Kaw Nation recently celebrated the return of a significant piece of its ancestral land in Topeka, Kansas. Nestled near Veteran’s Park in Topeka’s vibrant NOTO district, the ceremonial “Three Sisters” rematriation ceremony marked a tremendous occasion for the tribe.
The ancestral plot, once owned by Evergy, was officially presented back to the Kaw Nation in a symbolic gesture of reconciliation and recognition.

The ceremony included not only the return of the land but also featured the unveiling of a striking mural and the planting of a newly cherished tree on the sacred ground.Kaw Nation Chairwoman, Kim Jenkins, expressed her gratitude and reflected on the rarity of such a landback event. “Normally, corporations don’t want to give land back. We haven’t really experienced something like this, and I’m not sure that many tribes do. So, I’m hoping that other organizations will follow suit and think about that,” remarked Chairwoman Jenkins. The sentiment resonates not only as a triumph for the Kaw Nation but also as a call to action for corporations and organizations to consider the significance of returning ancestral lands to their rightful stewards.

Chair Kim Jenkins & Ken Bellmard observe a Topeka Map in NOTO Arts Center.

The return of this land signifies not just a legal transaction but a reconnection to heritage, culture, and identity for the Kaw Nation. The Three Sisters ceremony, deeply rooted in Native American traditions, represents a commitment to sustainability, cooperation, and the interconnectedness of three essential crops—corn, beans, and squash. The inclusion of this ceremony in the rematriation process adds a layer of cultural richness and spiritual significance to the return of the land.

The mural, a visual testament to the resilience and history of the Kaw Nation, is a captivating piece of art that tells a story of survival, strength, and the enduring ties to the land. The newly planted tree stands as a symbol of growth, continuity, and the hope for a harmonious future between the Kaw Nation and the land that is rightfully theirs.

Kaw Nation Government Relations Director, Ken Bellmard observes artwork at NOTO Arts Center.

The ceremony’s conclusion saw a group walk back to the NOTO Arts Center, where participants immersed themselves in the cultural experience. A fry bread feast and the sharing of 3 Sisters soup brought people together, fostering a sense of community and shared celebration.

Kaw Nation’s journey to reclaiming their heritage in Topeka, Kansas, sets a precedent and sparks a conversation about the broader implications of landback movements. It challenges organizations to reflect on the historical injustices and consider how they can contribute to a more equitable future.

In the spirit of this celebration, let it be a catalyst for change and inspire others to engage in meaningful dialogues and actions that acknowledge the historical and ongoing struggles of Indigenous communities. The return of the Kaw Nation’s ancestral land is not just a milestone for them but a step towards healing, understanding, and justice. May this event be a ripple that creates waves of positive change, fostering a world where the relationship between Indigenous peoples and their lands is one of respect and shared prosperity.