Wichita oral tradition tells us that the Wichita and the Pawnee are related. People from what is now Arkansas and Louisiana migrated to the Platte River in what is now Nebraska. One group, the Pawnee, stayed in the area of Nebraska and northern Kansas. The other, the Wichita, moved to the south and central part of Kansas.
The first white man to see the Wichita was Coronado. He said this of them,
"There are not more than twenty-five towns, with straw houses, in it, nor any more in all the rest of the country that I have seen and learned about . . . All they have is the tanned skins of the cattle they kill, for the herds are near where they live, at quite a large river. They eat meat raw like the Querechos [the Apache] and Teyas [the Jumano]. They are enemies of one another...These people of Quivira have the advantage over the others in their houses and in growing of maize.”
The Wichita built beehive-shaped grass lodges as permanent homes. Willows and cottonwood trees grew in central Kansas and grasses were in abundance. The whole family worked together gathering needed materials, but the women and children actually constructed the lodge. The Wichita entered their homes through very low doorways on the east and west sides. Light entered the lodge through these doors, as well as through an opening in the roof.
Temporary housing was used during the hunting season. They used tepees like many other plains Indians. The men hunted year round, but most of the women and children accompanied the men on extended hunts twice a year. They followed the migration patterns of the buffalo.
During the spring and summer months corn was cultivated along with squash and pumpkins. They preserved their harvest to use during the winter months. The Wichita also traded the dried pumpkin and squash mats to other tribes that did not grow crops.
Their clothing was made from the tanned hides of animals. Women wore moccasins, leggings, and skirts to protect their skin from the tall grasses. Men and women wore tattoos.
The Wichita were involved in an extensive trade route. Often time’s archeologists find Wichita items in states far away, which were traded. Elks teeth were considered prized to the Wichita and were often traded.
In 1700 the Wichita moved down into Texas. It was here they began to clash with the U.S. Cavalry. The Wichita often, begged, raided, and stole, infuriating those settlers in Texas. In 1845 the Wichita were put on the reservation called Clear Fork. The Wichita continued their thievery however, until the Texans forced them out of Texas, onto reservations in Indian Territory. Many Wichita still inhabit reservations in Oklahoma today.
Portions from The Kansas Journey.
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: February 2011
Date Modified: April 2013
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.