Pioneering the Trail

Virtual Kansas




Little House on the Prarie

Little House on the Prairie

Address:  2507,  3000 RD, Independence Kansas

Laura Ingalls Wilder's widely acclaimed "Little House" series of children’s novels traces her life with her parents and sisters from the late 1860s until her marriage to Almanzo Wilder in 1885.The primary focus of Wilder’s third novel, Little House on the Prairie, was the interaction between the pioneer settlers of Kansas and the Osage Indians. Wilder's family settled in Montgomery County, Kansas, in 1869-1870, approximately one year before the final removal of the Osages to Indian Territory. The novel depicts some of the pivotal events in the relations between the Osages and the intruding settlers during that time period. The Osages ceded much of their Great Plains territory to the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century and finally were left in 1865 with one remaining tract of land, a fertile 4.8 million acres in southeastern Kansas that became known as the Osage Diminished Reserve. Within a few years intruding settlers were creeping onto the reserve lands in increasing numbers. Although many, if not most, of the Osages recognized that it was inevitable they would cede this land and be removed permanently to Indian Territory, they also were not pleased at being prematurely pushed off their land by encroaching settlers.

The tension between these two groups steadily escalated in intensity after the Osages signed the ill-fated Sturges Treaty in May 1868. Both settlers and Osages had cause to complain about the inaction of the federal government during the next two years as Congress debated the Sturges Treaty in the context of public land policy. Each side committed acts of violence and property destruction against the other, but historical evidence supports the proposition that the majority of both Osages and settlers favored and actively promoted peaceful relations. However, the overall relationship between the parties was marked by an unavoidable degree of tension. The settlers who promoted peaceful relations desired that the land be opened up to them for settlement, and even the Osages who favored a speedy removal to Indian Territory merely tolerated the intruders.

The Ingalls family arrived in Kansas with a large tide of other squatters in the summer and fall of 1869, a point at which relations between settlers and Osages were most strained. Wilder wrote that her father settled a few miles over the line on the Osage reserve by mistake. Yet, the Ingalls family settled so firmly in the bounds of the Osage Diminished Reserve that it is doubtful they were unaware they were intruding on Indian lands. Wilder's novel depicts her family as the victim of a capricious and overreaching federal government. Was Charles Ingalls instead one of the thousands of pioneers who pushed settlement westward, forcing the removal of the various Indian tribes of the Great Plains? It is clear from Wilder's writings that although her father favored peaceful relations with the Indians, he also believed that the land would, and significantly, should, be opened up for settlement by white pioneers. Wilder's Little House on the Prairie chronicle provides an important backdrop for evaluating the relationship between and perspectives of both squatters and Osages as their fundamental conflict of interest played out on the Kansas prairies.

...A Study of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie by Penny T Linsenmayer , KSHS