TOPEKA — The Kansas House of Representatives on April 5 recognized recent archaeological research pointing to Arkansas City as the site of the huge ancestral Wichita Indian settlement of Etzanoa.

Etzanoa dignitaries

Courtesy photo
Rep. Anita Judd-Jenkins, R-Arkansas City, reads a resolution acknowledging the ongoing archaeological studies being conducted in Arkansas City, the site of the huge ancestral Wichita Indian settlement of Etzanoa. Standing behind her are various Ark City residents who have promoted and participated in the studies of the prehistoric Native American site, as well as participating archaeologists and archaeology enthusiasts.

House members applauded after approving a resolution read by Anita Judd-Jenkins, the Republican representative from Ark City.

Standing behind her as she read from a podium were several Ark City residents, archaeologists, and archaeology enthusiasts who have promoted and participated in the studies of the prehistoric Native American site.

“Based on the evidence, the Etzanoa archaeological site of a 5-mile-long settlement of an estimated 20,000 ancestors of the Wichita tribe thrived from about 1425 to the early 1700s,” Judd-Jenkins said in prepared remarks.

“Archaeologists agree that a city of this size would be the second-largest prehistoric Native American site ever discovered in the U.S. and Canada, making it a possible candidate for being designated as both a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and a National Historic Landmark.”

History of Etzanoa

Judd-Jenkins noted that Spanish explorers in 1601 followed up on a previous search for Quivira, the land of the “lost cities of gold.” Francisco Vazquez de Coronado led an earlier expedition to central Kansas in the early 1540s.

In 1601, Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate, the first governor of New Mexico, led 130 men on the trek northeast from New Mexico into Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Oñate and his men eventually reached a town near the confluence of two rivers that they called the “Great Settlement.”

The natives called the town “Etzanoa.”

The Spaniards documented the visit to Etzanoa, including their observations and measurements of the town and their estimate of its population.

Their observations were recorded a year later in Mexico City. A large volume comprising those documents includes two expedition maps. It now is preserved in Seville, Spain.

Visitors to the Capitol

Judd-Jenkins introduced the following people who traveled to Topeka to witness her presentation:

  • Don Blakeslee, Wichita State University professor of archaeology;
  • Foss Farrar, Etzanoa Conservancy member;
  • Nick Hernandez, city manager of Arkansas City;
  • Robert Hoard, State Archaeologist of the Kansas Historical Society;
  • Carol House, Etzanoa Conservancy member and archaeological site land owner;
  • Hap McLeod, Etzanoa Conservancy president;
  • Otis Morrow, V.J. Wilkins Memorial Foundation trustee;
  • Jason Smith, Etzanoa Conservancy member;
  • Jay Warren, city commissioner and former mayor of Arkansas City;
  • Karen Zeller, V.J. Wilkins Memorial Foundation trustee;
  • Adam Ziegler, Lawrence Free State High School student and discoverer of the first Spanish artifact at the Etzanoa battle site;
  • Jann Ziegler, Etzanoa Conservancy member and Adam’s grandmother.

Archaeological studies

In her presentation, Judd-Jenkins said citizens of Ark City long have known that the area near the confluence of the Arkansas and Walnut rivers in eastern Arkansas City was someplace special.

In 1870s, early Ark City residents found many Native American artifacts, including broken pots, earth pits full of bones, rock carvings and tools.

Judd-Jenkins summarized findings from recent field studies conducted along the banks of the lower Walnut River in eastern areas of Ark City.

She said archaeological teams who surveyed eastern Ark City prior to the construction of the U.S. 77 bypass found artifacts dating from 600 to 1800, based on carbon dating. And a large-scale field study in Ark City during the summer of 2015, using some of the latest archaeological technology, turned up more artifacts, including metal balls fired in canister shots from cannons during a battle at the southern end of Etzanoa.

Blakeslee organized and led the 2015 archaeological study. Blakeslee’s teams spent a week surveying the Etzanoa site in Ark City and another week in Lyons, doing follow-up studies of a Quivira site there.

He and his teams used magnetometers and metal detectors, as well as a mobile archaeological lab that tested potential artifacts.

“With the generous funding of the V.J. Wilkins Foundation, the Archaeology Channel spent two weeks filming the 2015 archaeological studies conducted by Dr. Blakeslee and his teams,” Judd-Jenkins said, “with the cooperation and support from the City of Arkansas City and the Arkansas City Historical Society.”

Then she announced that the Archaeology Channel’s film, “Quivira: Conquistadors on the Plains,” was being shown continuously that day in the Statehouse Visitors Center Auditorium.

“It describes the work and discovery of the true Etzanoa on the banks of the Walnut River in south-central Kansas, just above the Oklahoma border,” she said.

This information was provided by Etzanoa Conservancy member Foss Farrar.