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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. [1]

The Seven Cities of Gold is a myth that was popular in the 16th century. It is also featured in several works of popular culture. According to legend, the seven cities of gold could be found throughout the pueblos of the New Mexico Territory. The cities were Hawikuh, Halona, Matsaki, Quivira, Kiakima, Cibola, and Kwakina. While there have always been mentions of a seventh city, no evidence of a site has been found.

Lyons, Kansas City and County seat in Kansas, United States

Lyons is a city in and the county seat of Rice County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 3,739.

Salina, Kansas City and County seat in Kansas, United States

Salina is a city in and the county seat of Saline County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 47,707. Located in one of the world's largest wheat-producing areas, Salina is a regional trade center for north-central Kansas. It is home to multiple colleges.



The Coronado Expedition 1540-1542 Coronado expedition.jpg
The Coronado Expedition 1540–1542
A painting by Frederic Remington of Coronado and his army on the march Coronado-Remington.jpg
A painting by Frederic Remington of Coronado and his army on the march

In 1540, the Spaniard, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, led a large expedition north from Mexico to search for wealth and the "Seven Cities of Cibola". Instead of wealth, he found farming peoples living in an array of communities and villages in what are today Arizona and New Mexico. These were the Apache, Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, and Rio Grande Pueblo Indians of today.

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 tenth 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.

Zuni-Cibola Complex

The Zuni-Cibola Complex is a collection of prehistoric and historic archaeological sites on the Zuni Pueblo in western New Mexico. It comprises Hawikuh, Yellow House, Kechipbowa, and Great Kivas, all sites of long residence and important in the early Spanish colonial contact period. It was declared a National Historic Landmark District in 1974. These properties were considered as major elements of a national park, but the proposal was ultimately rejected by the Zuni people.

Arizona state of the United States of America

Arizona is a state in the southwestern region of the United States. It is also part of the Western and the Mountain states. It is the sixth largest and the 14th most populous of the 50 states. Its capital and largest city is Phoenix. Arizona shares the Four Corners region with Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; its other neighboring states are Nevada and California to the west and the Mexican states of Sonora and Baja California to the south and southwest.

As Coronado arrived at the Rio Grande, he was disappointed by the lack of wealth among the Pueblos, but he heard from an Indian (whom the Spaniards called "the Turk") of a wealthy civilization named "Quivira" far to the east, where the chief supposedly drank from golden cups hanging from the trees. Hearing of this, Coronado led his army of more than one thousand Spaniards and Indian aides onto the Great Plains in 1541. The Turk was his guide to Quivira.

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:

On his journey, Coronado traversed the panhandle of Texas. He found two groups of Indians, the Querechos and the Teyas. He was heading southeast when the Teyas told him that the Turk was taking him the wrong direction and that Quivira was to the north. It appears the Turk was luring the Spaniards away from New Mexico with tales of wealth in Quivira, hoping perhaps that they would get lost in the vastness of the Plains. Coronado sent most of his slow-moving army back to New Mexico. With 30 mounted Spaniards, priests, Indian followers, the Turk, and Teya guides he had forced into service, he changed course northward in search of Quivira. After a march of more than thirty days, he found a large river, probably the Arkansas, and soon met several Indians hunting buffalo. They led him to Quivira. [2]

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.

Description of Quivira

Coronado found Quivira "well settled...The land itself being very fat and black and being very well watered by the rivulets and springs and rivers. I found prunes like those of Spain, and nuts and very good sweet grapes and mulberries." It was, he said, the best land he had seen during his long trek north from Mexico. [3] Coronado spent 25 days in Quivira and traveled about 65 miles (25 leagues) from one end of the country to the other. He found nothing more than straw-thatched villages of up to two hundred houses each and fields of corn, beans, and squash. He found no gold, other than a single small piece which he reasoned had come into the natives' hands from a member of his own expedition.

Coronado found the Teyas Indians in Blanco Canyon, east of present-day Lubbock, Texas. The Querechos lived on the flat Llano Estacado above the canyon. Blanco Canyon White River Texas 2009.jpg
Coronado found the Teyas Indians in Blanco Canyon, east of present-day Lubbock, Texas. The Querechos lived on the flat Llano Estacado above the canyon.

