Pale Horse Revelations #9: The Wichita Tribe
Hello readers and welcome back to Pale Horse Revelations where we explore the historical elements of my debut novel "Behold a Pale Horse: The Legend of the Pale Rider Part I." This week I'll be sharing some additional details regarding the Wichita tribe that is featured in the novel. Let's start with a brief review of the relevant passages from the book.
“'There’s the village I was telling you about,' Beans said, pointing toward a cluster of dome-shaped buildings. He and Garrison were still a long way off but had stopped to reconnoiter their destination from a distance. It was a habit that Garrison refused to break. Sitting atop Diablo, Garrison turned his spy scope toward the village. Zooming in, he could see that the dome-shaped huts were grass-covered. Some of them were quite large, at least thirty feet in diameter, Garrison estimated. Looking past the huts, he could see crop fields being tended by members of the tribe. “They’re farmers?” Garrison asked Beans. “This time of the year, they are,” Beans answered. “They plant in the spring and harvest in the summer. Come wintertime, they’ll abandon the village to hunt buffalo. They’ll come back in the spring in time to plant the next season of crops,” Beans explained. Focusing again on the cluster of huts, Garrison zoomed in on one of its residents. The woman wore a dress that appeared to be made of buffalo hide. It was decorated with what looked like teeth. Her most striking feature was the pattern of solid and dotted lines tattooed upon her face."
We can begin with one simple declaration and then dive in for a deeper analysis; everything described above (with the exception of the two fictional characters making the observations) is historically accurate. The Wichita people were driven from their lands in Indian Territory by Confederate forces during the Civil War and established a settlement on the banks of the Little Arkansas River in Kansas in 1863. This is the same location that Jesse Chisolm established one of several trading posts. While the Wichita would return to Indian Territory in 1867 after the Civil War, the site described above would retain their name and eventually become the modern-day city of Wichita, Kansas. While it may be interesting to explore how this simple settlement grew into a major city, we'll save that for a later edition. Today I want focus on the people and culture that existed here when our fictional characters came to visit.
The Wichita people, also known as the Kitikiti'sh, are a confederation of Southern Plains Native American Tribes. At one time, their territory stretched from San Antonio, Texas in the south to Great Bend, Kansas in the north. They are closely related to the Pawnee in both language and culture.
They were semi-sedentary people. Much of the year was spent in villages composed of dome shaped huts made of cedar poles and covered with dry grass. These huts could be up to thirty feet in diameter. During this period, they planted and cultivated crops.
In Winter the Wichita abandoned these villages to follow the herds of American Bison. During these periods they dwelled in less permanent hunting camps. They relied heavily on the Bison and used every part of the animal. These uses included clothing, food and cooking fat, winter shelter, leather supplies, sinew, medicine, and armor. When Spring came, the people would return to their villages and prepare for another season of crops.
The Wichita wore clothing made from tanned hides. The woman of the tribe prepared and sewed these garments. Women often decorated their dresses with Elk teeth. The men and woman of the tribe decorated their faces and bodies with tattooed lines and circles. In fact, their formal name (Kitikiti'sh) derives from this practice. The word means "racoon eyed people" and resulted from the marks tribe members tattooed around their eyes.
Historically, they were a peaceful people and were successful hunters, farmers, traders, and negotiators. They traded with other Southern Plains tribes as far south as Waco, Texas. They were known for their own ceramic pottery which was much in demand by both French and Spanish traders.
I hope you enjoyed this week's edition of Pale Horse Revelations. It should go without saying, that I have barely scraped the surface with regards to the fascinating Wichita people and culture. As usual, I have tried to provide some interesting background information that may enhance your reading experience while trying not to bog the casual reader down with too much detail. I encourage anyone interested in learning more to dig in and do a little research of their own.
Please be sure to check back next week for the next installment of Pale Horse Revelations and thank you for your continued interest and support.