Wichita Nation

https://www.indigenouspeople.net/witchita.htm

Wee-ta-ra-sha-ro,  Head Chief of the Tribe 1834, George Catlin
Wee-ta-ra-sha-ro, Head Chief of the Tribe, 1834

Wichita
Literature

A confederacy of Caddoan stock, formerly dwelling between the Arkansas River, Kansas, and the Brazos River, Texas, and now located in Oklahoma, within the boundaries of the former Wichita reservation. They call themselves Kitikitisch and sometimes Tawehash, the meanings of which are unknown, and claim to have come from the same stock as the Pawnee. The names of nine of the tribes formerly comprising the confederacy have been preserved, but the only divisions now existing are the Tawakoni, the Waco, and the Wichita proper. Previous to the annexation of Texas (140-5), the Wichita proper dwelt north of the Red River and around the Wichita Mountains. The meaning of the name Wichita is unknown. These Indians were first met about 1541 in Quivara, during he expedition of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. Fray Juan de Padilla, who accompanied Coronado, and some companions remained behind to evangelize them, and three years later gained the palm of martyrdom. In 1719 the Wichita were visited by La Harpe, a French soldier, who found them given to cannibalism; somewhat later they were forced to the southwest by the Osago and Chickasaw. In 1758 they destroyed the Spanish missions of San Sab·, near the Rio Colorado. In 1801 the tribe suffered severely from an epidemic of small-pox. Their first treaty of peace was made in 1835, and fifteen years later the Wichita proper settled at Rush Springs, Oklahoma. They took refuge in Kansas during the Civil War, on the conclusion of which they were placed on a reservation to the north of the Washita River. In 1902 the reservation was opened by the Government for settlement, and the Wichita received allotments in severalty. They now number 310, in addition to 30 Kichai. (circa 1912)

The Wichita were an agricultural tribe, but also engaged in hunting the buffalo. They cultivated corn, pumpkins, and tobacco, which they bartered with their neighbours. Their permanent dwellings ere cone-shaped, with a diameter of from forty to fifty feet, and were thatched with grass; when travelling they lived in skin tipis. Before coming under the influence of civilization their dress was very scanty; they tattooed their faces, arms, and chests, and so were called the “tattooed people” by some of the other tribes, thus: Dog™at or Tuchquet (Kiowa), DÛkana (Comanche), Hochs™witan (Cheyenne). They were a steadfast, peaceful race, given to ceremonial dances, particularly the Horn dance and the Gift dance, and also held foot-races in which all the tribe competed.

Transcribed by Michael T. Barrett
Dedicated to the Wichita Indian people
The Catholic Encyclopedia

Stories

Coyote Challenges Never-Grows-Larger


One time Ketox, or Coyote, bounded across the prairie and saw Never-Grows-Larger, the smallest snake, sunning on a large, flat rock.
“You are tiny,” Coyote said. “I would never want to be as little as you. Look at me. You should be as big as me.”
Never-Grows-Larger looked Coyote up and down, then flicked a long, forked tongue out and in.
“Let me see your teeth,” Coyote said.
Never-Grows-Larger opened wide to reveal tiny teeth.
“Look at my teeth.” Coyote snarled to reveal big, sharp teeth. “With no effort at all I could bite you in two.”
Never-Grows-Larger flicked a long tongue out and in again.
“Let us bite each other and see who is more powerful,” Coyote said.
“Are you sure?” Never-Grows-Larger asked.
“Yes.”
“I accept the challenge.”
Coyote bit hard enough to almost sever Never-Grows-Larger’s head.
Never-Grows-Larger bit Coyote.
“Now I will go just out of sight, then we will call to each other to see how the other fares.” Coyote bounded through the tall grass and lay down out of sight. “Hey!”
“Hey,” Never-Grows-Larger called faintly.
“Hey!”
“Hey,” Never-Grows-Larger said even more weakly.
Pleased with success, Coyote repeatedly called and listened to Never-Grows-Larger’s voice grow soft. “I never doubted I would kill that snake,” Coyote whispered.
After a time, Coyote noticed that the snakebite swelled, and the wound started to hurt.
“Hey.” But the sound was not as loud. Soon Coyote’s entire body hurt and swelled up.
“Hey!” Never-Grows-Larger called loud and clear.
“Hey,” Coyote said softly.
“Hey!” Never-Grows-Larger called again.
Coyote did not respond.
Never-Grows-Larger crawled through the grass to Coyote’s side. The animal lay dead.
Never-Grows-Larger left Coyote there, then went back to sunning on the rock.

