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Wichita Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Wichita Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our Wichita language and culture pages for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Wichita pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




   Wichita Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Wichita"? What does it mean?
Wichita is pronounced "wih-chih-taw," and it was the name of a tribal town.

Where do the Wichitas live?
The Wichita Indians were original people of southern Oklahoma and northern Texas, but after Europeans arrived, population pressures forced them further north into Kansas, where the city of Wichita is named for them. Most Wichita people are living in Oklahoma today.

How is the Wichita Indian nation organized?
The Wichita Nation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Wichitas are also US citizens and must obey American law. In the past, each Wichita band was led by its own chief, who was chosen by a tribal council. Today, the Wichita tribe is governed by councilmembers who are elected by all the tribal members.

What language do the Wichita Indians speak?
The Wichita people speak English today. Some Wichita elders also speak their native Wichita language. Though few people speak Wichita anymore, some young people are working to learn their ancient language again. If you'd like to know an easy Wichita word, "aah" (pronounced like the English word "ah") is a friendly greeting.

Today Wichita is an endangered language because most children aren't learning it anymore. However, some Wichita people are working to keep their language alive.

What was Wichita culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Wichita Tribe. On their site you can find information about the Wichita people in the past and today.

How do Wichita Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Wichita children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Here is a picture of a hoop game played by Plains Indian kids. A Wichita mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Wichita tribe?
Wichita men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Wichita women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Only men became Wichita chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Wichita homes like in the past?
The Wichitas built tall beehive-shaped houses thatched with grass. Here are some pictures of Native American grass houses like the ones Wichita Indians used. When Wichita men went on hunting trips, they often used small buffalo-hide tipis (or teepees) as temporary shelter, similar to camping tents. Unlike other Plains Indian tribes, though, the Wichitas were not migratory people, and did not use tall teepees for their regular houses.

Today, Native Americans only put up a tepee for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for housing. Most Wichitas live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Wichita clothing like? Did the Wichitas wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Wichita Indian men wore breechcloths, sometimes with leather leggings to protect their legs. Wichita women wore wraparound skirts and poncho tops made of woven fiber and deerskin. Both genders wore earrings and moccasins. Wichita men did not usually wear shirts, but in cold weather, both men and women wore buffalo robes. Here are some photographs and links about Indian regalia in general.

The Wichitas didn't wear war-bonnet headdresses like the Sioux. Wichita men usually cut their hair in the Mohawk style or shaved their heads except for a scalplock (one long lock of hair on top of their heads.) Sometimes warriors would make this hairstyle more impressive with a colorful porcupine roach. Wichita women usually wore their hair long hair, either braided or in a bun. The Wichitas wore tribal tattoos and also painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.

Today, some Wichita people still have moccasins or a buckskin dress, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.

What was Wichita transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Wichita Indians weren't coastal people, and when they traveled by river, they usually built rafts. Over land, the Wichitas used dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to help them carry their belongings. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.

What was Wichita food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Wichitas were farming people. Wichita women worked together to raise crops of corn, beans, squash and pumpkins. Men hunted deer and small game and took part in seasonal buffalo hunts. The Wichitas also collected fruits and nuts to eat. Here is a website with more information about American Indian food.

What were Wichita weapons and tools like in the past?
Wichita hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Wichita men fired their bows or fought with war clubs and hide shields. Here is a website of pictures and information about American Indian weapons.

What other Native Americans did the Wichita tribe interact with?
The Wichitas traded regularly with other tribes of the Southern Plains and the Southeast, such as the Caddo and Comanche.

The Wichitas also fought wars with other tribes. Plains Indian tribes treated war differently than European countries did. They didn't fight over territory but instead to prove their courage, and so Plains Indian war parties rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other's villages. Instead, their war customs included counting coup (touching an opponent in battle without harming him), stealing an enemy's weapon or horse, or forcing the other tribe's warriors to retreat. Some tribes the Wichitas frequently fought with included the Osage and Apaches.

What are Wichita arts and crafts like?
Wichita artists are known for their pottery, beadwork, and hide paintings.

What kinds of stories do the Wichitas tell?
There are lots of traditional Wichita legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Wichita Indian culture. Here is one story about a two brothers who became stars. Here's a website where you can read more about Wichita legends.

What about Wichita religion?
Sorry, but we cannot help you with religious information. Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about the Wichita sweat lodge or this site about Native American religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy Hold Up The Sky, a collection of legends and folktales of the Wichita and other Texas Indians. If you want to know more about Wichita culture and history, a good source is The Wichita Indians: Traders of Texas and the Southern Plains. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013.

Thanks for your interest in the Wichita Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Wichitas

Wichita Indian Tribe
An overview of the Wichita people, their language and history.

Wichita Language Resources
Wichita language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Wichita Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Wichita tribe past and present.

Tlingit Words
Wichita Indian vocabulary lists.



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