The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes

Published on October 23, 2012 by Amy

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The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes

The Wichita people are a confederation of Plains Indians. Historically they spoke the Wichita language, a Caddoan language. They are indigenous to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Today the four Wichita tribes, the Waco, Taovaya, Tawakoni, and Wichita proper, are federally recognized with the Kichai people as the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes (Wichita, Keechi, Waco and Tawakonie).

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Government

The Wichita tribe is headquartered in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Their tribal jurisdictional area is in Caddo County, Oklahoma. Stratford Williams is the current President, serving a four-year term.[1] Williams was preceded by Leslie Standing and Gary McAdams. The Wichitas are a self-governance tribe, who operate their own housing authority and issue tribal vehicle tags.

Economic development

The tribe owns a casino, a smoke shop, and Cross Timbers Restaurant, located in Anadarko. Their annual economic impact in 2010 was $4.5 million.

Pre-history

Archaeologists believe that the ancestors of the Wichita have lived in the eastern Great Plains from the Red River north to Nebraska for at least 2,000 years. These early Wichita people were hunters and gatherers who slowly adopted agriculture. About 900 CE on terraces above the Washita and South Canadian Rivers in Oklahoma farming villages began to appear. They grew corn, beans, squash, marsh elder (Iva annua), and tobacco and hunted deer, rabbits, turkey, and, increasingly, bison, and caught fish and collected mussels in the rivers. These villagers lived in rectangular thatched houses. They became numerous, their villages of up to 20 houses spaced every two or so miles along the rivers. Farming villages were also found in the Texas Panhandle along the Canadian River although in a precarious environment they depended more on bison hunting than agriculture. The Panhandle villagers showed signs of adopting cultural characteristics of the Pueblo peoples of the Rio Grande Valley.

Before 1500 CE, most of the Plains village sites seem to have been abandoned. This may have been because of drought or encroachments on their lands by the newly arrived Apache Indians migrating from the north. Some of the villagers may have migrated north to Kansas where they would become the Quivira found by Coronado in 1541.

The Great Bend settlements

Numerous archaeological sites in central Kansas near the Great Bend of the Arkansas River share common traits and are collectively known as the “Great Bend aspect.” Radiocarbon dates from these sites range from 1450 to 1700 CE. Great Bend aspect sites are generally accepted as ancestral to the Wichita peoples described by Francisco Vasquez de Coronado and other early European explorers. The discovery of limited quantities of European artifacts, such as chain mail and iron axe heads at several Great Bend sites, appears to support a connection with early Spanish exploration.

Archaeological evidence suggests Great Bend aspect peoples practiced a subsistence economy, including a mixture of agriculture, hunting, gathering, and fishing. Villages were located on the upper terraces of rivers, and crops appear to have been grown on the floodplains below. Primary crops were maize, beans, squash, and sunflowers. Gathered foods included walnut, hickory, plum, hackberry, and grape. Faunal remains (bones) recovered during archaeological excavations have included bison, elk, deer, pronghorn, and dog.

Council circles

Several village sites are distinctive as they contain the remains of unusual structures called “council circles.” Council circles occur near the center of these sites. Archaeological excavations have suggested they consist of a central patio surrounded by four semi-subterranean structures. The function of the council circles is unclear. Waldo Wedel has suggested they may be ceremonial structures, possibly associated with solstice observations. Recent analysis suggests that many non-local artifacts occur exclusively or primarily within council circles, implying the structures were occupied by political and/or ritual leaders of the Great Bend aspect peoples. Other archaeologists leave open the possibility that the council circle earthworks served a defensive role.

Population

The Wichita had a large population in the time of Coronado and Oñate. One scholar estimates their numbers at 200,000. Certainly they numbered in the tens of thousands. They appeared to be much reduced by the time of the first French contacts with them in 1719, probably due in large part to epidemics of infectious disease to which they had no immunity. In 1790, it was estimated there were about 3,200 total Wichita. By 1868, the population was recorded as being 572 total Wichita. By the time of the census of 1937, there were only 100 Wichita officially left.

Today, there are 2,501 enrolled Wichitas, 1,884 of whom live in the state of Oklahoma. Enrollment in the tribe requires a minimum blood quantum of 1/8.

Source: wikipedia

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