from Texas Indian Myths and Legends by Jane Archer

The Skin Shifting Old Woman

In the story of Healthy-Flint-Stone-Man, it is told that he was a powerful man and lived in a village and was a chief of the place. He was not a man of heavy build, but was slim.

Often when a man is of this type of build he is called “Healthy-Flint-Stone-Man,” after the man in the story. Healthy-Flint-Stone-Man had parents, but at this time he had no wife. Soon afterwards he married, and his wife was the prettiest woman that ever lived in the village. When she married Healthy-Flint-Stone-Man they lived at his home. She was liked by his parents, for she was a good worker and kind-hearted. As was their custom, the men of the village came at night to visit Heal thy-Flint-Stone-Man, and his wife did the cooking to feed them, so that he liked her all the more, and was kind to her.

Early in the morning a strange woman by the name of Little-Old-Woman came to their place and asked the wife to go with her to get wood. Out of kindness to Little-Old-Woman she went with her, leaving her husband at home. Little-Old-Woman knew where all the dry wood was to be found. When they reached the place where she thought there was plenty of wood they did not stop. They went on past, although there was plenty of good dry wood. The wife began to cut wood for the old woman and some for herself. When she had cut enough for both she fixed it into two bundles, one for each. Little-Old-Woman knelt by her pile and waited for the wife to help her up. Little-Old-Woman then helped the wife in the same way, and they started toward their home. They talked on the way about their manner of life at home. Arrived at the village, the old woman went to her home. When the wife got home she began to do her work.

Again, the second time, the old woman came around and asked the wife to go with her to fetch wood. They started away together, and this time went farther than on the first time to get their wood, though they passed much good wood. The wife cut wood for both and arranged it in two piles, but this time she herself first knelt by her pile and asked the old woman to take hold of her hands and pull her up; then the wife helped the old woman with her load. They returned home, and on the way the old woman said to the wife, “If you will go with me to fetch wood for the fourth time I shall need no more help from you.” They again went far beyond where any other women had gone to get wood. When they got to the village they parted. The wife wondered why the old woman came to her for help. She found the men passing the time talking of the past as usual. She kept on doing her duty day after day.

The third time the old woman came for the wife to ask her to help her fetch wood, as she was all out of it again. Again they went out, and this time they went still further for the wood, and now they were getting a long way from the village. The wife cut wood and arranged it in two bundles, one for each of them to carry. This time it was the old woman’s turn first to be helped up with the wood. They helped each other, and on the way home the old woman told the wife that they had only once more to go for wood, and the work would all be done. She always seemed thankful for the help she received. They reached the village and went to their homes. The wife found her men as usual, and commenced to do her work. After the men were through eating they went home, though some stayed late in the night.

Finally the old woman came the fourth time[266] to ask the wife to go with her and help her fetch some wood. This time they went about twice as far as they had gone the third time from the village. When the old woman thought they were far enough they stopped, and the wife began cutting wood for both of them. When she had cut enough she arranged it in two bundles. Now it was the wife’s turn to be helped up with the wood, but the old woman refused to do it as usual and told her to go ahead and kneel by the bundle of wood. The wife refused. Now, each tried to persuade the other to kneel first against the bundle of wood. The old woman finally prevailed, and the wife knelt against the wood, and as she put her robe around her neck the old woman seemed pleased to help her, but as the old woman was fixing the carrying ropes she tightened them, after slipping them around the wife’s neck until the wife fell at full length, as though dying.

