Lupe have become caretakers of this sacred land, a responsibility they love and take seriously. Ernesto made sure that we knew that Lupe does most of the work.
Tenskwatawa's final home was at the top of the bluff above the spring and as far as we noticed, is not marked. Tenskwatawa's grave is unmarked, because treasure hunters sometimes invade the property, though The Shawnee Prophet was poor and it is unlikely that there is anything of value in the grave.
White Feather Spring is named for Susan Whitefeather, who became the owner of this land after the property was taken from the Shawnee in the Treaty of May 10, 1854.
Tenskwatawa has appeared as a character in a comic book, in the historical novel Panther in the Sky by James Alexander Thomin, and as a major character in science fiction, both in David Brin's novel, Existence, and Orson Scott Card's series of novels, The Tales of Alvin Maker, especially the second book, Red Prophet.
Ernesto invited us to come back whenever we wish. Others are welcome to come as well. The property is fenced off and visitors should come knock on the door at the Arvizu's home to gain entry to the property.
LS-4/18 copyright 2018 by Keith Stokes