Fort Larned National Historic Site

Audio Available:

OVERVIEW: About this Audio-Described Brochure

Welcome to the audio described version of Fort Larned National Historic Site's official brochure! The park's brochure tells the story of Fort Larned, the Santa Fe Trail, and the cultures that collided there through text, maps and images. These elements highlight the history of Fort Larned and its role of protecting Santa Fe Trail travelers from Plains Indian attacks. The audio description of this brochure is split up into thirty parts. The first half focuses on Fort Larned, its purpose and its layout. The second half focuses on the Santa Fe Trail, conflict between European Americans and Native Americans on the Great Plains, and some of the reasons for this conflict. You can expect the following sections to be described in about fifty minutes total. We hope you enjoy this audio description and let us know if there's any way we can improve it!

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OVERVIEW: Fort Larned National Historic Site

Fort Larned National Historic Site, one of over 400 parks in the National Park System, is located six miles west of Larned, Kansas. Fort Larned is situated along the historic Santa Fe Trail where large numbers of people and cultures mixed every day. Today, visitors can experience the sights, smells and sounds of Fort Larned's historic sandstone structures just as soldiers, trail travelers, and Plains Indians did in 1868. Most of the structures at the fort are wheelchair accessable which includes the Visitor Center including audio described museum exhibits.

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OVERVIEW: Front Side of Brochure

The front side of this brochure introduces visitors to the historic layout of Fort Larned and the purpose of many of its historic structures and features. The top half of the brochure gives the visitor an overview of Fort Larned via text. The bottom half provides an aerial drawing of what Fort Larned would have looked like on a typical busy day in 1868. The very bottom of this side of the brochure provides a general overview of the accessibility, safety and protection of Fort Larned.

At the top of this side of the brochure is a large black bar with white text. On the left side of the bar is the text "Fort Larned". On the right side of the brochure is the text "Fort Larned National Historic Site, Kansas" and "National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior". To the right of all this text is the National Park Service arrowhead: a brown arrowhead with a white topped mountain in the distance, a green sequoia tree, a white lake and a brown bison on a green plain. 

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IMAGE and QUOTE: Fort Larned

DESCRIPTION: A modern color photo used as a background providing a view of seven sandstone buildings with green grass and trees in the background. Starting on the left, there is a lone red stage coach with a white canvas covering and yellow spoked wheels. Behind the wagon, stands three large sandstone structures nearly parallel to the camera with large porches and prominent white pillars bordering the porches. A white railing runs in front of these buildings, separating them from a dirt path. To the right of these buildings in the distance are two large sandstone structures nearly perpendicular to the camera with ground-level porches and white pillars to support the porch roof. The quote, to follow, floats above these two sandstone buildings. To the right and perpendicular to the last two buildings stands another, smaller sandstone building  with white window frames. A portion of another sandstone building, close to the camera, blocks the end of the small sandstone structure in the distance. On the right side of the photograph, a large white flagpole stands in the middle of an open grassy parade ground on the inside perimeter of the buildings. A large United States flag flies on the flagpole. Slightly to the right of the flagpole rests a small cannon on a cannon carriage. 


Visited and inspected the new buildings finished and in process at the Post. They are all of stone, and are really fine structures.

-Albert Barnitz, Capt. 7th US Cavalry, 1868

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IMAGE and TEXT: Supplies and trade items