The Quivirans were simple people. Both men and women were nearly naked. They "were large people of good build" many of the men being over six feet tall. They seemed like giants compared to the Spaniards. [4]

Coronado was escorted to a farther boundary of Quivira, an area called "Tabas," where the neighboring land of Harahey began. He summoned the "Lord of Harahey" who, with two hundred followers, came to meet the Spanish. The Harahey Indians were "all naked—with bows and some sort of things on their heads, and their privy parts slightly covered. It was the same sort of place... and of about the same size as Quivira." [5] Disappointed at his failure to find wealth, Coronado turned his face toward New Mexico and marched back across the plains, met up with the rest of his army there, and the following year returned to Mexico. Before leaving Quivira, Coronado ordered the Turk strangled. The Coronado expedition had failed in its quest for gold.

Coronado left behind in New Mexico several Catholic priests and their helpers, including Friar Juan de Padilla. Padilla journeyed back to Quivira with a Portuguese assistant and several Christian Indians. The friar and most of his companions were soon killed by the Quivirans, apparently because he wished to leave their country to visit their enemies, the Guas. The Portuguese and one Indian survived to tell the story. [6]

Later expeditions to Quivira

Don Juan de Onate led an expedition to Quivira in 1601. Onate was married to a granddaughter of Hernan Cortes and the Aztec princess Isabel Moctezuma. NEW MEXICO San Juan Pueblo DonJuan De Onate First Govenor of New Spain.jpg
Don Juan de Oñate led an expedition to Quivira in 1601. Oñate was married to a granddaughter of Hernán Cortés and the Aztec princess Isabel Moctezuma.

In 1594, Francisco Leyba (Leyva) Bonilla and Antonio de Humana (Umana) made another attempt to find the Quivira of Coronado, even though it was denounced as unauthorized by Spanish officials. Only one Mexican Indian, Jusepe (Jusepe Gutierrez), returned from this journey. He related that Leyba had killed Umana in a quarrel and that he, Jusepe, had deserted the expedition.

Following this, in 1601, the governor of New Mexico, Juan de Oñate, undertook another expedition in search of Quivira. He found settlements of the Escanjaque and Rayado Indians in Kansas or Oklahoma, but no gold or silver. He learned that Leyba and other members of the Umana and Lebya expedition had been killed by Indians. In 1606, 800 of these "Quivirans" were said to have visited Oñate in New Mexico to trade.

Quivira is again mentioned in a 1634 expedition of Captain Alonzo Vaca who found it 300 leagues east of New Mexico (this suggests more than 1000 miles). Another reputed expedition was undertaken in 1662 by Diego Dionisio de Penalosa, who allegedly found a large settlement he called a city, but an examination of his account by a modern scholar has concluded that the story is fanciful. [7] The enemies of the Quivirans in all these accounts were the Escanjaques. In 1675 and 1678 came "two Spanish royal orders for the conquest of Quivira". [8]

The location of Quivira and the identity of the Quivirans

Archaeological evidence has suggested that Quivira was located near the Great Bend of the Arkansas River in central Kansas. The remains of several Indian settlements have been found near Lyons along Cow Creek and the Little Arkansas River along with articles of Spanish manufacture dating from Coronado's time. [9]

A sketch of a Wichita Indian village in the 19th century. The beehive shaped grass-thatched houses surrounded by corn fields are characteristic and appear similar to those described by Coronado in 1541. Wichita Indian village 1850-1875.jpg
A sketch of a Wichita Indian village in the 19th century. The beehive shaped grass-thatched houses surrounded by corn fields are characteristic and appear similar to those described by Coronado in 1541.

The Quivirans were almost certainly the Indians who came later to be called the Wichita. Coronado's meager descriptions of Quivira resemble the Wichita villages of historic times. The Quivirans seem to have been numerous, based on the number of settlements Coronado visited, with a population of at least 10,000 persons. They were good farmers as well as buffalo hunters. Judging from Coronado's description, they were a healthy, peaceful people.

The province of Harahey Coronado found on the borders of Quivira may have been located on the Smoky Hill River near the present city of Salina, Kansas. The people of Harahey were probably Pawnee, a tribe related by language and culture to the Wichita.

