Professor speaks about 1st local settlers

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More than 40 people gathered in the auditorium of the Manhattan Public Library last night to hear Lauren Ritterbush, associate professor in sociology, anthropology and social work, speak about the previous inhabitants of the Manhattan area.

Some residents came hoping to learn more about the history of their community.

“I’m interested in the heritage, and I have a lot of Indian friends,” Adelene Guzzo, Manhattan resident, said. “I hope to gain a knowledge and an insight to the culture of Indians.”

Chris Nechols, Manhattan High School junior, attended the presentation to receive extra credit for a course and to better understand what he learned in his U.S. history class.

“We just got done with the Civil War and the Western movement,” Nechols said. “I thought it’d be cool to learn more about the subject and hear about it from another point of view besides my teacher’s.”

Ritterbush began by touching on the history of the Konza Native Americans, who lived in the area in a village called the Blue Earth Village from about 1796 to 1825. An expedition through their village reported around 120 lodges there at that time, Ritterbush said.

“We’re talking a population of at least 1,000 people at this location,” she said.

The Konza Native Americans were not the original occupants of this land. Nearly 800 years ago, the area was

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occupied by Central Plains Tradition Indians, Ritterbush said.

Archeologists have found arrowheads and chipped stone knives and scrappers left behind by the Central Plains tradition Native Americans from 1000 to 1400 A.D.

“They didn’t have metal tools, so they used stone,” Ritterbush said. “Fortunately we live in the Flint Hills.”

Archeologists have evidence of people settling this area even earlier. Ritterbush tracked the settlers of this land back to the years between 9500 and 6000 B.C.

This era is known as the Paleoindian Period. The Native Americans of the time hunted large game like the wholly mammoth. Settlers from that period are represented in Riley County, Ritterbush said.

Mary Alice Schlesener, Manhattan resident, said the presentation was thought-provoking.

“It was stimulating,” Schlesener said. “It made you think.”

Ritterbush said she hoped her presentation helped the audience realize the presence and life of the Native Americans who once lived in the area.

“What I hope for is that they understand the history, or pre-history, of this area of Manhattan and that it goes back thousands of years,” she said.

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