Escanjaque Indians

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The Escanjaques were a native American people named this by Juan de Onate in 1601 during an expedition to the Great Plains of Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas. The Escanjaques may have been identical with the Aguacane who lived along the tributaries of the Red River in western Oklahoma. If so, they were probably related to the people later known as the Wichita.

Great Plains broad expanse of flat land west of the Mississippi River and east of the Rocky Mountains in the United States and Canada

The Great Plains is the broad expanse of flat land, much of it covered in prairie, steppe, and grassland, that lies west of the Mississippi River tallgrass prairie in the United States and east of the Rocky Mountains in the U.S. and Canada. It embraces:

Texas State of the United States of America

Texas is the second largest state in the United States by both area and population. Geographically located in the South Central region of the country, Texas shares borders with the U.S. states of Louisiana to the east, Arkansas to the northeast, Oklahoma to the north, New Mexico to the west, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas to the southwest, while the Gulf of Mexico is to the southeast.

Oklahoma State of the United States of America

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the fifty United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which dramatically increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.


Juan de Onate

Juan de Onate, governor and founder of the newly created Spanish province of New Mexico, led a Spanish expedition to the Great Plains in 1601. He followed the route taken by an unauthorized expedition in 1595, by Francisco Leyva de Bonilla and Antonio Gutierrez de Humana. An Indian named Jusepe Gutierrez, from Culiacan, Mexico, guided Onate. Jusepe was a survivor of the Leyva and Humana expedition. [1]

New Mexico State of the United States of America

New Mexico is a state in the Southwestern region of the United States of America; its capital and cultural center is Santa Fe, which was founded in 1610 as capital of Nuevo México, while its largest city is Albuquerque with its accompanying metropolitan area. It is one of the Mountain States and shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and Arizona; its other neighboring states are Oklahoma to the northeast, Texas to the east-southeast, and the Mexican states of Chihuahua to the south and Sonora to the southwest. With a population around two million, New Mexico is the 36th state by population. With a total area of 121,592 sq mi (314,920 km2), it is the fifth-largest and sixth-least densely populated of the 50 states. Due to their geographic locations, northern and eastern New Mexico exhibit a colder, alpine climate, while western and southern New Mexico exhibit a warmer, arid climate.

Jusepe Gutierrez ,) was a Native American guide and explorer. He was the only known survivor of the Umana and Leyba expedition to the Great Plains in 1594 or 1595. In 1599 he guided Vicente Saldivar and in 1601 Governor Juan de Oñate on expeditions to the plains.

Mexico country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometres (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fifth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 120 million people, the country is the eleventh most populous state and the most populous Spanish-speaking state in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states and Mexico City, a special federal entity that is also the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the state include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana and León.

Accompanied by Jusepe, more than seventy Spanish soldiers and priests, an unknown number of Indian soldiers and servants, and seven hundred horses and mules, Onate journeyed across the plains eastward from New Mexico. Departing June 23, he followed the Canadian River through the Texas panhandle into Oklahoma. Turning away from the Canadian, he journeyed cross-country in a northerly direction. The land became greener, with more water and groves of walnut and oak trees.

Canadian River river in Texas and Oklahoma

The Canadian River is the longest tributary of the Arkansas River in the United States. It is about 906 miles (1,458 km) long, starting in Colorado and traveling through New Mexico, the Texas Panhandle, and Oklahoma. The drainage area is about 47,700 square miles (124,000 km2).

Description of the Escanjaques

Near a small river, Onate found a large encampment of people he called Escanjaques. He estimated the population at more than 5,000 living in 600 houses. The Escanjaques lived in round houses as large as ninety feet in diameter and covered with tanned buffalo hides—similar in form to the grass houses of Quivira. "They were not a people who sowed or reaped, but they lived solely on the cattle [bison]. They were ruled by chiefs....[but] they obeyed their chiefs but little. They had large quantities of hides which, wrapped around their bodies, served them as clothing, but the weather being hot, all the men went about nearly naked, the women being clothed from the waist down. Men and women alike used bows and arrows, with which they were very dexterous." [2]

Quivira is a place named by explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1541, for the mythical "Seven Cities of Gold" that he never found. The location of Quivira is believed by most authorities to be in central Kansas near present-day Lyons extending northeast to Salina. The Quivirans were the forebears of the modern day Wichita Indians and Caddoan tribes, such as the Pawnee or Arikara. The city of Etzanoa, which flourished between 1450 and 1700, is thought to be part of Quivira.

