ROELAND PARK, Kan. — Indigenous residents and advocates are calling a proposal to place historic markers throughout Roeland Park a misrepresentation of history. 

The Roeland Park Historical Committee recommended the city install a series of historic signs. The city council reviewed a proposal Monday to place signs in eight historic locations throughout Roeland Park including:  

  • The Roe Family Home
  • The Shawnee Baptist Mission
  • The Southridge Station
  • The Southridge Market
  • Roesland Elementary School
  • The Washita Station/Old Mission Golf Course
  • The Tesar Farm
  • The Shawnee Methodist Indian Mission Boundary
Map of proposed historic sign locations. The red line marks the original boundary of the Shawnee Methodist Mission’s grounds.

Robert Hicks Jr., chair of the Indigenous Community Center in Lawrence said the Shawnee Tribe was not consulted on the project and the proposed signs do not accurately depict the treatment of Indigenous children at the mission schools. 

“The Shawnee Indian Mission School, a labor school, participated in assimilation practices and cultural genocide. The proposal is a perfect example of whitewashing Indigenous history,” Hicks said. 

According to city documents, the committee recommends the sign dedicated to the Shawnee Methodist Indian Mission boundary be placed on the traffic island at the intersection of  Nall Avenue, Roeland Drive and 55th Street. The proposed sign would read: 

“In 1839, what is now Roeland Park, was the home of two “Native-American Missions”, the Shawnee Methodist Mission and the Shawnee Baptist Mission. The Methodist Mission grounds eventually included about 2000 acres and covered 70% of today’s Roeland Park. Hundreds of acres were covered with crops, orchards and livestock operations. Students from the Shawnee and many other Native-American Tribes were taught skills of frontier subsistence agriculture. Three of the original 17 buildings still stand at 53rd & Mission Rd. This spot marks the westernmost boundary of the mission grounds.” 

Proposed location for the Shawnee Methodist Indian Mission Boundary sign.

Monique Mercurio is the vice chair of the Indigenous Community Center and a member of the Ohlone Costanoan Esselen Nation. 

“By approving these signs, you are perpetuating the mental and emotional abuse of native people. You are continuing to manipulate [the] history of the Indigenous people,” Mercurio said. “Your attempts to gaslight the descendants of the people of this land will not be tolerated.”

Miel Castagna-Herrera said she feels the language for the proposed signs only highlight the contributions of white founders and ignores the experiences and contributions of native people and minorities. 

“There are so many places in the plaques that you have missed the mark. Racial redlining is not a side note here. It could be a wall of plaques on its own,” Castagna-Herrera said. “Racial covenants are not a fun fact to put at the bottom of a plaque, it is part of the culture here. It is not gone, this is still a possibility, because there is not enough money to take it away.”

The Historical Committee estimates it would cost roughly $19,220 for the city to obtain all eight signs. 

No formal action was taken on the installation of the historic signs. Assistant City Administrator Erin Winn said the council will continue the discussion on the historic signs at the next regular city council meeting on Monday, May 16.