Academic journal article The Journal of Chickasaw History and Culture

Chickasaw/Wichita Interactions during the Early Historic Period

Academic journal article The Journal of Chickasaw History and Culture

Chickasaw/Wichita Interactions during the Early Historic Period

Article excerpt

Few scholars, lay historians, or Chickasaw tribal members today for that matter, know that the Chickasaw and Wichita Nations possess a long history of friendship and peaceful interaction. The focus of this article is to explore the connections fostered between the two tribes and the significance of those connections. As a new area of inquiry, there are limitations in amounts of documentation available and a dearth of prior academic analysis on the subject. These limitations call for expanded scholarly interpretations in order to formulate a better understanding of this quarter of Chickasaw history.

After arriving in Indian Territory, the Chickasaws were placed on lands associated with the Choctaw Nation. The territory granted to the Choctaws by the United States government was appropriated by the federal government from the Quapaw Indians, though the area's traditional inhabitants were the "Kirikir'i-s" (kidee-kid-ish) or Wichita peoples.1 Today, the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes hold allotments in Caddo County, Oklahoma, along Sugar Creek, a tributary to the Washita River. Recognition of the Kirikir'i-s nominally occurred in 1850 when the Choctaws created four counties within the Chickasaw District. The southwestern-most area was named Wichita County (Wichita Kauntf) based on the presence of former Kirikir'i-s villages within this region south of the Washita River (see Figure I).2 Upon reorganization several years later, the name of this county was changed to Pickens.

North of the Washita River was Caddo County (Kvlolachi Kaunti)? "Kvlolachi" is the Choctaw name for the Caddo confederacy known as the Kadohadocho. In the 18th century, these people lived along the Red River in northeast Texas, southeast Oklahoma, northwest Louisiana, and southwest Arkansas, and were frequently raided by the Chickasaws.4 Today, the Caddo are found in and around Binger, Oklahoma, which is also in Caddo County.

In 1855, the Chickasaws formally separated from the Choctaws, and the "Leased District" was established west of the 98th Meridian. In this area, most of the Plains tribes (Wichita, Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache) resided. In the fall of 1 856, the Chickasaws ratified their new Constitution, but even as late as 1 858, the Kirikir'i-s continued to establish their villages within the boundaries of Chickasaw lands.5

The naming of a Chickasaw county after the Wichitas or Kirikir'i-s is of interest because, as we shall see, the Chickasaw and Wichita people had an ancient alliance extending perhaps as far back as the 13th century A.D. However, this close friendship had been forgotten by the beginning of the 19th century. Once in Indian Territory, Chickasaw ranchers, such as Montford Johnson, interacted with Plains Indians, including the Wichita, to maintain amicable relationships between themselves and the equestrian hunters.6 During this period in the mid- 1800s, these Chickasaw cattlemen had little concept about the age-old ties between their ancestors and the Kirikir'i-s. The questions explored in this article include how this ancient alliance was formed and why this relationship between the Chickasaw and Kirikir'i-s was lost. To introduce this study, we will begin with ancient European maps that depict the Chickasaw Nation and its homeland.

In 1540, members of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto's party embarked on their long trek through the southeastern forests. They were the first Europeans to enter the Chickasaw villages in northern Mississippi, where they received a less-than-hospitable welcome. In the winter of 1540-41, de Soto and his army stayed in the village of "Chicaça," whose warriors attacked the Spaniards one spring morning in 154 1.7 After this narrow escape, de Soto and his army moved westward toward the Mississippi River and into what is now Arkansas.

To the west, similar events were occurring on the Plains, where in the same year of 1541, Coronado met the Kirikir'i-s, now referred to as the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. …

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