Monday, June 8, 2009

Taos Indians in Scott City, Kansas

One afternoon in early May, a handful of RVs were parked on utility campsites at Lake Scott State Park and Wildlife Area, in Scott City, Kan. The nearby Beach House and Bait and Tackle Shop would open after Memorial Day. Occasional fisherman cast their lines into the 100-acre-lake where miniature white caps had developed in a strong spring wind. But few other vehicles traveled the quiet, winding roads and rolling hills with me.

There are many features here that you would expect to find in any large state park. The bait and tackle shop offers boat rentals and groceries, in season. There's also a swimming beach and a playground, dozens of campsites, two shower buildings, and nature trails catering to hikers, horseback riders and nature lovers. A small house/museum commemorates the Steele family who donated 640 acres of their homestead to help create the park and recreation area.

But this park has one very surprising feature, too. Barely visible from the main road lie reconstructed building foundations with an unusual history. The site known as El Cuartelejo Indian Pueblo represents the last vestiges of a small pueblo settlement established there by the Taos Indians as they fled Spanish rule during the mid-1600s. Twenty years later, they returned to their native home. The settlement remained dormant until Picurie Indians settled there for a couple of years near the turn of the century.

Not until the mid-1890s were the pueblo ruins found and excavated, and they received National Historical Landmark status 70 years later. Today, these small, reconstructed foundations remind visitors of a fleeting connection between the Taos Indians and the state of Kansas.

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