931st ARW honoring Kanza warriors

  • Published
  • By Maj Andrea Morris
  • 931 ARW

If you ever wondered where Kansas got its name, it is from the Kanza tribe that once resided here. In 1873, the Kanza tribe was relocated, as many Native American tribes, to the city they now call home, Kaw City, Oklahoma. Kaw is also a name used by the tribe. Through the years and translations amongst the U.S. Government, Kaw, Kanza, Kansa, Konza, and most preferred by the Native American community, Kaa’Nze, are all names that have been used for the tribe. The word means “people of the south wind”. Currently there are more than 3,000 members of the Kanza tribe, primarily living in the state of Oklahoma but also spanning the globe as far as Hawaii and Australia.

“Although our members have a strong tie to our Indian heritage, we wanted to make sure that we keep our native language to preserve our heritage and legacy,” said Lynn Williams, tribal chair of the Kaw Nation. “We have a strong language program that provides Zoom classes, so even those who don’t live near the reservation can learn our native language.”

Ms. Lynn Williams was born and raised as a Kanza Native American. She served as a Captain in the U.S. Public Health Service and retired with 25 years of dedicated service, continuing her career working on the tribal council, starting out as vice-chair.

“I am very proud to be Native American and a Kaa’ⁿze woman. I believe most of my fellow Native American brothers and sisters are very proud of their tribal affiliation and the traditions they observe,” Williams said. “We celebrate our heritage by holding  our annual pow wow, social dances through the year, and men’s ceremonial dance known as ‘I’Loshka’ held in late July.”

The Kanza tribe isn’t just recognized by having a state and a city named after them, they also have an Air Force Wing who is honorably referred to as the Kanza Warriors since standing up at McConnell Air Force Base, Kansas, in 1995.

 “In the three years I’ve been with the 931st Air Refueling Wing, I have been fortunate to experience the unique relationship between the Kaw nation and the 931st,” said Col. Phil Heseltine, 931st Air Refueling Wing Commander. “We frequently participate in each other’s events, strengthening the historical and cultural connection between our military service members and the Kanza tribe.”

The Kanza tribe and the Kanza Warriors of the 931st have shared years of respect, friendship and partnership. The Kanza tribe has presented the wing with a colorful blanket and a ceremonial headdress, known as a “Roach,” which is currently on display at the 931st headquarters building. The headdress has become the logo of the 931st. The wing has shown respect and appreciation to the Kanza tribe with Kaw nation nose art on the unit’s KC-135s as well as dedicating building 1218 on base to the Kanza tribe. Even the official call sign used by the 931st during air refueling operations is Kanza.

“It is an honor to be associated with the 931st. We have a good relationship with Col. Heseltine and the other members,” Williams said. “There is a lot of respect there.”

With November being National Native American Heritage month, it is a great opportunity to invite our honored tribe to McConnell Air Force Base to share our culture and stories with each other. The visit is currently scheduled for the end of the month and includes a tour of the Air Force’s newest refueling aircraft, the KC-46A.