“When they awoke the next morning they found beside them a stalk of corn that had already grown. A voice said to them that this was Mother Corn; that they should use it again…It was promised further on that they would have their grass lodge built and would be given plenty of things to use; and there would be corn planted by the lodge which they were to eat.” – Tawakoni Jim inThe Mythology of the Wichita, 1904
Wichita history has been one of endurance and survival despite overwhelming adversity. Although village and communal life was destroyed with the loss of reservation land in 1900 and the grass lodges replaced by frame houses by the 1930’s, the Wichita people have preserved many elements of their culture for the present and future generations. These descendants of the Wichita, Waco, Tawakoni, Taovaya and Kichai people survive as a group perhaps because of their shared memories of the past as well as common experiences of the present and their faith in the future.
Organized as the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, the center of activity is at Anadarko, Oklahoma, where the tribal park and office buildings are located. The tribal government, established under the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936, consists of a President and Executive Committee who are elected to four-year terms by the enrolled tribal members. The Wichita also joined with the Caddo and Delaware tribes to form WCD Enterprises, an organization that promotes business development.
While developing new skills at technical institutions, colleges and universities, Wichita people attempt to maintain their identities and links with the past. Some young people attend college during the week, returning home on weekends and holidays to participate in family and community gatherings. Here, memories of the past are shared with the younger generation by relating stories of life in the grass house villages of the Southern Plains or of growing up on farms and in rural communities in early Oklahoma.
Memories to share with future generations are also being formed at contemporary tribal and intertribal dances and gatherings that take place in Anadarko, Gracemont, Pawnee and other communities. Because of the active presence of grandparents in the daily lives of children, some of the most vital elements of traditional culture, knowledge and skills are transferred to the younger generation.
Over the years, the Wichita Mission and the Rock Spring Baptist Church have been the locations of Wichita services, dinners and camp meetings. Both churches continue to have active members who often sing hymns in the Wichita language. The Native American Church, with its emphasis upon gaining spiritual knowledge through personal revelation, also continues to be a focus of Wichita religious life.
Another continuing tradition is the yearly summer Visitation that takes place between the Wichita and Pawnee people. These visits, in which each tribe alternates as host, consist of two-week encampments during which friendships and family ties are recognized through a ceremonial exchange of gifts. Individuals have the opportunity to visit, remember the stories and songs of the past, and to recall the long-standing relationship that has existed between these two groups.