PONCA CITY, Okla. — More than a century after Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate visited the large settlement of Etzanoa, in what is now Arkansas City, the Native Americans who lived there migrated south.
Harassed by the Osage, an enemy tribe, the ancestors of the Wichita tribe eventually abandoned Etzanoa and moved south down the Arkansas River to smaller twin settlements between Ark City and Newkirk, Oklahoma.
Today, archaeologists refer to these settlements as Deer Creek and Bryson-Paddock. There, the proto-Wichita established trading centers with the French during the mid-1700s.
In a brief talk May 6, Wichita State University archaeology professor Don Blakeslee tied together the stories of the Wichita ancestors living in different circumstances and in the different locations, a century apart. He spoke at the end of a talk and slide presentation given at Marland’s Grand Home (the Marland Mansion) in Ponca City by two Oklahoma State University students.
The social anthropology students, Tanner Wiseman and Jeanie LaFon, contrasted archaeological excavations at the two Kay County sites, in 1926, with a much larger and more famous dig, also conducted in the 1920s — the uncovering of the tomb of King Tutankhamen in Egypt.
E.W. Marland funded the 1926 archaeological studies in Kay County. They were conducted at the two dig sites by archaeologist Joseph B. Thoburn, of the University of Oklahoma.
Wiseman and LaFon noted that during the mid-18th century, French traders and trappers traveled up the Mississippi River to its connection with the Arkansas, one of its largest tributaries. They then traveled west on the Arkansas to the Kay County sites. The French traded guns, beads, and copper kettles for bison that had been hunted and processed into furs.
Both sites had fortification stockades to keep other people away. In recent years, students have helped to excavate a huge circular fortification trench at Bryson-Paddock.
Many artifacts have been unearthed during numerous digs, including field schools for Oklahoma college students in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2014. The artifacts include hoes, clay figurines, pottery jars, pieces of flintlock guns, bone pendants and clay pipe heads.
Blakeslee noted that the proto-Wichita also were known by the Spanish by several other names, including Quivirans (people of the fabled “cities of gold”) and Rayados (striped people).
The best guess at a beginning date for the two fortified villages of proto-Wichita in what now is Kay County is 1718, Blakeslee said.
“In 1719, members of a Spanish expedition to western Kansas learned from Apaches there were two fortified pueblos of Pawnee — a name applied to the Wichita,” he said.“The Spanish terms for this tribe were Rayados or Quivirans.”
“I’m working on their ancestors, who lived at Etzanoa, a 5-mile long settlement containing 20,000 people,” he told the audience of 50 people who filled the living room of the Marland Mansion.
Oñate led 70 soldiers to Etzanoa in 1601, Blakeslee said. During questioning in Mexico City a year later, some of the men provided maps and detailed, written descriptions of their visit there, and of a battle that took place there between the soldiers and a hostile tribe who were enemies of the people of Etzanoa.
This information was provided by Etzanoa Conservancy member Foss Farrar.