Days of Darkness: 1820-1934
"Generation after generation the corn was to be used. And if the time should come that they planted corn and something else than corn came up, it would be a sign that the end of the world was at hand." - Tawakoni Jim in The Mythology of the Wichita, 1904
Although European settlements introduced new types of goods to the Wichitas, they also brought highly contagious diseases. At the same time, hostilities increased as eastern tribes were removed to Indian Territory. As such turmoil cast a lengthening shadow over the land, the Wichitas lost many people. In 1820, the once populous Wichitas, Wacos, Tawakonis, Taovayas, and Kichais were estimated at no more than 1400 persons. Truly the "days of darkness" had begun.
This trend continued even with the signing of the first American-Wichita treaty at Camp Holmes in 1835. There can be no doubt about the sincerity of the Wichitas who persuaded their Comanche allies to attend and sign this agreement which recognized their right to their traditional homeland. This treaty also contains the first official usage of the name "Wichita" for the Wichita, Waco, and Tawakoni people.
After the Texas Republic was established in 1836, the Wichitas were forced to defend their lands against the intrusions of white settlers. Not until 1855, after Texas joined the United States, was a reservation for the Wichitas established on the Brazos River. However, continued hostilities from neighboring settlers led to the Wichita removal from Texas to lands on the Washita River. There they joined their northern relatives in what is now west-central Oklahoma.
Although a reservation and agency were established, the Wichita people were not able to remain in this land. In 1863, they were forced by Confederate troops to leave their reservation and flee north to Kansas. While in Kansas from 1863 to 1867, the Wichitas had no land to farm and few friends to help them in their time of trouble. Many people starved. Others suffered from smallpox and cholera epidemics that swept through their villages. Only 822 people returned to Indian Territory in 1867.
Traditional Wichita religion encompassed a belief in the supernatural powers of elements of the earth and the sky. Animals often appeared to men in dreams or revelations to become lifelong guardian spirits.
Once settled on the reservation, some became members of the churches established by Christian missionaries. Others turned to the peyote religion, later chartered as the Native American Church, which combined elements of traditional and Christian beliefs. Many Wichitas took up the Ghost Dance religion of the 1890's. They believed in the prophecy of Wovoka, a Paiute from Walker Lake, Nevada. According to Wovoka, people would be reunited with their dead friends and relatives in a land of plentiful game where there would be neither sickness nor death.
Government agents worked to destroy the Ghost Dance religion as well as other elements of Wichita culture. Children were placed in boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak their own language. Even the reservation established in 1872 was not to remain theirs. Led by Tawakoni Jim, the Wichita resisted the breaking up of their assigned lands. However, in 1900 their reservation was divided into allotments of 160 acres per person with the remainder declared "surplus lands" and opened to settlement. Allotment brought about the final destruction of the Wichitas' grass house villages and their communal way of life.