The Escanjaques led Onate to a large settlement of their enemies, the Rayados, about 30 miles away. The Rayados abandoned their settlement and Onate restrained with difficulty the Escanjaques from looting it. He sent them back to their own settlement. However, when Onate returned to the Escanjaque settlement the next day, the Indians had turned unfriendly and he estimated that 1,500 men attacked him. Onate fought a two-hour battle with them before retiring from the field and beginning his return to New Mexico. Onate said that several Spaniards were wounded in the battle and claimed that a large number of Indians were killed.

A cause of the battle may have been that Onate kidnapped several women and children from the Escanjaques. [3] Onate released — or was forced to release — several of the women but he "took some boys upon the request of the religious, in order to instruct them in the matters of our holy Catholic faith." One of those kidnapped was named Miguel, a captive of the Escanjaques himself from a land he called Tancoa, possibly the Tonkawa of North Texas and Oklahoma. Miguel would later provide information for the first map of the region. [4]

Tonkawa ethnic group

The Tonkawa are a Native American tribe indigenous to present-day Texas. They once spoke the now-extinct Tonkawa language, a language isolate. Today, many descendants are enrolled in the federally recognized Tonkawa Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma.

The identity of the Escanjaques

Some authorities have identified the Escanjaques as Apache, but Onate's account would seem to distinguish them from the Apache who were by this time well known to the Spanish. [5] They have also been identified as the Kaw, although not persuasively as the Kaw are not known to be on the Great Plains in 1601. [6]

It is possible that "Escanjaques" was not the name of the Indians, but rather a greeting . On meeting Onate, they extended their hands toward the sun and returned it to their breasts saying "escanjaque." " [7]

Later, Miguel told the Spaniards that the Escanjaques were, in reality, a people called the Aguacane. His information enabled the Spanish to draw a map of the region in which the Aguacane seemed to be located in southwestern Oklahoma along the Red River and its tributaries. If so, it is likely the Escanjaques (Aguacane) were speakers of a Caddoan language and probably akin to the Wichita. [8] Given their geographic location, the Aguacane might also be identical or related to the people called Teyas by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado sixty years before Onate.

There are a few more references in the 16th century to the Escanjaques. It has been suggested that their descendants were the Iscani, a Wichita tribe of the eighteenth century. [9]

Where was the Escanjaque settlement?

The Escanjaque settlement Onate found was probably a temporary camp. Its size, 600 tents and 5,000 people, precludes if from being a hunting camp. Perhaps the camp was large because the Escanjaques intended to go to war with the Rayados, or possibly it was formed to trade with the Rayados for Florence-A chert, a flint favored for arrowheads over much of Oklahoma and Kansas. [10]

The site of the Escanjaque settlement has not been found and the geographical details in Onate's account of his journey do not permit a location to be determined with certainty. Two possible locations are suggested: the Ninnescah River about 20 miles south of the present site of Wichita, Kansas or the Salt Fork River near Tonkawa, Oklahoma. Archaeological data best supports the Tonkawa site. An extensive archaeological site at Arkansas City, Kansas is believed by many to be the site of the Rayado village. Extrapolating backwards a location near Tonkawa for the Escanjaque settlement fits with Onate's account. [11]

See also


  1. Hammond, George P. and Rey, Agapito. Don Juan de Onate, Colonizer of New Mexico, 1595-1628, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1953, Vol. V, p. 416-419
  2. Bolton, Herbert Eugene, Ed. Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2007 (reprint), p. 257-258
  3. Forbes, Jack D. Apache, Navaho, and Spaniard. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994, p. 101-102
  4. Bolton, p. 264
  5. Hickerson, Nancy Parrott, The Jumanos: Hunters and Traders of the South Plains, Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994, p. 71-72.
  6. "Don Juan de Onate". Retrieved 2011-10-14.
  7. Breth, Ronald W. "Kansa Cultural Traits and History". December 3, 2008. Wichita State University.
  8. Vehik, Susan C. "Onate's Expedition to the Southern Plains: Routes, Destinations, and Implications for Later Prehistorical Adaptations," Plains Anthropologist, Vol. 31, No. 111, 1986, p. 13-33.
  9. "The Handbook of Texas Online | Escanjaque Indians". Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). Retrieved 2011-10-14.
  10. Vehik, p. 29
  11. Vehik, p. 14-21, Bolton, p. 205

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