The old woman sat down to rest, as she was tired from choking the wife. Soon she got up and untied the wife. Now, they were in the thick timber, and there was flowing water through it. After the old woman had killed the wife she blew into the top of her head and blew the skin from her, hair and all.[267] This she did because she envied the wife her good looks, since the wife was the best-looking woman in the village, and her husband was good-looking and well thought of by all the prominent men, and the old woman wanted to be treated as well as the wife had been treated. Then the old woman began to put on the wife’s skin, but the wife was a little smaller than the old woman, though the old woman managed to stretch the skin and drew it over her, fitting herself to it. Then she smoothed down the skin until it fitted her nicely. She took the wife’s body to the flowing water and threw it in, having found a place that was never visited by anyone, and that had no trail leading to it. She then went to her pile of wood and took it to her home. She found the men visiting the chief.

The chief did not discover that she was not his wife. The old woman knew all about the former wife’s ways, for she had talked much with her when they were coming home with the wood, and she had asked the wife all sorts of questions about her husband. She understood how the men carried on at the chief’s place. The wife had told the chief that the old woman had said that they were to go for wood four different times, and the last time being the fourth time, he supposed it was all over and his wife had got through with the old woman. So, as the old woman was doing his wife’s duty, he thought her to be his wife until the time came when the skin began to decay and the hair to come off. Still there were big crowds of men around, and the old woman began to be fearful lest they would find her out. So she made as if she were sick. The chief tried to get a man to doctor her, but she refused to be doctored. Finally he hired a servant to doctor her. This was the man who always sat right by the entrance, ready to do errands or carry announcements to the people. His name was Buffalo-Crow-Man. He had a dark complexion. The old woman began to rave at his medicine working. He began to tell who the old woman was, saying that there was no need of doctoring her; that she was a fraud and an evil spirit; and that she had become the wife of the chief through her bad deeds. The old woman told the chief not to believe the servant; and that he himself was a fraud and was trying to get her to do something wrong. The servant then stood at the feet of the old woman and began to sing.

Then over her body he went and jumped at her head. Then he commenced to sing again, first on her left side, then on her right. He sang the song[*] four times, and while he was doing this the decayed hide came off from her. The servant told the men to take her out and take her life for what she had done to the chief’s wife, telling how she had fooled the chief. They did as they were told. The servant told the men he had suspected the old woman when she had come around to get the wife to go after wood with her; that when going after wood they always went a long distance, so that no one could observe them, but that he had always flown very high over them,. so they could not see him, and had watched them; that on the fourth time they went for wood he had seen the old woman choke the wife with the wife’s rope; how the old woman had secured the whole skin of the wife and had thrown her body into the flowing water. He told the men where the place was, and directed them there the next day. The men went to their homes, feeling very sad for the wicked thing the old woman had done.

On the next day the chief went as directed, and he came to a place where he found a pile of wood that belonged to his former wife. He went to the place where he supposed his wife to be. He sat down and commenced to weep. There he stayed all night and the next day. He returned to his home, but he could not forget the occurrence. So he went back again and stayed another night and again returned home. The chief was full of sorrow. He went back to the place the third time, and when he got there he sat down and commenced to weep. Again he stayed all night, and early next morning it was foggy and he could not see far. While he sat and wept he faced the east, and he was on the west side of the flowing waters, so that he also faced the flowing water wherein his wife’s body was thrown.

He heard some one singing, but he was unable to catch the sound so that he could locate the place where the sound came from. He finally discovered that it came from the flowing water. He went toward the place and listened, and indeed it was his wife’s voice, and this is what she sang:

Woman-having-Powers-in-the-Water,
Woman-having-Powers-in-the-Water,
I am the one (you seek),
I am here in the water.

As he went near the river he saw in the middle of the water his wife standing on the water. She told him to go back home and tell his parents to clean their grass-lodge and to purify the room by burning sage. She told her husband that he might then return and take her home; that he should tell his parents not to weep when she should return, but that they should rejoice at her return to life, and that after that he could take her home. So the man started to his home. After he arrived he told his mother to clean and purify the lodge; and that he had found his wife and that he was going back again to get her. He told her that neither she nor any of their friends should weep at sight of the woman. While his mother was doing this cleaning he went back to the river and stayed one more night, and early in the morning he heard the woman singing again. He knew that he was to bring his wife back to his home. When he heard her sing he went straight to her. She came out of the water and he met her. She began to tell her husband about her troubles–how she met troubles and how he was deceived. That day they went to their home, and Flint-Stone-Man’s parents were glad to see his wife back once more. They lived together until long afterward.

