The Trailblazer : Lyda Conley

Lyda Conley, a member of the Wyandotte Nation, was the first woman admitted to the Kansas State Bar, and the first Native American woman to argue a case before the US Supreme Court. She is also famous for launching a campaign, with two of her sisters, to protect Wyandotte lands.

At the turn of the last century, Kansas City was growing rapidly, and city limits approached the edge of Wyandotte land. The city decided to auction off the land to developers – which included a Wyandotte graveyard.

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Lyda Conley

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Lyda Conley and two of her sisters constructed a temporary living structure, and all three moved in with their shotguns and took turns on round-the-clock watch to protect the graveyard (which included the graves of their fourth sister, mother, grandmother and ancestors).

As a lawyer, Lyda also filed a suit against the Kansas City government to prevent the sale of the lands. She took the suit all the way to the Supreme Court, where she argued the case and lost.

However, the case got the attention of US Senator Charles Curtis, who was also of Native American heritage. In 1916, Senator Curtis championed the passing of a bill in the Senate that made the land a federal park, which protected it from being developed.

On January 11th, 2017 the park was named a National Historic Site by the outgoing Obama Administration.

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