Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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About A. D. 1000 mobile hunting and gathering groups living in central and western Oklahoma began settling in permanent villages on the rich soils of stream terraces in the valleys of the Washita and Canadian rivers. These people constructed square to rectangular houses supported by center posts and wall posts and covered in grass thatch and mud. Villages were initially small, only a few houses, but by A.D. 1300 some villages may have exceeded twenty houses and perhaps two hundred people. Formal cemetery areas are often found near or adjacent to villages. The population increased over time, and there is evidence that by A.D. 1300-1400 villages were spaced about every mile along the Washita River. These people later became one of the tribes known historically as the Wichita.

Houses were used by nuclear families and served as the center of daily activities. The occupants dug small, cylindrical storage pits in the corner of houses. They dug larger pits outside to store foods and other supplies for the winter and to roast foods for larger feasts. Shallow basin hearths, also outside, served for cooking during warm weather, and arbors probably shaded many summer activities. These groups made undecorated globular pots for cooking and storage, and they produced a variety of chipped stone tools such as arrow points, knives, and scrapers for hunting and processing.

Hunting of deer, rabbit, and a variety of small game supplied much of the meat, but fish and shellfish in the streams may have been significant resources for the first villagers. After A.D. 1300, as bison herds may have become more common in central Oklahoma, these people began to heavily rely on them as a resource. Although they collected a variety of plants for foods including nuts, lamb's-quarter, and grass seeds, these people mostly relied on corn as a major food, and production of this crop permitted their sedentary lifestyle. They also grew beans, squash, tobacco, and several native seed plants. The villagers used hoes, digging sticks, and other tools made from bison bone to plant these crops. Around A.D. 1450 groups coalesced into fewer villages, and many may have left the area, possibly moving north to join other Wichita groups in southern Kansas, where the Spanish found them in the sixteenth century.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Robert E. Bell, ed., Prehistory of Oklahoma (Orlando, Fla.: Academic Press, 1984). Robert L. Brooks, Richard R. Drass, and Fern E. Swenson, Prehistoric Farmers of the Washita River Valley: Settlement and Subsistence Patterns during the Plains Village Period, Archeological Resource Survey Report 23 (Norman: University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Archeological Survey, 1985). Robert L. Brooks, J. L. Hofman, et al., "Village Farming Societies," in From Clovis to Comanchero: Archeological Overview of the Southern Great Plains, Survey Research Series, No. 35 (Fayetteville: Arkansas Archeological 1989). Richard R. Drass, Culture Change on the Eastern Margins of the Southern Plains, Studies in Oklahoma's Past No. 19 (Norman: University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Archeological Survey, 1997). W. Raymond Wood, ed., Archaeology on the Great Plains (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas,1998).

Richard R. Drass

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