DESCRIBING: A color image

DESCRIPTION: A collection of three wooden boxes, five cans, and a paper wrapped bottle. Leftmost box, decorated with a fleur-de-lis type border and the text "Warranted Extra Pepper Sauce for Family Use". On top of this box, a green and yellow labeled can of "Green Corn" rests. In front of the Pepper Sauce box, rests two gray cans with white labels. To the right of the Pepper Sauce box, sits a larger wooden box with an orange label and various text including, "Forty Pounds" and "One Pound Packages". A logo with a bird, wings outstretched sits on top of the text, "Oswego Corn Starch, Prepared and Refined by T. Kingsford & Son. For culinary use".  On top of this box rests one can, with a white label, with a drawing of tomatoes and the text "Tomatoes". On top of this can, rests another with an off-white label, a drawing of a peach and the text "Peaches". To the right of these cans, also on top of the Corn Starch box, rests a white paper wrapped bottle with the text "Pickles". To the right of the paper wrapped bottle on top of the Corn Starch box rests another wooden box with a white and black label. The text on the label reads, "James H. Forbes, Gunpowder Tea, Importers of Teas, 908 to 916 Clark Avenue, ST. LOUIS".

CAPTION: Supplies and Trade Items , The commissary stocked goods from throughout the US. 


At Fort Larned, which lies just steps from the Santa Fe Trail, cultures mixed every day.  Soldiers met Plains Indians, European American and Hispanic teamsters, homesteaders, hide hunters, scouts, and railroad workers. US Army regulars served with paroled Confederates. The fort housed African Americans later known as Buffalo Soldiers, who formed Company A of the 10th Cavalry.

The post evolved from a rough, temporary camp set up in 1859 to guard the construction of an adobe mail station. It was a bustling soldier town by 1867 but became a near ghost town by 1878. The soldiers’ primary purpose was to escort mail coaches and military supply wagons on the trail. Their broader mission was to keep the peace on the plains—and take action when required.

The fort also hosted Indian agents for the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Plains Apache, Kiowa, and Comanche tribes. In 1867, peace commissioners appointed by Congress met at Fort Larned to plan the Medicine Lodge treaties.

A huge American flag flew atop a 100-foot pole at the parade ground center. Many travelers saw the flag as a beacon of strength and security, but for the Plains Indians it symbolized lost freedom.

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MAP and TEXT: Touring the Fort

DESCRIPTION: An aerial drawing in color of a historic view of Fort Larned, looking northeast. Over this drawing is text, described later. Not only does this drawing include all of the historic structures found at Fort Larned in 1868, but also the activity of soldiers and civilians. A river labeled "Pawnee Fork" meanders along the northern border of the drawing. On the northwest corner of the drawing is a line of animal drawn wagons on a road labeled "Santa Fe Trail/State Route." The main nine buildings, all with gray roofs are arranged in a square pattern around a grassy parade ground with a flagpole flying a flag in the center. A path runs along the perimeter of the parade ground, with two paths, running in the cardinal directions, intersecting near the flagpole. 

To the north of the flagpole are two large stone buildings labeled "Barracks". The left (west) barracks is also labeled "Visitor Center." To the north of the barracks is a collection of small buildings labeled "Laundry." To the northeast of the barracks is a structure labeled "Hospital." 

To the east of the flagpole are two small stone buildings labeled "Shops" and "New commissary." Between these two buildings is a large gap. To the east of the large gap is an area labeled "Cemetery." To the east of the cemetery is a largely open area followed by a staple shaped structure with white walls and a gray roof labeled "Quartermaster stables." To the east of this building, the "1859 mail station" rests. To the south of the Quartermaster stables is a large area with neatly parked blue covered wagons with white coverings and red wheels with spokes labeled "Quartermaster wagon yard." 

South of the flagpole are two large stone buildings labeled "Quartermaster storehouse" and "Old commissary." To the east of the Old commissary is a six sided stone building with a white lookout tower. This building is labeled "Blockhouse." To the south of these buildings is a dirt road labeled "Santa Fe Trail." Along this road, wagons are being pulled by various sets of animals. To the south of this road are three white structures labeled "Cavalry Stables," "Teamsters quarters" and "Second sutler's store and bowling alley," with large gaps in between. 

West of the flagpole are three stone houses. The center house is labeled "Commanding officer's quarters" with "Company officers quarters" on either side. Each house has a tall white wooden fence, creating yards. Just to the west of the yards are two small structures, one labeled "Dugout" and the other "Icehouse." To the north of this complex is a small white structure labeled "Adjutant's office." 

