Indigenous Kansas was the theme of this year’s October 10th Indigenous People’s Day, hosted at K-State by the members of the Indigenous Faculty Staff Alliance (IFSA). IFSA is composed of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous faculty and staff from across the university. They work through all levels of the university and community to support diversity and inclusion across the board. I have proudly been a member since my arrival in Kansas in 2016. With their encouragement, I quickly found a home, gained many new Aunties, and became curious about the Indigenous history at K-State, which led me on a multi-year journey and research project. This focus on Kansas Indigeneity respired my curiosity about how Indigenous students were or weren’t documented in K-State history.
For this article I re-visited several K-State history books that we, at Manhattan Public Library, have in our collection. The first book I read is “The History of Kansas State College of Agricultural and Applied Science.” J.T. Willard’s book, along with the index, documents the university from 1862-1939. Willard’s book is extensive and covers everything from where and who the earlier settlers were to each budget line of a department. He was specific in the topics he chose and painstakingly exact about every detail, minus one. There is no mention or clue in his book of who the first Indigenous students could be. His book ends before the university’s first Black students can be mentioned, George Washington Owens graduated in 1899 and Minnie Howell Campbell in 1901. Other K-State history books in our collection follow this template but tend to be less intense, such as J.D. Walters’s book, “History of The Kansas State Agricultural College”. Walters’ book is a brief overview of university history from 1855-1908. He also fails to mention any students of color. These resources did not aid me in attempts to re-insert the Indigenous narrative back into the institutional record, a problem that is not new.