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Wah-Shun-Gah (also spelled Washungah, Washunga and Wah Shun Gah) was Chief of the tribe when Lucy and her brother were orphaned. Per Indian custom they became his wards. After his death they would become his legal heirs. Chief Wah-Shun-Gah, born in present day Kansas (circa 1837), served as principal chief of the Kaw from 1885 until his death in 1908.
Lucy Tayiah Eads
Lucy was born in a tipi on the banks of Little Beaver creek in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, in 1888. Her father was a Kanza (Kaw) Indian and her mother was Kanza and Potawatomi. She would become the 1st woman to serve as principle chief of the Kaw.
In his 1975 book “The Kaw People”, Dr. William Unrau wrote “They were and still are the Kaw Indians, a small but proud group whose cultural erosion at the hands of diverse white invaders seldom has been equaled and whose name has undergone more changes in spelling and meaning than that of any other tribe west of the Mississippi.” In 1673 Father Jacques Marquette’s map maker recorded a Kansa village and in 1861 the state of Kansas took its name from this first irrefutable historical reference without even asking the Kanza people for approval. Even today many people do not know where Kansas got its name.
This historical performance of Lucy's life helps shed light on the journey of the Kanza People and the many challenges they have endured. The setting is Lawrence Kansas 1955, and Lucy is packing to return to Oklahoma after a long separation from her people.