Southwest of the officer's quarters is a bridge crossing the Pawnee Fork. South of the bridge is a complex of four structures, the largest and northernmost of which is labeled "Sutler's store" (a stone structure). To the west of the Sutler's store is a smaller stone structure labeled "Billiard room." To the south of these two buildings are two red buildings labeled Sutler's mess house" and "Indian agency."

CREDIT: NPS/James R. Mann

Although Fort Larned is one of the best-preserved western forts, its appearance today belies that of the late 1860s. The many wood and adobe buildings outside the central parade ground (hospital, laundry, stables, mail station, bowling alley, teamsters’ quarters, and others labeled in italic) quickly deteriorated and do not survive.

From 1865 to 1868 over 200 civilians labored to complete ten sandstone buildings, boosting the local economy. Nine of these buildings still stand. Construction and the freighting of supplies among the western forts were welcome sources for civilian contracts.

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TEXT: First mail station

US Postmaster General Joseph Holt asked the War Department to protect the Pawnee Fork mail station from Indian raids in 1859. The US Army soon arrived and by 1860 began constructing a permanent fort. In 1861 the garrison expanded from 60 to 292 men, but throughout Fort Larned’s lifetime its numbers rose and fell. Factors included the US Army’s need for troops to fight back east in the Civil War, the intermittent nature of Indian hostilities, and evolving US government policy toward the tribes. 

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TEXT: Santa Fe Trail

Spanning 900 miles of the Great Plains, the trail offered riches and adventure for some—at the risk of hardship and peril. Many westbound wagons carried military supplies, metal tools, cloth, and alcohol. Other goods included hardware like fish hooks, trade items like cut glass beads, home goods like cookware, and staples like brown Havana sugar and coffee. Some Plains Indians viewed travelers on the trail as trespassers. As clashes grew more frequent, the US government expanded the string of forts along the trail to protect American interests and promote peace. 

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TEXT: Indian Agency

By 1866 two Indian agents had set up offices at Fort Larned—Edward W. Wynkoop for the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes and Jesse Leavenworth for the Kiowa, Plains Apache, and Comanche. In 1868, two days after Lt. Col. George Custer led an attack on a peaceful Cheyenne camp on the Washita River, Wynkoop resigned. 

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TEXT: Tribes

Tribes visited the Indian agency to collect annuities—including guns, blankets, tools, clothing, coffee, and flour—promised them in the Little Arkansas and Medicine Lodge treaties of 1865 and 1867 in exchange for their lands. Congress intended the annuities to placate the tribes, help them adopt European American ways, and help them adapt to life on the reservations. 

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TEXT: Buffalo Soldiers

One of the first African American cavalry units of the post-Civil War US Army, Company A, 10th Cavalry, arrived at Fort Larned in April 1867. In late December 1868 after a fight over a billiards game, the cavalry stables burned. Arson was suspected but no witnesses came forward. On the night of the fire, commanding officer Major John Yard had ordered Company A to guard a distant wood pile. Soon after, Yard transferred the unit to Fort Zarah rather than deal with the racial tensions. 

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TEXT: Visiting Fort Larned

Fort Larned National Historic Site is six miles west of Larned, Kansas, on KS 156. The fort is open daily 8:30 am to 4:30 pm; closed Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1.

Call or check our website for programs and special events throughout the year. You must schedule guided group tours in advance.

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TEXT: Accessibility

We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to a visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website. 

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TEXT: For your safety

For a safe visit, use caution and common sense. Please observe all hard hat and other warning signs around buildings undergoing restoration or stabilization. Be alert for un-even ground and non-standard steps. Please keep children a safe distance from the Pawnee River.

For a complete list of regulations including firearms, check the park website.

