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Historical Significance of the
Shawnee Indian Manual Labor School

The Shawnee Indian Mission Labor School (SIMLS) was originally constructed on 2,000 acres of Shawnee land in the early 1830s, and the Methodist Church operated the site as a federally-backed Indian boarding and manual labor school from 1839 to 1862, just one year after Kansas became a state.

At least 1,480 children from more than 20 tribal nations—mostly Shawnees, Delawares, and Ottawas—passed through the manual labor school. The site was also central to the development of Kansas as a state. Settlers used the Shawnee Indian Manual Labor School as the Kansas territorial capitol for several months sparking the period known as "Bleeding Kansas."

These and other crucial facets of the site's unique history, as well as the architectural significance of its structures, finishes, and interiors, led to the SIMLS being declared a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1968.


Unfortunately, decades of inadequate funding and improper management have left the site in a critical state.

The SIMLS is home to one of the oldest residential structures in Kansas.

This public treasure has fallen into deep physical distress, with only one of the site's three buildings remaining accessible to the public. Structural decay and other deficiencies urgently need repair to save the site's architectural history, and an out-of-date interpretive exhibit and inappropriate public programming need wholesale revisioning to adequately preserve the SIMLS's cultural history.

Our Mission

The Shawnee Tribe remains deeply connected to the SIMLS, as do the other tribal nations whose children endured at the manual labor school.


In 2020, the Shawnee Tribe enacted legislation to designate the SIMLS as a sacred site, officially mandating the Tribe protect it from desecration and maintain it for the public benefit.


To that end, the Tribe contracted a nationally renowned historic architecture firm to perform a site condition assessment and develop a plan to restore the Shawnee Indian Manual Labor School (SIMLS). 

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West Building, 1940

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East Building, 1940

The multi-year plan consists of three phases,

with projected total costs ranging between $6.6 and $13 million to properly revitalize and protect the Shawnee Indian Manual Labor School for generations to come. Adjusted for recent inflation, those projections could reach $15 million.

Recognizing that this urgent work cannot wait, Tribal and state leaders came together to draft and introduce HB 2208 to the Kansas Legislature, which would authorize the Kansas State Historical Society to convey the site back to the Shawnee Tribe.

Our Mission


Funding and managing the complete restoration of this site, so that the full history of the Shawnee Indian Manual Labor School may be shared for generations to come.

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Shawnee Tribe Business Councilman Keni Hood outside the East Building, 2021

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Lifting & curling shingles on the roof of the East Building, 2021.


A phased approach led by historic preservation and site interpretation experts in full consultation with key stakeholders, including all federally recognized tribes with a connection to the site, the State of Kansas, and members of the local community.

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