By: Alexis Lee, News Writer
The ancient Indian city, Etzanoa, has been found in Kansas after being a mystery for 400 years.
Historians thought the settlement, presumed to withhold 20,000 Native Americans, was exaggerated. Wichita State archeologist and anthropologist, Donald Blakeslee, was able to confirm it as a truth. “We always knew we once had a whole bunch of Indians living around here, because we had found way too many artifacts to think otherwise,” Arkansas City Commission member, Jay Warren, stated. “But we had no idea until Dr. Blakeslee came along how big it was.”
Lawrence Free State High School freshman, Adam Ziegler, has been finding artifacts with Blakeslee over the past two years to prove that the Etzanoa stories were true and that the Wichita Nation thrived in today’s Arkansas City in a period between 1450 and 1700. Locals have also helped with the search and all together the artifact collection contains flint tools, clay pottery shards, a water shrine, flint arrowheads, knife blades, hide-scrapers, awls and more.
Ziegler, though, is credited for uncovering the history-changing evidence. He and Blakeslee were conducting an artifact search at a site the two found a rock-line ravine a couple years ago that matched an area of warfare between the Spanish and the Escanxaques. On this day, however, the pair could not find anything, so additional measures were taken. “Dr. Blakeslee said I could use his metal detector,” said Ziegler. “An hour or two later, I found the little ball, buried four inches deep.” It was reported that Blakeslee later found two more Spanish cannonballs.
“That did it,” Blakeslee said. “The old story was true.”
According to Blakeslee, the city spread across thousands of acres of bluffs and rich bottomland along the Walnut and Arkansas Rivers. It was anticipated that the tribe included over 20,000 people, for there were 2,000 houses counted that could occupy ten people each. The even bigger question, though, was regarding the fate of the people. How do 20,000 people disappear? Evidence points toward Spanish conflict, decimation by European diseases, and relocation by white settlers and the United States Army. The truth for the disappearance of the city remains uncertain, but this discovery has been a big step for historians.
Arkansas City leaders are now discussing the future of the town site. “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.” However, these ideas have made some people wary.
There are currently 3,000 modern-day Wichitas, and they are both intrigued and concerned about what might come next after talks of the area becoming a tourist attraction. Cahokia, the largest Native American urban complex ever built in the United States is similar in size to Etzanoa, and its historic site attracts approximately 400,000 visitors a year.
“We would have some concern about how they go about developing their thinking about Etzanoa as a tourist center,” said Gary McAdams, a leader for the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. “We are supportive of any respectful endeavor they want to pursue there — but would want to provide our input.”
The city still expresses interest in working toward an interactive and educational historical sight, but it is understood that respect will need to be met with the involved tribes. McLeod, manager of the Etzanoa Conservancy, commented, “We’re really proud that all this history happened here, and we want to share it with the world.”