Tribal Background

wichita logoThe roots of AI go back to the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes (Waco, Taovaya, and Tawakonie). They are indigenous to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Today the four Wichita tribes are federally recognized with the Kichai people as the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes (Wichita, Keechi, Waco and Tawakoni).

Indigenous to Oklahoma, the ancestors of the historic Wichita and Affiliated tribes were probably the first people to settle upon the Southern Plains, ranging from south-central Kansas to northern Texas, living in villages of grass lodges, raising bountiful crops of corn, squash and beans, conducting fall and winter buffalo hunts and carrying on extensive trade with the Pueblos of the Southwest. First contact with Europeans came with Coronado’s 1541 quest to find the fabled Quivira, thought to be in present Kansas.

Early historic accounts describe the Wichita and their allies as numbering from 15,000 to 33,000 and as occupying villages of 2,000 or more, with large grass-lodge villages, a dual bison-hunting and horticulture economy. Due to the United States removal policy and in order to establish peace among the tribes, the U.S. moved the Eastern tribes onto the plains amongst the indigenous tribes, and in 1835 the U.S. entered into a treaty with “the Comanche and the Wichita Indians and their associated bands.”

The Wichita remained north of the Red River throughout much of the 19th century, despite frequent forays south to the Mexican border and visitations to Tawakoni and Waco, who were assigned in 1855 to the Brazos River Reservation in Texas. With the objective of settling southern plains tribes in Indian Territory, the federal government leased lands, between the 98th and 100th Meridians and the Canadian River and Red River, from the Choctaw and the Chickasaw. When the Wichita were assigned to a reservation in 1859 in the Leased District, they were joined by some of the Delaware, Caddo, Tawakoni and Waco.

Inhumane U.S. policy and governance, the disappearance of the buffalo, and epidemic European diseases brought the tribe to near extinction with only about 300 members surviving at the beginning of the 20th century. Although the agency discouraged it, the Wichita had maintained highly valued pony herds and after 1880 families began to acquire cattle and hogs and the Wichita adapted older cultural patterns to their changing world.

What later became known as Riverside Indian School opened at the Wichita agency in 1871 and by the turn of the century missions and missionary schools were established on the reservation. The Wichita resisted allotment and continued to hold a portion of the reservation. Today the tribe preserves their language and heritage through dances, powwows and songs, and the Wichita Tribal Museum, open by appointment.

Source: Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department.

Wichita and Affiliated Tribes website: