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For well over a hundred years beginning in 1843, Huron Indian Cemetery was a site of not only burial but also controversy. In 1843, over 664 members of the Wyandot Nation traveled from the Lake Huron region. A year earlier, the tribe ceded all lands of Michigan and Ohio to the federal government in exchange for lands in Kansas. After they arrived, around 50-100 Wyandot died of illness and as a result the cemetery was established. Because of its prime real estate location, over the next century and beyond, various actors including developers and the city wanted to move the burials to another cemetery. Legal fights ensued with supporters of the cemetery's preservation winning in the long-run. The cemetery, given its historical importance, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971 and declared a National Historic Landmark in 2016. Finally, in 1998, the The Wyandot Nation of Kansas and the Wyandot Nation of Oklahoma agreed the let the cemetery remain as such and not used for other purposes.

  • The sign at the entrance to the cemetery.
  • The Huron: Farmers of the North, Case Studies in Cultural Anthropology-Click the link below for more information about this book
In 1855, the Wyandot Nation dissolved but the cemetery continued to be used as a cemetery for tribal members. In 1867, those Wyandot who wanted to retain their tribal way of life moved to Oklahoma where tribal institutions were still recognized. They formed the Wyandot Nation of Oklahoma. Because they retained their tribal institutions, they also retained rights to the cemetery. By the turn of the 20th century, the area around the cemetery was prime real estate property and local businessman negotiated a deal with the Wyandot Nation of Oklahoma to buy it. This is where the legal fights began. Local citizens and the Wyandot who remained in Kansas fought the sale (and future attempts) in court.

In the early 1900s this reached all the way to the Supreme Court. Three sisters of 1/8 Wyandot blood led the charge. They lived at the cemetery in a small shelter to protect it (they were armed) for two years. In 1909, one of the sisters, Lyda Conley, argued her case in the Supreme Court, becoming the first woman (and Native American woman) to do so in the country's history. The court sided with her.

Future legal battles would come however. The courts tended to favor the business interests but local support of the cemetery remained strong. The Wyandot Nation of Kansas incorporated in 1959, further helping the effort to preserve the cemetery. Not surprisingly, the cemetery's addition to the National Register was also controversial. But as stated above, all controversy finally ended in 1998.

Carras, John. "Wyandotte/Wyandot peace pact signed." Kansas City Kansan. July 15, 1998.

Pankratz, Richard. "Huron Cemetery." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. September 3, 1971.

Stokes, Keith. "Huron Indian Cemetery." Kansas Travel. Accessed May 12, 2017.