[*. The song with its Indian words and music is given in the original text.]
from Dorsey, Publications of the Carnegie Institution, xxi, 124, No. 17


Two Brothers Who Became Stars

There was one Wichita tribe with two chiefs. Their village was divided by a road, so that each chief had his half of the village. Each chief had a child. The west village chief had a son. The child of the chief living in the east was a girl. Both remained single and were not acquainted with each other.

In those times, children of prominent families were shown the same respect as their parents, and they were always protected from danger. The chief’s son had a sort of scaffold for his bed, which was so high that he had to use a ladder to get to it. When he came down from his bed, the ladder was removed.

One night the young man set out to visit the young woman, as he was curious to see how she looked. At that very same time, the girl set out to visit the young man. They both came into the divided road when they saw each other. The girl asked the young man where he was going. He replied that he was going to see the chief’s daughter, and asked where she was going. She replied, to see the chief’s son. He said that he was the chief’s son, and the girl said that she was the chief’s daughter. They both enjoyed a quiet laugh together there on the division road.

They were undecided whether to go to her lodge or to his home. They decided to go to the young man’s home. The next morning his parents wondered why he was not up early as usual. Their family custom was to rise early and sit up late, as their people called at all hours. His grandmother was sent to tap on his ladder to wake him. She found her grandson sleeping with another person. She reported to the others about it. Again she went back to request him to come down for breakfast. The family then learned that the son’s companion was the other chief’s daughter.

Meanwhile, the other chief wondered why his daughter was late for breakfast. In the village lived Coyote. Since the chief could not find his daughter, he sent his tribal warriors in search of her. Coyote searched both sides of the village, where he found the girl living with the other chief’s son.

He returned immediately to the girl’s father and alerted him to where his daughter could be found. Her father was angry and sent word that she was never to return home again. Neither did the other chief like the way his son had behaved.

A day came when the young couple decided to leave the village. They gathered together what they would need for a trip, and started south at midnight. They travelled a long way before they rested and fell asleep. On the next day they moved onward in search of a new home. In three days they found a good place with water and timber and a good hunting area, where the husband went daily to supply the meat they needed. His wife arranged their grass lodge nicely, and they resided there for a long while.

Before the man started out to hunt, he cut a stick and put some meat on it, then stuck it into the ground in front of the fire to cook. He told his wife that the meat was for someone who might come to visit, but she must never look at him. If she heard someone talk, she should hurry to her bed and cover her head.

Later, she heard someone say that he was coming to get some food. She ran to her bed and covered her head with her robe. The visitor took the meat and ate it. Before leaving, he spoke and said, “I have eaten the meat and will go back to my home.” When he had gone, the woman got up and went about her work.

That evening when her husband returned from hunting, she reported to him what had happened. From then on, her husband always prepared meat to cook before the fire, and always warned her not to look at the stranger, but go to her bed and cover her head. While the stranger ate, the woman always thought she heard two people speaking.

One morning after her husband had left, the woman made a hole in her robe and took a piece of straw with a hole in it. When the visitor appeared, she jumped into her bed and covered her head with the hole over one eye, and the peeking straw ready.

When he started to leave, she looked through the straw in the hole in the robe and saw a two-faced person–with a face in front and a face in back of his head. As she looked at him, the visitor told the woman that she had disobeyed her husband’s orders and would be killed.

The double-faced man took hold of the woman and cut her open, taking out a child, which he wrapped with a piece of the robe onto a piece of board. He covered the woman again with her robe, and threw her stomach into a river.

When the husband returned, he found his young wife dead. “You have done wrong, and disobeyed my orders. You made up your own mind to look and see who was the visitor.” The young husband took her body south, laid it on the ground, and covered it with buffalo robes.

