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The Kichai originally were a Caddoan tribe, and their language is closest to that of the Pawnee. At the time of the Francisco Vásquez de Coronado expedition in 1541, there were about thirty thousand Wichita, including the Kichai. In the 1700s most Kichai lived along the Red River in Texas and Louisiana. In the early 1830s and 1840s they were also found in various locations in southern and southwestern Oklahoma, usually associated with the Wichita: along Chouteau Creek in the Creek Nation, in the Wichita Mountains, and along Rush Creek.

In Kichai traditional culture the government consisted of a council of warriors, with a chief or sub-chief ruling each village. Polygamy was practiced, and the family unit consisted of the parents, their adult sons, and their wives. Each tribe within the Wichita had its own dances, secret from the rest of the tribes. The Kichai, like the others of the Wichita, chose to settle along the banks of rivers in grass lodges built to thirty feet in height. Each lodge had two access doors and a smoke hole in the roof. The Kichai excelled at farming and hunting. The people's diet consisted of corn, beans, squash and pumpkins, supplemented by buffalo, buffalo, deer, and antelope meat. In traditional Kichai spirituality, ceremonies honored the sun, stars, moon, and mother earth. The Kichai strongly believed in an afterlife and buried the dead with their weapons. Some Kichai adopted Christianity in the late 1800s.

By the early nineteenth century war and disease had reduced the tribes to approximately fourteen hundred. In 1857 the U.S. government removed some of the Kichai from Texas to Indian Territory along their Trail of Tears. By the late 1860s most of the tribe had merged with the Wichitas and affiliated groups.

By the 1940s most Kichai descendants lived in Caddo County, Oklahoma, on allotments. The 1950 U.S. Census reported 47 full-blood Kichai in Oklahoma. At the end of the twentieth century there may have been as many as four. The Kichai descendants are members of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, a federally recognized group.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: George Dorsey, The Mythology of the Wichitas (Washington, D.C.: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1904). David LaVere, Contrary Neighbors: Southern Plains and Removed Indians in Indian Territory (Norman, Okla.: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000). Barbara A. Leitch, A Concise Dictionary of Indian Tribes of North America. (N. p.: Reference Publications, Inc., 1979). Muriel H. Wright, A Guide to the Indian Tribes of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1951).

Joe Sanchez

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