Emergencies call 911

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TEXT: Help us protect the park

The National Park Service works to stabilize the fort’s buildings and prevent deterioration. We need your help to ensure that future generations can see the fort as you see it today. Do not disfigure the fort by scratching, carving, or marking names and initials on walls or sandstone blocks. Federal laws protect all natural and cultural features in the park. 

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TEXT: More Information

ADDRESS: 1767 KS Hwy 156 , Larned, KS 67550 

PHONE: 620-285-6911


National Park Foundation
Join the park community. 

Fort Larned National Historic Site is one of over 400 parks in the National Park System. To learn more visit

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OVERVIEW: Back Side of Brochure

DESCRIPTION: The back of the brochure is titled: Reshaping Landscapes and Nations. The title is on the left side of the page, in white text, within a thin, black band across the top of the page.

The top half features a large map of the United States showing the Santa Fe Trail and the major trade routes associated with it. Arranged around the map are text and images highlighting themes associated with westward expansion, trade and the Plains Indians. From the top left of the map, and going clockwise, these themes include: Boundaries, Freedom, Economy, Culture, Trade, Abundance, and Power.

The bottom half features a painting of a bison herd  with a timeline, arranged in columns of text below it.  The timeline is divided into four sections, each with a heading, and outlines important events from the opening of the Santa Fe Trail in 1821 to Fort Larned’s decommissioning in 1878. 

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IMAGE and TEXT: After the 1680s


DESCRIPTION: Simple color painting of a male American Indian standing next to a bison. Both the man and the bison are facing left with the man in the middle between the bison’s head and tail. The drawing is square, with a light gray background, tilted slightly to the left on the page, although the bison and man are level. The bison is black, rearing up slightly, with front legs much shorter than his back legs. His tongue is sticking straight out of his mouth, his eyes are opened wide and his tail is held up slightly behind him. The Indian's feet do not touch the ground, as though he has jumped up to reach the top of the bison. One hand is down by his side, the other holds a knife just above the back of the bison’s head. He is wearing tan leggings, a long sleeve white shirt covered with small black dots, and a black and tan belt around his waist. He has long black hair, hanging loose, with a feathered adornment holding it back on the side facing the viewer, a feather sticking up on the top and a feather hanging down the back. 

CAPTION: Bad eye, Bull Rider

CREDIT: Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium

After the 1680s, when Plains Indians first mounted horses, tribes including the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Plains Apache, Lakota, Kiowa, and Comanche moved across the region in pursuit of bison. The animal provided for their material culture—skins for tipis, clothing, and trade, bone for tools—and food for sustenance. By the 1860s, a stream of newcomers and changing US government policies limited the tribes’ access to the bison herds and imposed strict boundaries. Commerce, aided by the US Army, had become an agent of change.

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MAP: Reshaping landscapes and nations

DESCRIBING: Cultural Context Map


A map of the United States showing states and territories. The focus of the map is the Santa Fe Trail, the major trade routes associated with it, along with military posts along the trail, and some historic events associated with the trail and Fort Larned’s history. 

A key to the map on the lower right side indicates the following information about the map:

The area of the map shaded light brown shows areas of European American settlement circa 1850.

Dotted lines indicate state boundaries in 1863   

Selected US forts are indicated by small square outline symbols.

LONG DESCRIPTION:  Canada is labeled to the north and Mexico is labeled to the south. The Atlantic Ocean is labeled off the East Coast, the Pacific Ocean labeled of the West Coast and the Gulf of Mexico labeled south of the Florida Panhandle.  The eastern third portion of the map is shaded light brown. 

The map shows some geographic features such as the Great Lakes, and mountain ranges in the western part of the United States. All of the states and territories are outlined on the map. The states in the light brown shaded area are not labeled while the all the states and territories in the rest of the map are. Only nine major cities are labeled: New York, New York; Washington, D.C.; St. Louis and Independence, Missouri; New Orleans, Louisiana; Denver, Colorado Territory; Santa Fe, New Mexico Territory; Salt Lake City, Utah Territory; and San Francisco, California. Fort Larned and other military forts associated with the era are labeled along, or in the area around, the Santa Fe Trail. Some historic events associated with the history of Fort Larned are also noted along, or in the area around, the Santa Fe Trail.  