Upon his return, he heard a baby crying. He looked inside and outside the grass lodge, then finally traced the crying to one of the lodge poles, where the cradleboard was hanging with the baby. He cooked some rare meat and held it for the baby to suck the juice. In this way he nourished his child.

He stayed most of the time with the baby, caring for it, and only hunting when he was out of meat. He carried the baby on his back when he did go out for food. The baby was a boy, and the father was proud to have him and to care for him. The child grew strong and soon was able to walk. When old enough the father made bows and arrows for him to play with.

One day when the boy had been left, he heard someone calling, “My brother, come out and let us play an arrow game.” When he turned around he saw another boy about his size standing at the entrance to the grass lodge. The little boy ran outside to see his little visitor, who said they were brothers. The double-faced man had used a poker-stick to thrust into his mother’s stomach and throw it into the water.

The same stick was still fastened in the stranger-boy’s body, and he had always wondered what it was for. He promised not to tell their father about his winning all the arrows, and the other boy promised not to tell that he had had company all day. When the visiting-boy left, he ran toward the river and jumped into the water.

When the father came home, he asked his son where the arrows were. His son told him he had lost a lot of arrows shooting birds. His father told him to go where he had been shooting and find the arrows, but the boy said he could not find them. So the father made many more arrows for his son to shoot. As soon as his father left, the visiting-boy appeared for another arrow-shooting game. They played all day until the visiting-boy won all of the arrows, then ran to his river home.

When the man came back from his hunting trip, again he found his son had lost all of his arrows, and the boy refused to go look for them, saying the arrows could not be found. Again the father made more arrows for his son’s sport and protection.

A long time later, the son told his father of his brother’s visits. The father wanted to capture the lost brother to live with their family. The father decided to turn himself into a poker-stick and leave it inside the lodge. His son invited his brother to come inside and have something to eat before they played.

When the visiting-boy looked inside and saw the stick, he became suspicious and thought it must be the old man, so he went away. The father stayed still all day, but could not capture the other brother. There was no hunting the next day, as the father hid himself behind the side of the entrance and turned himself into a piece of straw.

When the other brother called, he was invited inside again. He looked all around inside and saw nothing different this time, so he entered and ate with his brother. The father had coached his son to look for lice in the other boy’s hair, and when he had a good grasp of hair to call for his father to come and hold the other brother. The visiting-boy dragged his brother a distance before their father reached them.

The father took hold of the scalp lock, but the visiting-boy was so strong that he dragged father and brother toward the river. The father begged him to stop. They released visiting-boy in time, as he jumped into the water and came up with an armful of arrows. Father and son started for their home with the arrows. The boy was named Other-Boy.

From that time forward both boys lived with their father. When he went hunting, the boys would shoot birds for sport and food, besides decorative feathers. One day their father forbid them to go to four certain places: On the north, where lived an old woman; on the east, where lived the Thunderbird in a nest of a very high tree; on the south, where lived the double-faced man. The father made the boys a hoop and also forbade them to roll it to the west.

Some time passed before the boys decided to expand their territory during their father’s absence. They agreed to visit the place to the north. On their way they shot a few birds and carried them along. When they arrived at the place, they saw smoke.

The old woman who lived there asked the little boys to come into her lodge. They gave her the birds, which pleased her. She told the boys she needed to boil water to cook them before eating. She gave them a bucket to go to the creek for water. She hung the potful of water over the fire to boil. But instead of the birds, she snatched the two boys in their place.

Other-Boy was on the side, bubbling the hardest. He told his brother to make a quick leap, while he did the same. They escaped from the kettle and poured the hot water on the old woman and killed her. They hurried home before their father could arrive, but they hastened to tell him about their experience with the old woman of the north. He reminded them of his warning to stay away from the Little-Old-Spider-Woman of the north.

The next day, the brothers started east to visit the Thunderbird. They came to the high tree, which held the nest of the Thunderbird family. Other-Boy said to his brother, “Take my arrows and I will climb the tree and see what young ones these Thunderbirds have.”

