Who We Are

     Some of us have been meeting for months, even years, to see this project through to fruition.   We hope that our efforts will encourage others to research the deep history of their landscape, develop an appreciation for the Kansas River valley landscape and the different peoples who lived here over many generations.  If you already know the Kansas River and its surroundings, we hope you see familiar places in new ways.  For more information you may contact Rhonda Janke (rrjanke@ksu.edu), Lauren Ritterbush (lritterb@ksu.edu), or others who have been involved with this project.


Robert Rankin - was the leading figure in Kanza language preservation for more than thirty years. Some of his accomplishments include hours of field recording the last native speakers of Kanza, locating and studying historical documentation of the Kanza language, creating a Kanza-English dictionary, and overall tireless research and publication. Dr. Rankin was Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the University of Kansas before he passed away on February 24, 2014.

Justin T. McBride - recently resumed the role of Kaw Nation Language Director, a position he previously held for about nine years.  A friend and colleague of the late Bob Rankin, the two worked closely together on numerous Kanza language projects, including three ANA grants and an NEH fellowship to track down and analyze resources at the National Anthropological Archives.  Justin is presently completing his PhD in Linguistics from Oklahoma State University with research interests in Native American speech communities, ethnolinguistic vitality, language attitudes and ideology, and second language teaching.                       

Kaw Nation Cultural Committee Representatives

Curtis Kekahbah (Maxpu Ska Maⁿyíⁿ) - is currently serving on the Kaw Nation Cultural Committee.  He also works for the Southern Arizona Veterans Administration Healthcare System in Tucson as a Traditional Counselor.   One of his interests is the Kanza language and it's use in the Kaw Tribe.

Pauline Sharp (Ta Wak’o) - is currently serving on the Kaw Nation Cultural Committee as Vice-President.  She retired from a career in Information Technology in 2012 and now enjoys participating in Kaw Culture and History projects, including research on her Grandmother, Lucy Tayiah Eads, first female Chief of the Kaw, 1922-1934.   


Anthropology and Archaeology

Lauren Ritterbush - is an archaeologists who specializes in the prehistory and ethnohistory of the Great Plains.  Her special interests lie in the diversity of native peoples who have lived in eastern and northern Kansas over the past 2000 years and longer.  She is Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Kansas State University.  http://www.k-state.edu/sasw/faculty/ritterbush.html 

History and Geography

Ron Parks - author of many essays about the Kaw history and former Director of the Kaw Mission museum in Council Grove.  Ron recently published "The Darkest Period: The Kanza and Their Homeland, 1846-1873.  (2014 University of Oklahoma Press).  

 Heidi Mehl - Currently a PhD student in geography at Kansas State University, working on a project about river systems and Kansas tribes, especially the Pottawatomie (and including possible Kanza-Pottawatomie interactions in the mid-1800's. 


Botany, River Enjoyment, and Water Quality

Cynthia Annett - trained professionally as an aquatic ecologist, for the past ten years has headed an exchange program for indigenous students in the U.S. and the Former Soviet Union through the Center for Hazardous Substance Research at Kansas State University. Her research interests include the ecology and management of prairie rivers and watersheds; including the Kansas River in the Great Plains of the U.S. and in the Katun River on the Siberian steppe.  Cynthia is also a member of the Google Outreach Trainers Network and incorporate Google Earth, Maps, Fusion Tables and Spreadsheets into her teaching and research.

Glenn Fell - has a diverse background in sustainable agriculture, teaching, installing wells in Malawi, and native plant appreciation and identification.  He is currently working on trail signs, a website and calendar with Kanza names for native plants.

Rhonda Janke - Professor and Extension Specialist, Sustainable Cropping Systems, Kansas State University.  She also has a small organic farm, and has lead several extension efforts related to whole farm planning and waterquality.  She loves to be on or near the river when possible, and several years ago became intrigued with the question - "what did the Kanza call this river before the Europeans arrived?" She worked with Dr. Rankin for several years to bring this project to fruition along with the other team members listed.  

 Jeff Neel - Executive Director, Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams.  Has done extensive mapping of rivers, watersheds, and wetlands in Kansas, and has been fascinated by the Kaw names for many years. 


Many other people have contributed to our work indirectly.  Among these are ...

Laura Calwell - is the current Kansas Riverkeeper and Executive Director for Friends of the Kaw.  She also is a founding board member and served 3 years as secretary and 4 years as president of the organization. 

Donna Roper - is a professional archeologist specializing in the prehistory of the Great Plains.  With an interest not only in the Kanza, but also the Pawnee, she is interested in the interface between the two tribes.  She edited a recent issue of "Current Archaeology in Kansas" (2012) on behalf of the Association of Professional Archaeologists of Kansas that focused on Kanza archaeology. 


-          Michael Stubbs has graciously provided us with copies of Dorsey’s notes and his own Kansa Indian research.