Etzanoa -Lost Indian Town Discovered In Kansas after 400 years (2 pages)

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true, and that between 1450 and 1700, at least 20,000 ancestors of today's Wichita Nation thrived in and near what is now Arkansas City.

Blakeslee realized the confluence of the Walnut and Arkansas rivers could be the one described by the Spanish. He found traces of houses and granaries. He's walked over much of Arkansas City and saw that the ravines and bluffs fit the Spanish accounts.

After locals told him that people had been digging up "literally tons" of flint tools and clay pottery shards for generations, Blakeslee dug up his own shards, flint arrowheads, knife blades, hide-scrapers and awls.

Two years ago he found a rock-lined ravine in McLeod's backyard that matched the Spanish account of where the Escanxaques regrouped under fire to attack. He took a metal detector there, along with Ziegler, a Lawrence Free State High School freshman.

"They couldn't find anything that day," Ziegler said. "Dr. Blakeslee said I could use his metal detector. An hour or two later, I found the little ball, buried four inches deep."

Blakeslee found two more Spanish cannonballs.

That did it, Blakeslee said. The old story was true.

Blakeslee says the Wichita were wronged by fate, disease epidemics and war. He's going to try to set right what he can.

Smallpox and other illnesses killed probably tens of thousands after 1600, he said.

War and relocation forced survivors to Oklahoma reservations. The tribe lost most of its culture. The tribe's last fluent speaker of the Wichita language, Doris McLemore, died last year.

The Wichita were organized, cultured — "and tough almost beyond belief," he said.

They and their Wichita cousins in Quivira, in Rice County, built a trade network with ancestors of the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico. They strapped 50-pound packages of dried meat and hides to themselves and their pack dogs, and walked 550 miles to the Pueblos. They'd then walk back, bringing home cotton fabric, obsidian and turquoise.

They had no horses. The women and children likely helped hunt bison, Blakeslee said, forming lines and waving hide blankets while driving bison toward warriors carrying bows and arrows. "Think of the courage that took," Blakeslee said.

They cultivated beans, corn, pumpkin and squash. They slaughtered bison meat and hides on an industrial scale. The men likely scouted, walking miles a day, shadowing herds. The women used flint hide-scrapers to thin down bison hides. "From doing that all day, they probably had the toughest fists," Blakeslee said. "You'd never want to get in a fistfight with a Wichita woman."

This map was drawn in 1602 by a Wichita Indian who was captured by the Spanish. The circular figures represent native settlements. Etzanoa is depicted by two circles with a diagonal line between them at the top center of the map. Image Credit: General Archives of Maps and Plans, Mexico City. Image credit: Archaeological Conservancy

There are about 3,000 modern-day Wichitas, based now in Anadarko, Okla., said Gary McAdams, who has held several leadership positions with the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.

The Wichita are intrigued — and concerned — by what might come next, McAdams said. Blakeslee has consulted with them for years, telling what he's found, inviting them to visit sites at Arkansas City and at the 160-foot-long serpent symbol still visible in the pasture grass in Rice County. Wichitas have helped on some of his digs.

"We would have some concern about how they go about developing their thinking about Etzanoa as a tourist center," McAdams said. "We are supportive of any respectful endeavor they want to pursue there — but would want to provide our input."

Jay Warren, a city council member, says the town will explore development.

Cahokia, in Illinois, attracts 400,000 visitors a year, but mostly because of how striking the 100-foot-tall Monk's Mound looks, and because it's located next to St. Louis and Interstate 70.

Arkansas City, in contrast, has pastureland.

Civil War battlefields don't have a Monk's Mound either, Warren said. "And yet they attract thousands of visitors by doing a great job with walking trails and signs that explain step-by-step what was going on."


If Arkansas City with its 12,000 people could attract 20,000 students, archaeologists and tourists a year, it would give the city a boost, said McLeod, in whose backyard Adam Ziegler found that cannonball. McLeod now runs the Etzanoa Conservancy, and has worked for two years to polish ideas. "We're really proud that all this history happened here, and we want to share it with the world," he said.

"We're not talking about putting together a one-day wonder," Warren said. "We're looking at creating something that could be great for the region, and for 50 years and more down the road. We're talking with (Unified School District) 470 about how it could enhance education. And we think the site could also be a hands-on field training facility for archaeologists from all over the world."

They could build an interactive visitor center, he said. They could build reconstructions of the grass houses and granaries the Wichita used. They could employ flint-knappers who could show how skilled craftsmen made arrowheads and knife blades.

Etzanoa would have been beautiful, McLeod said. The river bluffs south of Arkansas City look like picture postcards. The bluffs and hills pour out clear spring water from dells and nooks.

McLeod drove up recently to the tallest point in Arkansas City — where the city's golf course clubhouse sits.

Blakeslee had told him that's where Caratax, the Wichita chief in 1601, probably kept his home.

"You can see 360 degrees in any direction from here," McLeod said.

"And it's all beautiful."


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