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Guardian of the Grove

25 Historic Sites, Attraction, History, Recreation, Historic Site

This bronze statue, crafted by a local artist, contains many symbols important to the Kaw (Kanza) Indian Tribe, whose last Kansas home was located here in Council Grove. It was the Kanza Indians for which Kansas was named.

West Main Street

Council Grove

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Situated at the intersection of U.S. 56 Highway (Main Street) and North K-177 (Union Street) is a unique and symbolic juxtaposition of statuary reflecting the historical intersection of cultures in Council Grove. On the northeast corner facing west is the Madonna of the Trail, an Algonite stone representation of Manifest Destiny marching bravely and triumphantly west with children in tow, taming the wilderness while spreading Euro-American civilization across the prairie landscape.

Counterpoised on the northwest corner facing east stands the figure of a Kaw warrior. Known as the "Guardian of the Grove," this eight-foot-high bronze statue embodies the Native American, standing deeply rooted in the land, but directly in the path of a powerful and alien culture.

The Guardian of the Grove now stands as a reminder of our not so distant past. It is a tribute to a Native American people who have refused to fade away into extinction; it stands as a challenge to future generations to preserve our history.  Sculptor Thomas Mark Sampsel donated his time and talent to create The Guardian of the Grove for the city of CouncilGrove. Countless volunteers have given their time and money in order to provide needed manual labor and materials for this sculpture. Standing now on the Santa Fe Trail over looking the Neosho River the past meets the present by means of a bronze statue that is filled with symbolism. This guide is meant to help you locate the various symbols and understand their significance to the Kansa people.

Symbols Guide to "The Guardian Of The Grove"

  • The Guardian stands upon a shell-shaped base.  Shells were used by the Kansa as a container for burning smudges, which were important aspects of healing, protection, and spiritual rituals.

  • The numbers of twists on the side of the leggings represent the clans of the Kansa during the 1700s.

  • Within these twists on the leggings are four-sided diamond shapes, which represent the 47 upper worlds found in Kansa' beliefs.  A contrasting round shape seen within the twists symbolizes the Earth.

  • The stance of the Guardian is that of stepping forward with the right foot.  This represents the Kansa' move into American mainstream society and the initial moving away from Kansa tradition.

  • The blanket wrapped around his chest indicates spokesperson status to those in his tribe.

  • Within the fold at the top edge of the blanket is a cross shape representing crossroads. Many crossroads were evident in Kansas in the latter half of the 1800s.  The Kansa people's cultures and lifestyles were dramatically changed by westward expansion into Kansa territory.

  • The young warrior's right forearm has an outstanding vein visible.  The vein is detailed after a major Native American trail, which became known as the Santa Fe Trial.  This sculpture stands upon that trail today.

  • Cradled in his right arm is a long-stemmed pipe held in a manner indicating peaceful intent.

  • The pipe is a key to tying the physical and spiritual worlds together.

  • The braids and the pipe symbolically represent body, mind, and spirit as it frames the aspects of the heart to form a triangle.

  • The twisted pipe was a specific style that was utilized when strong medicine was called for.  The Kansa people were noted healers who were respected for their knowledge by other tribes.

  • Two fingers are placed upon the pipe's bowl, supporting the pipe and depicting spiritual union.

  • A large skin robe over the left shoulder ranks an individual as a speaker who has represented himself well.

  • The four folds in the robe represent the four directions-North, South, East, and West.

  • The seven points on the robe represent the seven stars of the Pleiades which were significant to the Kansa people.

  • The points are also symbolic of the seven directions or bends in the River of Life.

  • The contours of the robe reflect the type of landscape often favored by the Kansa Indians, such as the Flint Hills.

  • The numerous beads of the necklace represent the Kansa people.

  • The three strands of necklaces represent the three main aspects of the treaties embraced by the Kansa.

  • The medallion on the necklaces features symbols representing the four winds.

  • Around the outer edge of the medallion are symbols representing the seven main clans that relocated to the reservations in Oklahoma.

  • The sun symbol, which is a circular shape with a small circle in the middle, is also present within the medallion.

  • The three rings in each ear represent the sacred burial sites lost due to broken treaties and promises.

  • The Guardian has the traditional Kansa roach-style haircut in the shape of a deer's tail.  Braids were commonly worn in pairs originating out of the lock at the back of the head.

  • The overall posture is indicative of turning.  The Guardian is preparing to head in a new direction, which relates to the changes in the circumstances that were affecting the Kansa People.

  • The downward slant of the feather in his hair is an indication of the wear's peaceful intentions.

  • Within the shadows of the robe are actual signatures of current-day Kansa tribe members that signify their presence in today's society and their approval of this sculpture, which honors their heritage.

  • The concrete pedestal base is in a circular shape, which represents the Earth.

  • The twelve points created by the brick walk surrounding the base represent twelve basic sides of the universe in Kansa beliefs.

  • When completed, the walkway around the Guardian will depict a keyhole, which is a medicine symbol.

NOTE: It was the sculptor's intention to plant specific plants that relate to Kansa history and early settlers around the statue and include four stones of red, yellow, black, and white placed as symbols of all races and cultures.

Sculptor's notes:  I would like to extend a special thank you to the Friends of Kaw Heritage for their hard work and dedication to this project.  I also need to thank my mentor and friend, Elden Tefft, who gave above and beyond the realms of friendship.

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