Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area offers a wide range of diverse cultures right in the middle of America’s heartland. Both historically and today, people with different cultural backgrounds live in close proximity of one another.
Prior to U.S. acquisition in the Louisiana Purchase, the territory home to various American Indians, including the Osage, Otoe, and Kanza, and claimed by French and Spanish. Missouri quickly became settled by people from the upper South moving west bringing with them enslaved African Americans. Missouri also had a significant German population, while the Santa Fe Trail helped to bring Mexican culture to the area. After the Indian Removal Act, many eastern tribes, including the Miami, Shawnee, Pottawatomi, Piankeshaw, Kaskaskia, Wea, Peoria, Ottawa, Delaware, Ojibwa, and Wyandot, were moved in the Indian Territory east of Missouri. When Kansas was opened for settlement, New Englanders and Free-State settlers from Ohio and Indiana moved into the area.
Today, our area celebrates its cultural diversity with festivals and remembers the contributions of diverse groups through museum and cultural centers. Make it a point this year to learn about as many cultures that make up Freedom’s Frontier as possible. Here are some suggestions to get you started. Visit the Haskell Cultural Center and Museum to learn about the American Indians who lived here. Check out the exhibits at the St. Joseph Black Archives Museum to learn about African American culture and contributions in St. Joseph. The Strawberry Hill Museum and Cultural Center preserves the Eastern European ethnic heritage of Kansas City, Kansas. Be sure to mark your calendar for cultural festivals like Topeka’s Fiesta Mexicana and Kansas City’s Ethnic Enrichment Festival. And don’t forget about Native Neighbors of Freedom’s Frontier taking place in October, 2016, in Fort Scott, Kansas.
If you are looking to encounter new cultures outside of Freedom’s Frontier, consider a visit to the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor along the coast of Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina or head west to the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area in northern New Mexico.