Sandy Randel stays busy these days spreading the word about Etzanoa, the long-lost city of ancient Wichita Indian natives who lived in what now is Arkansas City.

Her next presentation will be at 1:30 p.m. Sunday at Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum, located on U.S. 77 just south of the Arkansas River bridge. It is free and open to the public.

“This is for people who want to educate themselves about Etzanoa or who know about it, but would like to learn more,” said Randel, the museum’s director and coordinator of Etzanoa Conservancy activities. “We’ve also launched a new website” at

Sumner County talk

She recently presented a talk to the Sumner County Genealogical Society on “the Great Settlement,” as Spanish explorers in 1601 labeled Etzanoa.

About 165 people showed up for the talk. Many were from the Wellington and Winfield areas, but about half traveled from Wichita to attend.

They had a lot of questions about the settlement of 20,000 people, considered by archaeologists as the second-largest — if not the largest — urban center built by Native Americans in North America.

The Etzanoans were ancestors of today’s Wichita Nation. They lived along the banks of the lower Walnut River, near its confluence with the Arkansas, from about 1450 to 1715.

They were farmers and hunters of bison. They lived in beehive-shaped dwellings made of grass and wood that housed about 10 people.

The Spanish explorers under the command of conquistador Juan de Oñate, the founding governor of New Mexico, counted 2,000 houses, gathered in clusters. Between the housing clusters were agricultural fields planted with beans, maize, squash and pumpkin.

Finding Etzanoa

For decades, archaeologists had debated the location, size and significance of Etzanoa. The exact location of the Great Settlement had become lost in the mists of time.

But in recent years, Wichita State University anthropology and archaeology professor Don Blakeslee became convinced that the town was hidden in plain sight — it was in Arkansas City.

One of the main factors that led Blakeslee to that conviction was a new, more precise translation of old Spanish documents, accompanied by maps from that period. The documents were created from an official interrogation of the 1601 expedition members.

Blakeslee has led archaeological studies in Arkansas City for the past three years. He will lead a group of archaeology students on a follow-up dig again this summer.

Etzanoan life

A woman at the Wellington talk wanted to know why the Spanish soldiers — men on horses — made such a big impression on the Etzanoans during the 1601 encounter.

“She was trying to figure out how we knew what life was like for them,” Randel said. “They didn’t have horses. They did everything on foot. It’s hard to put yourself in that time period — it was so different.”

Etzanoans must have split up the fundamentals needed by the town and organized themselves into groups to provide clothing, water, and food, she said.

On Sunday, Randel will show a 27-minute film about Etzanoa and then talk for around 30 minutes, she said. During the talk, she will display some artifacts that have been found during archaeological digs at Ark City to illustrate how the Etzanoans lived and worked.

After her presentation, she will take questions from the audience.

The Etzanoa Conservancy also schedules tours of key Etzanoa sites. People interested in touring the sites should call the museum at (620) 442-6750.

This information was provided by Etzanoa Conservancy member Foss Farrar.