If Quindaro Ruins supporters succeed in getting the area named a National Historic Landmark, it will become the second Wyandotte County site with the title.
Federal officials awarded the first in January to the Wyandotte National Burying Ground (Eliza Burton Conley Burial Site), a 2 1/2 -acre cemetery at North Seventh and Ann streets in downtown Kansas City, Kan. For decades, it has been called the Huron Indian Cemetery, after the name the French first called the tribe.
An estimated 400 to 600 people, mostly Wyandot Indians, are buried there in graves dating to 1843, the year they migrated here. They had expected to live on 148,000 acres that the government promised, but did not deliver, in exchange for their Ohio lands. They first settled in a swampy area near the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers.
Disease quickly spread, killing about 1 in 7 of the tribe’s members. Survivors obtained the burial site from the Delaware, who already lived in what would become Wyandotte County.
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The most famous grave belongs to Eliza Burton Conley, a lawyer who in 1910 became the first Native American and second woman to argue in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. She and her two sisters had set up a hut and lived near their parents’ graves to prevent developers from buying the land and moving the graves.
Conley became “the first to raise the legal argument that American Indian burying grounds are entitled to protection by the federal government, and the first to claim that the descendants of treaty signatories have the right to sue to enforce treaty provisions,” according to the National Park Service’s nomination for Historic Landmark status.
Though Conley lost the court battle, she still won. The developers gave up.
The Wyandotte Nation in Oklahoma, which two decades ago wanted to build a high-stakes bingo hall over the cemetery, plans to install a new sign, with the correct name, and also fence the property to better protect it, said Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Sherri Clemons.
National Historic Landmarks in KC area
The landmark program, run by the National Park Service, recognizes “nationally significant historic places that possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the nation’s heritage.” It recognizes about 2,500 historic places nationwide, including 26 in Kansas and 37 in Missouri. They include:
Shawnee Indian Mission. Awarded 1968.
Fort Leavenworth. Awarded 1966.
Watkins Mill. Awarded 1966.
Fort Osage. Awarded 1961.
Liberty Memorial. Awarded 2006.
Harry S. Truman Farm Home. Awarded 1985.
Harry S. Truman Historic District. Awarded 1971.
Mutual Musicians Association Building. Awarded in 1981.