Local Obituaries

The first Kansan in 130 years to lead the Kaw Nation, Guy Munroe, dies

Guy Munroe, first Kansan to head the Kaw Nation since 1873, stands outside the Kaw Indian Nation Tribal
Headquarters in Kaw City, Okla., in 2003.
Guy Munroe, first Kansan to head the Kaw Nation since 1873, stands outside the Kaw Indian Nation Tribal Headquarters in Kaw City, Okla., in 2003. Wichita Eagle

The former chairman, chief executive and first Kansan in 130 years to head the Kaw Tribal Nation has died.

Guy Munroe, a Derby businessman, died Monday. He was 77.

The rosary will be at 1 p.m. on Friday at All Saints Catholic Church, 3313 E. Grand. A funeral mass will follow at 1:30 p.m.

Mr. Munroe was born Jan. 3, 1941. His early childhood was spent in Washunga, Oklahoma. The Kay County town was named for the last chief of the Kaw Indians. Mr. Munroe was in third grade when his family moved to Wichita, where his parents had jobs at Cessna, according to one of his best friends, Lloyd Pappan.

"He was one of the nicest people you would ever meet," Pappan said Wednesday. "He was the real thing."

The two met on their first day of school, Pappan said.

Mr. Munroe was a 1959 graduate of Southeast High School, where he was an all-city basketball player. He then played basketball while attending Wichita State University and later played on the Army basketball team while serving in Cambodia, Pappan said. Through the years, he won championships in rodeos as a team and calf roper.

Mr. Munroe told The Wichita Eagle in 2003 that he wanted to help the tribe's poor and elderly improve their standard of living. At the time, many members of the tribe earned less than $20,000 a year. He was chairman of the nation from 2002 through 2014.

During his tenure, a casino was built, the Nation made some land purchases and bought into a bank in Oklahoma. He commuted every day to the tribal headquarters in Kaw City, Okla.

The state of Kansas derives its name from the Kaw - or Kanza - Nation.

Mr. Munroe took pride in being Kanza and a Kansan, Pappan said.

The Kaw originally lived in the Ohio River Valley. By the early 1800s, they had moved to what is now the Kaw River Valley to claim a territory that covered roughly two-fifths of modern-day Kansas and parts of Nebraska and Missouri.

In 1873, Congress made the Kaw sell their lands and move to Oklahoma's Indian Territory.

In the late 20th and early 21st century, the Kaw Nation began making a comeback, reclaiming much of its cultural heritage through language, dance and customs.

Mr. Munroe became the first Kansan in nearly 130 years to lead the Kaw.

"He was my chairman, a very good boss," said Crystal Douglas, director of the Kanza Museum in Kaw City.

She remembers his affinity for wearing hats and chuckles at the memory.

"He always wore his cowboy hat everywhere he went," Douglas said. "It was hard to not be recognized. But if he did not wish to be the center of attention, he would borrow a ball cap from the Kanza Museum gift shop and he left his cowboy hat with me.

"Now the first time we did this, I went through extensive training on proper care of a man’s hat. I am talking about ten minutes of explanation. You would have thought he was leaving a child with a sitter for the first time. Believe me he was very serious about that hat. It’s one of those things that make me smile today."

Mr. Munroe was instrumental in gaining a friendship with officials at McConnell Air Force Base which, with the Kaw Nation's permission used the name "Kanza" as the air refueling call sign. In addition, several roads and buildings at McConnell are named with the Kaw Nation in mind.

Today, as more people research their family histories and reclaim ethnic heritage, the Kaw Nation can boast a growing membership of more than 3,500 people, Douglas said.

"He brought and kept relative economic and political stability for most of his tenure as Chairman of the Kaw Nation," said Jim Pepper Henry, executive director at CEO of the American Indian Cultural Center Museum in Oklahoma City and a Kaw tribal member.

In 2000, the Kaw purchased more than 150 acres near Council Grove to establish the Allegawaho Memorial Heritage Park.

It was a coming home for many of the tribal members.

At the time, some in the Council Grove community were concerned the land could potentially be used as a casino. Mr. Munroe, who became friends with then Senator Sam Brownback worked together to obtain tourism grant money to turn the land into a memorial park honoring the Kaw nation.

In 2015, the Kaw returned to Kansas and danced their first official powwow -- with more than 300 dancers -- on their own land near Council Grove.

"He cared for other people," Pappan said. "To the day he passed away, he was worried about the tribe."

Mr. Munroe is survived by his wife, Mary Jo.; Son; Marc (Hallie) Munroe and 3 grandchildren; Shaeli, Cashlyn and Greely. Sister; Kathryn McCombs.