He began to climb when all of a sudden he heard thundering and saw lightning bolts, which struck him and made his left leg disappear. He called down to his brother to look for his leg while he kept on climbing. When he climbed higher, Thunderbird came again, and lightning took off his left arm. He still climbed, anxious to see inside the nest.

He was near the top when his right leg disappeared, so only his right arm remained as he reached the nest. Now the Thunderbirds did not bother him any more. He picked up one little one and asked whose child he was. He replied, “The child of Weather- Followed-by-Hard-Winds.” The boy threw the bird down to the ground, saying he was not the right kind of child.

He picked up another and asked the same question, and the child replied, “Clear-Weather-with-Sun-Rising-Slowly.” He put the bird back in the nest, saying he was a good child. He took up another and asked again the question, and the child replied “Cold- Weather-Following-Wind-and-Snow.” The boy dropped him down to the ground, saying it was a bad creature.

The boy picked up the last bird. It answered that it was of “Foggy-Day-Followed-by-Small-Showers.” This he put back in the nest, telling it that it was the right kind of child. Then, with one arm, he started to climb down the tree.

He finally reached the ground where his brother put on his right leg and he hopped around to see if it felt secure. When his brother put on his right arm, then his left leg, he ran and hopped around and waved his arms wildly.

The two boys returned home before their father came back from the hunt. They greeted him with their Thunderbird adventure of the day. The father began to think Other-Boy must have great powers, and he did not say much more to the boys about their choice of dangerous places to visit.

Some time later, the boys went out again and came to the place where their mother was put to death. They saw a stone in the shape of a human being, and they both lay down on the stone. When they started to get up, they were stuck to the stone, so they took it home with them for their father.

When they reached home, he said they should take the stone back to where they had found it. He told them the stone was like a monument of their mother, as she had turned to stone after her death. The brothers took the stone back to its special place.

Another day, the two brothers decided to go to the forbidden place where double-faced man lived, the man who had killed their mother. He lived in a cave. The boys went in it to see what they could find. Double-faced man’s children came forward and scratched the boys. Other-Boy took his bow and slew the children. He caught double-faced man and tied the bow string around his neck, and half-led and half-choked him, taking the man back to their father, who did not want the bad one. He commanded the two brothers to take him away and kill him, and they obeyed.

Every day the boys played as before, shooting birds, and rolling their hoop. “Let’s roll the hoop toward the west and see what will happen,” said Other-Boy. They rolled and rolled it toward the west, and the hoop began rolling faster and faster. The boys kept running faster and faster, until they could not stop. They landed in the water where the hoop had rolled, then into the mouth of a giant water-monster called Kidiar-kat that swallowed them completely.

Inside, the boys thought it looked like a tepee, as the ribs of the monster reminded them of the tepee poles. “How can we ever escape?” they wondered. Other-Boy stretched out his bowstring and swung it round and round, which disturbed the monster slightly. A second time he swung it faster, and the monster moved a little more. A third time he swung even faster, which moved the monster more and more. The next time around, the monster gave such a high jump that he leapt out of the water and onto dry land.

When the monster opened its mouth wide, the boys ran out as fast as they could and all the way home. No one was at their lodge. Their father had gone somewhere, but they could not find him. The two brothers looked everywhere for a trail, but no trace of him was visible. At last they grew weary and decided to rest for a while.

Later, when darkness overtook them, they found a trail and followed it until it stopped. Other-Boy called for his brother to shoot an arrow straight up toward the sky. They waited for a while, and finally a drop of blood came down from above. It was the blood of their father.

When the boys were so late in returning from their adventure, their father gave up all hope of seeing them again, so he disappeared into the sky and became a star. The boys were certain the blood came as a message from their father to let them know where he had gone.

They decided to shoot two arrows upward and then caught hold of them and flew up into the sky with their arrows. Now the two brothers stand side by side with their father in the sky–as three stars.


Wichita Indian Legends (a discussion)

Web sites

History of the American West, 1860-1920 Photos
Photos by Edward S Curtis
Red River Authority article on Wichita Indians
The Wichita Indians

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