Kansas is a Midwestern state in the Central United States (an area often referred to as the "Heartland"). It is named after the Kansas River which flows through it, from the French "Cansez", by explorer Étienne de Veniard, Sieur de Bourgmont, and after the Kansa tribe, who inhabited the area. The tribe's name (natively kką:ze) is often said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south wind", although this was probably not the term's original meaning. Residents of Kansas are called "Kansans."
The area was historically home to large numbers of nomadic Native Americans that hunted bison. It was first settled by white Americans in the 1850s, in the midst of political wars over the slavery issue. When officially opened to settlement by the U.S. government in 1854, abolitionists from New England and pro-slavery settlers from neighboring Missouri rushed to the territory to determine if Kansas would become a free state or a slave state. Thus, the area was a hotbed of violence and chaos in its early days as these forces collided, and was known as Bleeding Kansas. The abolitionists eventually prevailed and on January 29, 1861, Kansas entered the Union as a free state. After the Civil War, the population of Kansas exploded when waves of immigrants turned the prairie into productive farmland. Today, Kansas is one of the most productive agricultural states, producing many crops, and leading the nation in wheat and sunflower production.