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Etzanoa is a historical Wichita city, located in present-day Arkansas City, Kansas, near the Arkansas River, that flourished between 1450 and 1700.[1] Dubbed "the Great Settlement" by Spanish explorers, who visited the site, Etzanoa may have housed 20,000 Wichita people.[2] The historical city is considered part of Quivira.[3]

Francisco Vásquez de Coronado visited central Kansas in 1541 and dubbed the Wichita settlements "Quivira".[4][1] The Umana and Leyba expedition visited the Etzanoa site in 1594 and Juan de Oñate visited there in 1601. They recorded the inhabitants as being the Rayados. "Rayados" in Spanish means "striped." The Wichita people were noted for the straight lines they tattooed onto their faces and their bodies.

In April 2017, the location of Etzanoa was finally discovered when a local teen found a cannonball linked to a battle near Arkansas City, Kansas that took place in the year 1601. Local researchers used this artifact as evidence which enabled them to pinpoint the location of Etzanoa.[5]

Walnut River, Arkansas City, Kansas

Archaeological research[edit]

Sketch of 19th-century Wichita Indian village, with beehive-shaped grass houses surrounded by maize, that may be similar to those of Etzanoa

Donald Blakeslee, an archaeologist at the Wichita State University, has led recent research on Etzanoa. In 2013, historians at the University of California, Berkeley, retranslated the early Spanish accounts of expeditions to Kansas. These clearer translations allowed Blakeslee to match written descriptions to archaeological sites. He located the 1601 Spanish battle site in Arkansas City.[1]

During road construction in the area in 1994, thousands of artifacts were unearthed. Residents of Arkansas City regularly unearthed artifacts, such as potsherds or flint points. Kansas State Archaeologist Robert Hoard is researching sites in Rice and McPherson Counties.[1]

Archaeologists have discovered more than a dozen large settlements along six miles of the Walnut River. These are called the Lower Walnut focus sites. The occupation of these sites has been dated from 1500 to 1720. A small number of artifacts of Spanish origin have been found at the site.[6]

It would appear that the Rayados abandoned the Walnut River site in the early eighteenth century. Perhaps they moved a few miles south to Kay County, Oklahoma, where two 18th-century archaeological sites, Deer Creek and Bryson Paddock, of the Wichita are known.[7] They appear to have been much reduced in numbers by then, possibly as a result of European diseases, warfare, and the slave trade in Indians.[8] The descendants of the Rayados were absorbed into the Wichita tribe.

Rayado Indians[edit]

Most authorities agree that the Rayados were Caddoan speaking and members of one of several sub-tribes of the Wichita people. Their grass houses, dispersed mode of settlement, a chief named Catarax—a Wichita title—the description of their granaries, and their location all agree with descriptions of the Wichita. As Wichita, the Rayados were related to the people Coronado discovered in Quivira 60 years earlier.[9] One scholar, however, dissents, calling them "Jumanos."[10] Jumano seems to have been a generic term for Plains Indians with painted or tattooed faces, as was Rayados.

Both Jusepe's and Onate's accounts describe the Rayados as numerous. The more than 1200 houses Onate estimated to be in the settlement indicates a population of at least 12,000, if the houses were as large as those of later Wichita tribes.[11] Moreover, Catarax said there were additional settlements upstream on that river and on other rivers.[12] The fact that the Rayados abandoned their settlement on the arrival of Onate's expedition may be an indication that they had had previous, and unfavorable, dealings with the Spanish.

Spanish chronicles[edit]

Jusepe, 1594/95[edit]

In 1594 or 1595, Antonio Gutierrez de Umana and Francisco Leyba de Bonilla led the first known expedition to the Great Plains of Oklahoma and Kansas in more than 50 years. A Mexican Indian named Jusepe Gutierrez was the only known survivor of the expedition.

Leaving New Mexico and traveling east and north for more than a month, Jusepe said that they found a "very large settlement." He said it extended for more than 10 leagues (about 26 miles) along a river and was two leagues wide. The houses had straw roofs and were built close together, but between clusters of houses were fields of maize, squash, and beans. The Indians were numerous, but "received the Spanish peacefully and furnished them with abundant supplies of food" The expedition encountered a "multitude" of bison in the region.[13] It appears these were the same people later called "Rayados."

Oñate, 1601[edit]

In 1601, Juan de Oñate, founder and governor of New Mexico, led an expedition that followed in the footsteps of Leyba and Umana. Jusepe guided Oñate, more than 70 Spanish soldiers and priests, an unknown number of Indian soldiers and servants, and 700 horses and mules across the plains.[14]

Oñate met Apache Indians in the Texas Panhandle and, later, a large encampment of Escanjaques. The Escanjaques showed him the way to a large settlement about 30 miles away of a people Oñate called "Rayados." Rayados means "striped" in Spanish, referring to their custom of painting or tattooing their faces. The Escanjaques, enemies of the Rayados, attempted to enlist the help of the Spanish to attack the Rayados, who they alleged were responsible for the deaths of Leyba and Umana a few years earlier.