The first European definitively known to visit the Great Bend region after Coronado was the French explorer Étienne de Bourgmont. In 1724, Bourgmont journeyed with an escort of Kaw and other Indians westward from the Missouri River to a large village of Indians believed to be Apaches. [10] The village was near Lyons, precisely where Quivira had been almost 200 years earlier. [11]

The original Quivirans had moved to eastern Kansas and south to Oklahoma. [12] Their reasons for moving may have been to escape the depredations of the Apache, aggressive newcomers to the Great Plains. It also appears that the Wichita of the 18th century were fewer in number than the Quivirans of the 16th century. It is probable that smallpox and other diseases introduced by Europeans took their toll on the Quivirans as they did on many of the Indian tribes in the Americas.

The origin of the word "Quivira" is uncertain. The inhabitants of Coronado's Quivira called themselves "Tancoa" and "Tabas." These two names are similar to later Wichita sub-tribes called "Tawakonis" and "Taovayas." [13]

Quivira in cartography

On early 16th and 17th century maps of North America, a large region including what is now Kansas, Oklahoma, southeastern Colorado, northeastern New Mexico and the Texas panhandle was called "Quivira." [14] [15]


The last remnants of the formerly extensive cartographic region of Quivira today is the city of Lake Quivira and the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in Kansas. In addition, there is the "Quivira Council" of the Boy Scouts, serving the area of southwestern Kansas around Wichita, the central part of the area that was traditionally called Quivira. [16] The first several yearbooks printed by the University of Kansas were entitled "Quivira." There is also a major arterial road running through the Johnson County suburbs of Kansas City named "Quivira Road".

An abandoned Indian Pueblo in Torrance County, New Mexico has been given the name "La Gran Quivira" ("The Great Quivira"). The site was inhabited by the Tompiro Indians during the early period of Spanish occupation, when the settlement was called Pueblo de Las Humanas. The remains of the Gran Quivira settlement are today part of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument.

See also

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Francisco Vázquez de Coronado Spanish explorer of the American southwest

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  1. Tanner, Beccy (21 April 2018). "Mysterious 'Lost City' of Etzanoa in south-central Kansas now open to tours". The Wichita Eagle. Retrieved 8 December 2018.
  2. "QUIVIRA | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)". Tshaonline.org. 2010-06-15. Retrieved 2014-04-03.
  3. Winship, George Parker (Ed. and Translator). The Journey of Coronado, 1540-1542, from the City of Mexico to the Grand Canon of the Colorado and the Buffalo Plains of Texas, Kansas, and Nebraska, As Told by Himself and his Followers; New York: A.S. Barnes & Co.; 1904, p.219
  4. Winship; pp. 113, 209, 215, 234-235, 237
  5. Winship, p. 235
  6. Hammond, George P. and Rey, Agapito; Don Juan de Onate, Colonizer of New Mexico, 1595-1628; Albuquerque: U of NM Press; 1953; pp. 416-419
  7. Hackett, Charles W. "New Light on Don Diego de Penalosa: Proof that he never made an expedition from Santa Fe to Quivira and the Mississippi River in 1662." Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 6, No 3, Dec 1919, 313-335
  8. Louis Houck, 1908, A History of Missouri from the Earliest Explorations... Vol. I., p. 121-148
  9. Wedel, Waldo R; Archeological Remains in Central Kansas and the Possible Bearing on the location of Quivira. Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections; Vol. 101, No. 7; 1942; pp. 1-24
  10. Secoy, Frank R. The Identity of the 'Paduca: An Ethnohistorical Analysis. "American Anthropologist," New Series, Vol. 53, No. 4; [Part 1 (Oct-Dec 1951)]; pp. 525-542
  11. Reichart, Milton; Bourgmont's Route to Central Kansas: A Reexamination. Kansas History; Vol. 2, Summer; 1979; p. 102
  12. Vehik, Susan C. Wichita Culture History. "Plains Anthropologist;" Vol. 37, No. 141; 1992; pp. 311-332.
  13. Vehik, Susan C. Onate's Expedition to the Southern Plains: Routes, Destinations, and Implications for Late Prehistoric Cultural Adaptations; "Plains Anthropologist;"' Vol. 312, No. 11; 1986; pp. 13-33
  14. Portinaro, Pierluigi The Cartography of North America: 1500-1800 (1999)
  15. "Entry "Quivira" in the Kansas State Cyclopedia of 1912:". Skyways.lib.ks.us. 1902-08-12. Retrieved 2014-04-03.
  16. Quivira Council of the Boy Scouts: Archived September 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine