The entire length of the Santa Fe Trail passed through the hunting grounds and homelands of many American Indians. Nine separate groups lived throughout this portion of the Trail. They are the Otoe-Missouria, Osage, Delaware, Ioway, Ilini-Peoria, Kanza, Kickapoo, Sac and Fox, and Shawnee.
They hunted throughout the land, planted their crops along the rivers, and built their homes of native materials. Ancestors of these people had lived here for centuries before the arrival of European explorers and American traders. The first mapping of this area took place nearly 150 years before the Santa Fe Trail.
By the trail era, not all of these tribes still lived here. The Osage was the largest group of people in this part of Missouri in trail times. In fact, portions of the Santa Fe Trail actually follow the Osage Trace. This was a hunting trail that the people used to get to the buffalo lands to the West. As the number of traders crossing Osage lands increased, conflict between traders and Indians increased. Once example is conflict over the theft of horses.
In the Cultural Center, the displays interpret Missouri’s Indian history. The park also has burial mounds from these ancient people.