Wichita (wĭchˈĭtô) [key], Native North Americans whose language belongs to the Caddoan branch of the Hokan-Siouan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). They formerly occupied central Kansas and ranged into Oklahoma and Texas. The Wichita were the people of Quivira, which Francisco Coronado visited in 1541. Juan de Padilla, left by the expedition to undertake the Christianization of the Native Americans, was the earliest missionary among the Plains Indians. Padilla, however, was killed by Native Americans three years later. In 1662 the Wichita were defeated by Diego Dionisio de Peñalosa. By 1765, forced southward by hostile northern and eastern tribes, they had a village on the north fork of the Red River in Oklahoma. Following a severe smallpox epidemic, they abandoned the village, moving to the present site of Fort Sill; later they moved again, and in the Civil War they fled for a time to Kansas; the site became Wichita, Kans. In 1872 they ceded all their lands to the United States. Later they were settled on a reservation, now dissolved, in W Oklahoma. In 1990 there were over 1,200 Wichita in the United States. Culturally the Wichita were similar to their Plains relatives the Pawnee. The French called the Wichita Panis piqués, or Pawnee Picts, because they practiced tattooing. Distinctive to the Wichita was the conical grass house, which resembled a haystack. They practiced a dance for agricultural fertility, and in the late 19th cent. they adopted the Ghost Dance.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: North American indigenous peoples