OTTAWA — The Munsee Tribe of Kansas has a rich history in Franklin County.


The tribal family is fighting to seek federal recognition as a tribe. November is a time for reflection for the tribe as it is Native American History Month.


Connie Hildebrandt, a Munsee and Chippewa descendant and also an Ottawa native, is leading the continued effort to regain federal recognition for the Kansas Munsee.


She began her work in August 2018, with the help of Mike Ford, a Choctaw descendant and Native American historian, by putting notices on Facebook and looking for Munsee descendants.


The past two years, Hildebrandt organized a strong effort on behalf of the descendants to seek federal recognition.


The Kansas Munsee, officially known as "The Munsee Tribe in Kansas," conduct their own tribal meetings and have committee meetings monthly via Zoom/Google, Hildebrant said.


The tribe is working to preserve its history and language, to preserve its cemetery and land in the Chippewa Hills, and to educate its members and the public about the rich and often tragic history of the tribe, which is evidenced on the Tribe’s website at kansasmunsee.org.


"The recognition effort will take time, effort and money, so the tribe continues to have fundraisers and seek help from experts," Hildebrant said. "The Munsee are proud to celebrate their history in Franklin County and beyond."


The tribe settled in the Chippewa Hills in the 1860s after being forced off land in Leavenworth.


Starting in 1680, the Christian Munsee people were pushed west from the New York area slowly to Pennsylvania, Ohio, Canada, and finally to Kansas in the 1800s.


During this time, the Munsee Tribe lived on a 2,500-plus acre reservation near Leavenworth. It was not a peaceful time because families had illegally settled on this promised reservation land and eventually the reservation land was sold in 1858 for $43,000.


A series of illegal and disruptive federal rulings led to a governmental attempt to relocate the tribe and dissolve it, but many tribal members remained in the area.


The tribe remained true its ancestors, heritage, language, and culture. Members continued to serve the country in the national forces — a tradition throughout the history of the tribe.


In the 1970s, tribal member Clio Caleb Church organized the tribe toward a recognition effort.


"She spent the last 35 years of her life working to organize the information and political support needed to achieve this challenging goal," Hildebrant said.


Church died in 2014 before her goal was achieved.


Hildebrant and other Munsee descendants took up her dream, but work still remains.


"There are still many Munsee Indians in the area," Hildebrant said. "As we approach November, Native American History Month, the Munsee are proud to celebrate their history in Franklin County and beyond."