Another story of Native American history in Kansas

The April 18 Kansas City Star featured an interesting article regarding the discovery of what appears to be the location of the lost city of Etzanoa, a home to ancestors of today’s Wichita tribe. For centuries, the Wichita tribe was indigenous to Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas in an area ranging from the Arkansas River in Kansas, southward to the Brazos River in Texas. The recently discovered site sits along the banks of the Walnut River near Arkansas City in south central Kansas, just north of the Oklahoma/Kansas border.

Further research is expected to confirm that this site could be the second-largest Native American settlement found in the United States, second only to the Cahokia Mounds in western Illinois. The Etzanoa site has been a mystery to archaeologists for decades. Again, if confirmed, the discovery would substantiate recorded reports of the Spanish soldiers who were attacked by Indians somewhere on the prairie in 1601. This battle is recorded to have taken place near a vast settlement of Indians at the junction of two rivers, which are now believed to be the Walnut and Arkansas Rivers.

The reports tell of how, after the initial attack by the Indians who had superior numbers, 70 Spanish soldiers were able to enter the settlement that was far more than just a village. As they entered, the Wichita Indians fled northward by the thousands. Upon entering the nearly abandoned settlement, the soldiers counted 2,000 big beehive-shaped homes. Clusters of these homes were surrounded by corn fields. It was later discovered that countless other such clusters extended for several miles along the river. Historians estimate the settlement’s population might have exceeded 20,000.

What discovery convinced present-day archaeologists that this was the Etzanoa site? For several years, Arkansas City residents have found tools, clay pottery shards, flint arrowheads, hide-scrapers and awls throughout the area. But it wasn’t until later that researchers, with the aid of metal detectors, found small Spanish cannonballs just below the surface. Researchers believe these were from the cannons used to repel the initial attack by the Wichita.

The Wichita had a large population in the time of Coronado and Spanish explorers that came after him. One scholar estimated their numbers at 200,000. Certainly, they numbered in the tens of thousands. They appeared to be much reduced by the time the French first had contact with them in 1719, probably due in large part to epidemics of infectious disease to which they had no immunity. In 1790, there were an estimated 3,200 total Wichita. By 1868, the recorded population was 572. By the time of the census of 1937, there were only 100 Wichita officially left. Today, there are approximately 2,600 enrolled members, with 1,950 residing on their reservation near Anadarko, Oklahoma.

Telling the story of Uniontown and its cemetery

I’ve recently been asked to share the story of Potawatomi involvement in the early settlement of Uniontown on the Oregon Trail and history of Uniontown Cemetery. In late September, my brother Lyman and I were invited by a woman, whose ranch is immediately east of the former Uniontown site, to speak to members of a Philanthropic Educational Organization (PEO) International group hosted for dinner in her home. In early October, I was asked to tell the story of Uniontown and the cemetery to a Sunflower State tour group that was visiting several historical sites in the area.

November elders’ potluck

The annual Thanksgiving Feast for tribal elders is noon Nov. 17 in the CPN Community Center in Rossville, Kansas. Turkey and potatoes will be provided by Senior Support Network staff Tracy and Pam. Please RSVP if you plan to attend by calling them at 785-584-6171. You can contribute by bringing your favorite Thanksgiving dish or dessert.

As always, it is my pleasure to serve as your legislative representative.

(Thank you),

Jon Boursaw,
Wetase Mkoh (Brave Bear)
Representative, District 4
785-861-7272 office
785-608-1982 cell
2007 SW Gage Blvd.
Topeka, KS 66604
Office hours:
Tues. 9-11 a.m.
Thurs. 3-5 p.m.
Other times — please call