The Escanjaques guided Oñate to a nearby river, surely the Arkansas, where they saw three or four hundred Rayados on a hill. The Rayados advanced, throwing dirt into the air as a sign that they were ready for war. Oñate indicated that he did not wish to fight and made peace with this group of Rayados who proved to be friendly and generous. Unlike the Escanjaques, Oñate said the Rayados were "united, peaceful, and settled." They showed deference to their chief, named Catarax, whom Oñate detained as a guide and hostage, although "treating him well."[15]

Catarax led Oñate and the Escanjaques across the Arkansas and to a settlement on the eastern bank, one or two miles from the river. The settlement was deserted, the inhabitants having fled. It contained "more than twelve hundred houses, all established along the bank of another good-sized river which flowed into the large one [the Arkansas]." The settlement of the Rayados was similar to those seen by Coronado in Quivira sixty years before. The homesteads were dispersed; the houses round, thatched with grass and surrounded by large granaries to store the corn, beans, and squash they grew in their fields. Oñate restrained his Escanjaque guides from looting the town and sent them home. Catarax, who had been chained, was rescued by the Rayados in a bold raid.[15]

The next day Oñate and his army proceeded onward through the settlement for three leagues (eight miles), although without seeing many Rayados. The Spaniards were warned, however, that the Rayados were assembling an army to attack them. Discretion seemed the better part of valor. Oñate estimated that three hundred Spanish soldiers would be needed to confront the Rayados, and he turned his soldiers around to return to New Mexico.

Oñate was worried about the Rayados attacking him, but apparently it was the Escanjaques who attacked him as he began his return to New Mexico. Oñate claimed that many Escanjaques were killed in the battle, but many of his soldiers were wounded. After two hours, Oñate broke off the combat, retired from the field, and led his Spaniards and Indians back to New Mexico.[16]

An Indian captured from the Escanjaques by Onate, and later named Miguel, drew a map of the region for the Spanish. He called the "Great Settlement" of the Rayados, "Etzanoa" or "Tzanoa."[17]


Limited private tours of the site can be arranged through the Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum in Arkansas City. A visitor's center is planned.[3]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Kelly, David (19 August 2018). "Archaeologists explore a rural field in Kansas, and a lost city emerges". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  2. ^ "Etzanoa: The Great Settlement". Eztanoa Conservancy. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b Tanner, Beccy (21 April 2018). "Mysterious 'Lost City' of Etzanoa in south-central Kansas now open to tours". The Wichita Eagle. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  4. ^ Winship, George Parker, tr. & ed. (1904). The Journey of Coronado, 1540–1542, from the City of Mexico to the Grand Canon of the Colorado and the Buffalo Plains of Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska, As Told by Himself and his Followers. New York, New York, USA: A.S. Barnes & Co. pp. 209–210, 217–219.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Teen accidentally helps discover lost 16th-century civilization in Kansas By Natalie O'Neill, NY Post, April 18, 2017.
  6. ^ Hawley, Marlin F. (2000). "European Contact and Southwestern Artifacts in the Lower Walnut Focus Sites at Arkansas City, Kansas". Plains Anthropologist. 45 (173): 237–255.
  7. ^ OAS – Oklahoma's Past. Retrieved on 2011-04-03.
  8. ^ Wiegers, Robert P. (1988). "A Proposal for Indian Slave Trading in the Mississippi Valley and its Impact on the Osage". Plains Anthropologist. 33 (120): 187–202.
  9. ^ Hammond and Rey, 754.
  10. ^ Hickerson, Nancy Parrott, The Jumanos: Hunters and Traders of the Southern Plains (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994), 73.
  11. ^ The Wichita Indians. Retrieved on 2011-04-03.
  12. ^ Bolton (1916), p. 271
  13. ^ Hammond, George P and Rey, Agapito (eds.) Don Juan de Onate, Colonizer of New Mexico, 1595–1628, Vol. 5. Albuquerque: U of NM Press, 1953, 416–419
  14. ^ Bolton (1916), pp 250–67.
  15. ^ a b Bolton (1916), p. 260.
  16. ^ Bolton (1916), pp.263–65.
  17. ^ Vehik, Susan C. (1986). "Onate's Expedition to the Southern Plains: Routes, Destinations, and Implications for Late Prehistoric Cultural Adaptations". Plains Anthropologist. 31 (111): 13–33.


  • Bolton, Herbert Eugene, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542–1706. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916, 250–267.

Coordinates: 37°01′57″N 97°02′28″W / 37.0326°N 97.0411°W / 37.0326; -97.0411