The Santa Fe Trail is marked by a dark blue line. It begins in the east in Independence, Missouri and angles slightly southwest through Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico, ending at Santa Fe. There are three points along the route where the trail diverges into separate, but parallel north and south routes. First is a short section between Forts Larned and Dodge; the second is about twice as long as the first on the western edge of Kansas. The northern route of that divergent trail curves to the north in a steep arch before turning south and connecting back to the main trail. At the top of the arch another section of the trail arcs in a large curve to the north into Colorado then bends south to connect with the southern route shortly before reaching Santa Fe. The northern section is labeled “Mountain Route” and the southern section is labeled “Cimarron Route”. These two parallel sections account for approximately one-third of the entire length of the trail.  

A red line going south from Santa Fe indicates the El Camino Real, a trade route leading south from Santa Fe into the interior of Mexico.   

The eastern end of the Santa Fe Trail is connected to both New York City and New Orleans by river. The map indicates that trade goods coming from Santa Fe are shipped by boat from Independence on the Missouri River until it meets the Mississippi River. Text on the map, along with an arrow, indicate they go “by boat to New Orleans” down the Mississippi. At New Orleans, text and an arrow indicates the goods go “by boat to London and Paris”. When the Mississippi meets the Ohio River, text and an arrow, indicate trade goods go “by boat to New York.” The boats travel northeast up the Ohio River until they reach Pennsylvania, where they make the rest of the trip to New York City on canals.  

From Independence in the east to Santa Fe in the west the forts, trading posts, and events listed along, or in the area of, the Santa Fe Trail are:   

Fort Leavenworth (1827) - northeast of Independence  

Fort Riley (1853) - north of the trail

Fort Zarah (1864) - along the trail on the north side  

Fort Larned (1859) along the trail on the north side 

Medicine Lodge Treaties 1867 – south of Fort Larned  

Fort Dodge (1864) - along the trail on the south side

Washita Battlefield November 1868 – South of Fort Dodge in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma)  

Sand Creek Massacre November 1864 – north of the Mountain Route

Fort Lyon (1867) - Along the Mountain Route, on the north side   

Bent’s Old Fort (1833) - On the Mountain Route, on the north side

Gold discovered January 1859 – west of Denver, which is north of the trail  

Fort Union (1851) - along the trail on the south side

Santa Fe – the western end of the Santa Fe Trail  

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IMAGE and TEXT: Boundaries

DESCRIPTION: A simple sketch of a cluster of ten traditional Plains Indians' tipis surrounding a green conastoga wagon with a canvas top.  All of the tipis have the supporting lodge poles protruding from the top. Most of the tipis are beige. One teepee on the far left is colored brown, another is brown with a red top. The conastoga wagon is partially obstructed by the tipi in front. That tipi has four circular symbols on it, two about a third of the way down from the top, and the other two about a third of the way up from the bottom. 

CAPTION: Biter, Kiowa Tipis surround wagon

CREDIT: Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center/Ross Frank

Plains Indian Tribes divided into two groups north and south of the Arkansas River. They fought for control of the grasses—to feed their horses—and bison herds until 1840, when they reached a peace. 

The Santa Fe Trail followed the same river that had served as boundary for the two groups. The river also formed Mexico’s northern border until 1848.

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IMAGE, QUOTE and TEXT: Freedom

DESCRIBING: An Historic Photograph

DESCRIPTION: A small, oval, posed, full-length sepia-toned historical photograph of Plains Indian Kiowa chief, Satanta. He is seated, feet together, facing the camera, with a bow and two arrows laying across his lap. Probably in his mid 30’s, he has long dark shoulder length hair parted in the middle. Satanta wears a heavy multicolored neckerchief around the collar of his dark long-sleeved shirt with dark, thin vertical stripes. A large medallion hangs around his neck and is centered on his chest. A light colored blanket with one wide dark stripe down the middle covers his lap and legs, and he is wearing moccasins.  Satanta holds one arrow loaded onto the bowstring, nocked, with his gloved right hand. He has a smooth complexion and a closed lip expressionless face. The edges of the picture are blurred and fade into the background. To the upper right of the photo is the word FREEDOM, in uppercase letters.

QUOTE: I don’t want to settle. I love to roam all over the prairies. There I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die. -Kiowa chief, Satanta, 1867 

RELATED TEXT: At the Medicine Lodge peace negotiations Satanta explained why his people should not be “concentrated” on reservations.

By 1871, urged on by the military, Congress abandoned diplomacy and gave the tribes a stark choice, annihilation or the reservations.

CREDIT: Library of Congress

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IMAGE and TEXT: Economy

DESCRIBING: A Square photograph

DESCRIPTION: A small square color drawing depicts an historic New York harbor scene, from a raised, second story view. The center of the drawing is a gravel road along a wharf area, stretching from the foreground into the distance, with many wagons coming and going under a partly cloudy blue sky. In the foreground, an empty wagon pulled by two horses, seemingly waits for a wagon coming onto the wharf area from the right, partly out of the image scene, and drawn by a team of four horses. In the center foreground, two other wagons sit side-by-side facing away, one loaded with cargo, and the other empty except for a man standing under an open red umbrella. The busy wharf is bordered on the left by an endless row of faint orange and pink five and six story buildings connected together and continuing to the horizon. Lining the right of the image, in the foreground, is the right front corner of a gray-sided building, with the name ERIE at the top. Beyond, are several stacks of yellow barrels at the edge of the dock, followed by a long row of the front of an uncountable number of ships docked side by side. The corner of the building in the foreground blocks all but the bows of the ships. The bows have long poles sticking out to the front that help support the sails, bowsprits, and they overarch high above the edge of the gravel wharf road. The center of the drawing is less detailed as wagons, people, and structures get farther away. The background has much less detail and texture, but appears very crowded. Under the picture is the word ECONOMY in uppercase letters. 

CREDIT: North Wind Picture Archives

International Trade Routes: The Santa Fe Trail linked suppliers in the American West with traders in New York, New Orleans, and European cities. Kiowa leader Satanta grew wealthy as a supplier of bison hides.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Culture

DESCRIBING: A color image

DESCRIPTION: Image of a simple color drawing of three bareback horses in a full out run, chased by an Indian on a fourth horse. The picture is drawn on a ledger page, laying on its side, with the vertical ledger lines visible and page number 15 in the upper left corner. The artist clearly portrays a feeling of movement, with  all of the horses' legs stretched out in front and behind them, and not touching the ground. 

On the image far left, the lead horse is yellow with a short black mane and a small brand on the flank facing the viewer. The second horse, partially overlapped by the third horse, is dark brown, wearing a halter, with its head turned up and away from the viewer. The third horse is a reddish brown and also has a brand on the flank facing the viewer. 

The chase horse is yellow and the Indian rider is leaning forward into its neck. He holds the reins and a bow in his left hand, and a rope in his right hand. The rope is stretched straight out from his hand, as if he is using it as a whip to spur the lead horses on. He has long black hair, light black leggings, a tunic top with polka dots, and a red sash streaming out from underneath his tunic.

CAPTION: Unknown artist, Elk Society horse raid

CREDIT: Arrow's Elk Society Ledger Morning Star Gallery/Ross Frank

Plains Indian Art after the 1860s while imprisoned at Fort Marion, Florida, from 1874 to 1878, Plains Indians made these drawings on paper. Before the 1860s they would have painted on bison hide. 

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IMAGE and TEXT: Trade

DESCRIBING: A color image

DESCRIPTION: Image of front and back side of a gold Spanish dollar, the front view partially overlapping the back. The front of the coin contains the right profile view of a male wearing a laurel wreath on his head. The lettering around the edge of the coin reads "DEI GRATIA, 1806, CAROLUS IIII."  The back of the coin is partially obscured by the front view, but the Coat of Arms is centered on the coin with indistinct images, and a crown on top.  The partially visible edge lettering on the right reads "HISPAN, ET, IND."

CREDIT: Wikipedia

Santa Fe Trail , Some goods shipped west along the Santa Fe Trail continued south to Chihuahua and Sonora along the Camino Real. Eastbound goods included gold, silver, donkeys, mules, furs, and wool. The Spanish dollar (left) was legal tender in the US until 1857. 

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TEXT: Abundance

As late as the 1860s many people saw the bison as an endless resource. Plains Indian stories tell of the herds’ origin in caves or below lakes from which they “swarmed, like bees from a hive.”

Hide hunters, encouraged by the US Army, harvested the bison to the point of near extinction. Bison bones thickly littered the prairies. In 1884 the last rail shipment of hides left the plains. Demand had exceeded supply.

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TEXT: Power

TEXT: The idea of manifest destiny, that God intended the nation “to possess the whole of the continent,” was a justification for the US-Mexico War, 1846–48. 

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IMAGE: Buffalo herds

DESCRIBING: A painting

DESCRIPTION: An eye level image of a colorful panoramic painting of bison (called buffalo in the 19th century) on the prairie with gently rolling hills in the background under a dark gray cloudy sky. In the right front foreground nine bison are separate from the rest of the herd in an open light green prairie, with a white bison skull on the ground between them and the main herd.  In the left and center, toward the middle of the picture the main herd of bison begins to blend together and the detail becomes indistinct in the background, but gives the sense of a massive herd, a large river of brown that flows from the horizon. Light brown dust rises up within the herd, indicating movement. 

CAPTION: William Hayes, Gathering of the buffalo herds, 1866

CREDIT: American Museum of Western Art Anschutz Collection

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TEXT: The new nation expands west

By 1821 an overland trade route links Missouri and the Mexican city of Santa Fe. The route crosses “open country” where Plains Indians live and hunt.

1821: Mexico wins independence from Spain. Missouri becomes a state. Santa Fe Trail opens. Trade flows via the 900-mile-long trail between Missouri and Santa Fe and south to Chihuahua and Sonora. Traders call it the Mexican or Santa Fe Road.

1824: Secretary of War establishes the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The goal is to manage US relations with Indian tribes.

1830: President Andrew Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act. It forces Indians from lands east of the Mississippi River to western areas including present-day Kansas and Oklahoma. The act establishes a legal precedent for removal and launches decades of treaty making.

1834: Indian Trade and Intercourse Act. The act loosely defines Indian Country, which includes the future state of Kansas.

1836: Republic of Texas proclaims independence from Mexico.

1845: US annexes Republic of Texas. Mexico severs diplomatic relations, asserts ownership of annexed land between the Nueces and Rio Grande rivers.

1846: US declares war on Mexico.

1848: Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. Mexico cedes over half its territory to the US. The cession includes all or portions of Texas, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

1854: Kansas Territory established, opens Indian Country to European American settlers and increases need for military presence in the region.

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IMAGE and TEXT: Santa Fe Trail traffic increases

DESCRIBING: An historical photograph

DESCRIPTION: An eye-level, horizontal, sepia-toned, 1867 photograph of US Army soldiers standing in formation in front of a sandstone block building, facing the camera. They are in military dress uniform, dark jackets and gray pants, with white gloves and hats.  They are holding their rifles in front of them, bayonets mounted and stocks on the ground.  Four soldiers are standing in front of the formation.  One, the company's commander, is slightly in front of the other three and has his white gloved hands in front of him, holding a sword pointed at the ground.

CAPTION: Company C, 3rd US Infantry, in front  of Fort Larned barracks, 1867.

CREDIT: Kansas State Historical Society 

The US Army must protect the flow of military supplies, the mail, commerce, and emigrants along the trail, even as it fights the Civil War.

1859: Colorado Gold Rush. Over 100,000 gold seekers cross the Central Plains, many on the Santa Fe Trail. Many Indians resist the invasion of their hunting grounds and sacred places.

Camp on Pawnee Fork. Set up to guard a US mail station, it soon becomes known as Camp Alert because of constant threats from Kiowas and Comanches.

1860: Fort Larned established when camp is renamed and moved to its present site. By September its population grows to 270 men, housed in rough wood and adobe structures.

1861: Kansas becomes 34th state.

Civil War begins.

1862: Congress passes Homestead and Pacific Railway Acts.

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TEXT: Congress invests in the frontier forts

The military expands its presence along the Santa Fe Trail and other trade corridors.

1864: Kiowas take over 200 mules and horses from the fort’s corrals. Cheyennes attack a store and stage company at Walnut Creek.

US Army awards Hispanic merchant Epifanio Aguirre a contract to freight five million pounds of supplies to the frontier forts.

Thirty miles north of Fort Larned, US troops kill Cheyenne peace chief Lean Bear as he proclaims friendship and holds a peace medal that President Lincoln presented to him. Indian attacks and US Army retaliation increase.

Detachments of the 1st and 3rd Regiments, Colorado Volunteer Cavalry, massacre 230 Cheyennes and Arapahos who believe themselves under US protection at Sand Creek, Colorado Territory.

1865: Civil War ends. Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox.

1865: Little Arkansas Treaties with Southern Cheyennes, Southern Arapahos, Plains Apaches, Kiowas, and Comanches assign the tribes to reservations in present-day Oklahoma. The Indians keep the right to hunt north of the Arkansas River so long as bison are there.

1866–68: Civilian contractors construct Fort Larned’s permanent stone barracks, officers quarters, blockhouse, storehouse, shops, and commissaries.

1867: Kiowa chief Satanta issues warning to Indian Agent Edward Wynkoop’s interpreter: “The white man must build no more houses, must burn no more of their wood, must drink no more of their water, must not drive their buffaloes off, and the Santa Fe Line must be stopped.”

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TEXT: Peace Commission fails

The US Army takes charge. Fort Larned provides support for the resulting campaign against the Indians and hosts key military officers.

1867: Gen. Winfield Hancock arrives at Fort Larned with 1,400 men. He summons several chiefs from a nearby village to a council at the fort. Fearing an attack, the Indians abandon their village. Hancock sends Lt. Col. George Custer in pursuit and burns the village, setting off Hancock’s War. In response, Cheyennes and Lakota attack stage stations, wagon trains, telegraph lines, and railroad camps.

Congress appoints four civilian and three military commissioners, including Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, to a Peace Commission. The aim is to “concentrate” the Plains Indians onto reservations.

Medicine Lodge Treaties. Hundreds of Kiowas, Arapahos, Cheyennes, Plains Apaches, and Comanches meet with the Peace Commission at Medicine Lodge Creek, Kansas. The resulting treaties fail to achieve peace.

1868: Peace Commission is dissolved. Department of War enacts policy of “peace within, war without [the reservations].” 

Gen. Philip Sheridan meets with Indian leaders at Fort Larned. Soon after, he launches a new strategy intended “to make [the Plains] tribes poor by the destruction of their stock, and then settle them on lands allotted to them.” As part of this campaign, Custer leads an attack on a peaceful Cheyenne village on the Washita River. Peace chief Black Kettle and his wife, Medicine Woman Later, are among those killed.

1871 : All treaty making ends. 

1872 : Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad reaches Fort Larned and the western border of Kansas. 

1878 : Fort Larned is decommissioned. 

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