The Wichita


Some two and a half million people now inhabit the Kansas plains once dominated by Pawnee and Osage Indians. Where the Oregon and Santa Fe trails were forged, cities like Kansas City (which sits right on the Kansas-Missouri border), Topeka and Wichita grew.

From a campground and meeting place for native Americans, Wichita has become the largest city in Kansas and one of the major medium-sized cities in the nation. The beginnings of the community date to 1868 when J. R. Mead founded a trading post on the banks of the Arkansas River. Only a handful of people lived around the trading post.

The city of Wichita's name comes from the Wichita Indians, who settled at various times in the vicinity and means either "scattered lodges" or "painted faces," - a hotly debated topic here.

The Wichitas are part of the Caddos, along with the Arikaras and Pawnees. The Caddos lived in an area from Louisiana to Texas. Some migrated farther north, among them, the Wichitas. Their name comes from wits, "men" or from the Choctaw wiachitoh, perhaps an illusion to their house, "great tree." They gave themselves the name kirkitish, probably meaning "the true people."

Their language is Caddoan and they lived in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma.

They are considered part of the Southeastern Culture and were mainly farmers and villagers. The lived in conical houses framed with poles and covered with thatch. Smoke from cooking fires seeped through the thatch itself and not a hole in the top. The Caddos also built temples in which they kept sacred fires burning.

They probably migrated from the South, raising corn, squash, and tobacco, which they traded with other tribes. They became buffalo hunters and were known to be honest and hospitable.


The Wichita were in Kansas when Cornonado encountered them . Coronado recorded over 25 villages, some with over 200 such dwellings (pictured right).

Wichita House
A Wichita house
constructed of long grasses

They had early contact with the Spanish (1541) and after La Salle claimed the Mississippi Valley for France, they established a long relationship with the French fur traders in the 1600s. They were referred to as "Taovayas" by the French and became middlemen, bartering their crops to trade with other tribes who had pelts, which they then used for the French.

After the Louisiana Purchase, the Louisiana Caddos moved to Texas. When Texas became a state in 1845, the federal government settled them on a reservation along the Washita River in Oklahoma. The Wichitas lived in Kansas during the Civil War and later joined their kin.

During the Plains Indian Wars after 1865, The Caddos became scouts for the US Army. One of their chiefs, Guadalupe, viewed the conflict as one between farmers and raiders. Since his people were farmers, he encouraged his warriors to support the white settlers against the Great Plains tribes.

The General Allotment Act of 1887 divided much of the Caddo-Wichita reservation among tribal members.

They numbered 3,200 in 1780 nad only 460 in 1970.




Plains Indians : Intro
The Sioux : Dakota ~ Dhegiha ~ Chiewere ~ Mandan ~ Hidatsa
The Caddo : Arikara ~ Pawnee ~ Wichita
The Shoshonean : Comanche ~ Kiowa
The Alqonquian : Blackfeet ~ Gros Ventre ~ Cheyenne ~ Arapaho ~ Plains Cree ~ Plains Ojibwa

Crazy Horse ~~ Red Cloud ~~ Sitting Bull


Where We Critters Live

Kaws || Wichitas || Plains Indians
Kansas || Wichita
The Infamous || Tornado!

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