Orthology of the Word Kansa

The orthography of the word Kansa, or Kansas, had passed through many modifications. This had not been caused by any change in the word itself, for the word is very little different in sound from what it was in prehistoric times. The Siouans generally pronounced the word as indicated by our manner of writing it—Kansa, or Kä-sa. The Kansas tribe so spoke it. The American had changed the a in the first syllable from the Italian to the short a. The Indian form of pronunciation was sometimes distorted by the early traders, especially the French traders. They made the a to have the sound of au or aw as in haul or in awl. From this corruption came the Kau in the later spellings. The word had been also variously written, and the early explorers were apt to begin with a C rather than with a K. Indeed, it was sometimes commenced with Qu. So, it is found as Kansa, Kansas, Kantha, Kances, Kansies, Kanzas, Konza, Kausa, Kansas, Kauza, Kauzas, Causa, Cansas, Cances, Canceys, and in perhaps a hundred other forms. The form Kau, or Kaw, was an abbreviation of the name, originating with the French traders and spreading abroad to all having dealings with the tribe. Pike wrote the name Kans. This was not intended by him for an abbreviation, and it is the belief of this author that an examination of his original manuscript would reveal the fact that he actually wrote it Kaus. The mistake was made by the printer.

In pronouncing his own name—that is, the name of his own tribe—the Kansas Indian did not distinctly sound the n in the first syllable. As in many others of his words, and even in words in many tribes of different linguistic families, the n was not a separate sound, but rather a nasalized prolonged termination of the syllable. This form of terminating a syllable is common to many Indian languages. This nasalized termination is the merest approximation of the n sound. It is often written (and printed in the works of scholars) as in a coefficient term in mathematics—as Kan-sz. And the Kansas Indian usually pronounced the word Kä-za, or Kau-za, with the modification above noted. In many of the old books it is printed Kau-zau, following closely the native form of pronunciation. But, as said, there is the approximation to the n sound, and it is fortunate that the sound was retained and strengthened to an equality with the other sounds in the word. Kansas, as now accepted, written, and spoken, is one of the most beautiful Indian words adapted to use in the English tongue. As a name for a state it is unequaled.

The editors of Volume X, Kansas Historical Collections, made a compilation of the old maps showing the locations of the Kansas Indians. The work was carefully done, and it was printed as a footnote on pages 344, 345 of that work. It is set out below: “The earliest map pointing out the location of the Kansa nation was that of Marquette, 1673, and described locations as found by that intrepid missionary explorer and his companion, Joliet. On it the Kansa were placed west of the Osages and Southwest of the Panis. Marquette did not visit them, nor any tribe west of the Mississippi, but had information from well-informed Indians who stood by while he made the map. At this time the Kansa were probably on the Missouri river in about the location where visited Bourgmont fifty years later. “Parkman’s map No. 5, in Harvard College Library. ‘La Manitoumie, 1672-73,’ shows the Kanissi south of the Missouri river and between the Missouri and Paniassa. (Winsor’s Narrative History of America, vol. 4, p. 221.) “Joliet’s map 1674, shows the Kansa southeast of the Osages and Pani. (Thwaites’ Jesuit Relations, vol. 59, p. 86.) “Franquelin’s map of Louisiana, 1679-1682, shows the Cansa on the Emissourittes river above the mouth of the Kansa river. (Margry, vol. 3; Thwaites’ Jesuit Relations, vol. 63, p. 1.) “Thevenot’s map of Louisiana, 1681, locates the Kemissi south of the Missouri and northwest of the Autre Chaha (Osage) and toward the Panissi. “De ‘Lisle’s map of Louisiana, 1718, shows the Grande Rivere des Cansez and a village far out on that stream at the mouth of the second large tributary from the northwest, near the country of the Padoucas. It also shows a village of Les Cansez on the Missouri river, south side, near the mouth of a creek (Independence). (In French’s Louisiana, part 2.) “D’Anville’s map of Louisiana, 1732, locates the Kanza village at the month of Petite river des Kansez. This was the Grand village at the mouth of Independence creek. This map also shows the River des Padoucas et Kansez and a village of the Paniouassas on a northern branch. (Photo map.) “Bellin’s map of Louisiana, 1744, marks the Pays des Canses (country of the Kansa) extending from the Missouri river almost to the mountains, being quite a part of the present states of Missouri, Kansas and southern Nebraska. The Canses village is placed at the mouth of the second large tributary of the Kansas river from its junction with the Missouri. It shows also the Petite river des Canses (the Little River of the Kansa). (Shea’s Charlevoix History of New France, vol. 6, p. 11.) “Sieur le Rouge’s map, 1746, shows River des Canses correctly, and the Canses villages on the Kansas river, quite a way from its mouth. “Vangundy’s map of North America, 1798, gives Les Canses on their river, and gives the Pays des Canses as extensive as that of other great Indian nations, or from the mountains to the Missouri river, over most of the present state of Kansas. (Winsor’s Miss. Basin, p. 205.) “Le Page Du Pratz’s map of Louisiana, 1757, with course of the Mississippi and tributaries, shows the river of the Cansez with the location of a Cansez village up that stream about sixty or seventy miles. It also shows the Grand village Cansez on the Missouri river quite a distance above the mouth of the Cansez river. This shows that they were again living on both streams, with permanent villages, as shown by De ‘Lisle’s map of 1718. (Photo map.) “Dunn’s map, 1774. Source of Mississippi river, shows Kanzes at mouth of a tributary to the Missouri river. This was doubtless the old Grand village at the mouth of Independence creek. This copy of Dunn’s map does not show the whole course of the Kansas river, omitting a village at the mouth of the Blue and would indicate that as late as 1774 they were still occupying the above-described Grand village. (Winsor’s Westward Movement, page 214.) “Carver’s map of North America, 1778, shows Kansez on the south side of the Missouri, northwest of the Osages. This is about the last map showing them lingering by the Missouri river. After this they seem to have entirely established themselves on their own old river, the Kansas. (Winsor’s Westward Movement, page 104.) “French map of date prior to 1800, used by Lewis and Clark, 1804, marks the junction of Kances river, upon which the Kansa nation lived at that time. (Map No. 1, Thwaites’ Lewis and Clark.) “Spanish map about 1800, used by Lewis and Clark, Map No. 2, shows Kansez river with a village of Kansez Indians on its north bank east of the junction with the Blue. “Pike’s map, 1806, gives Kanses on the river of that name. (Coues’ edition.) “Long’s map of the West, 1819, shows Konzas village at the mouth of Blue Earth river, near the bank of the Konzas river. It also shows the site of the Old Konzas village on the Missouri river at the mouth of Independence creek, which had been abandoned by the nation many years before.”

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