On August 23, 1853, the expedition under command of Lieut. A. W. Whipple camped at, some point in the southwestern portion of the present McClain County, Oklahoma, and that evening were visited by two Indians, ” the one tall and straight, the other ill looking. Their dress consisted of a blue cotton blanket wrapped around the waist, a head-dress of eagles’ feathers, brass wire bracelets, and moccasins. The outer cartilages of their ears were cut through in various places, and short sticks inserted in place of rings. They were painted with vermilion, and carried bows of bois d’art three feet long, and cow-skin quivers filled with arrows. The latter were about twenty-six inches in length, with very sharp steel heads, tastefully and skillfully made. The feathers with which they were tipped, and the sinews which bound them, were prettily tinted with red, blue, and green. The shafts were colored red, and said to be poisoned.”1 Unable to converse with the two strangers, the interpreter proceeded to interview them by signs.
The graceful motions of the hands seemed to convey ideas faster than words could have done, and with the whole operation we were highly amused and interested. Our visitors now said that they were not Kichais, but Huecos, and that they were upon a hunting expedition.” Referring to the same two Indians another member of the expedition wrote:
“The newcomers belonged to the tribe of Wakos, or Waekos, neighbors of the Witchita Indians, who live to the east of the Witchita Mountains, in a village situated on the bank of a small river rising in that direction. They were now on a journey to the Canadian, to meet a barter-trader there, but having heard of our expedition, had turned out of their way to pay us a visit. The Wakos and Witchita differ only in name, and in some slight varieties of dialect; their villages are built in the same style, and are only about a thousand yards from one another. Their wigwams, of which the Witchita count forty-two, and the Wakos only twenty, look a good deal like haycocks, and are constructed with pliable poles, eighteen or twenty feet long, driven into the ground in a circle of twenty-five feet diameter; the poles are then bent together and fastened to one another at the top, and the spaces between filled with plaited willow twigs and turf, a low aperture being left for a door, and one above for a chimney. A place is hollowed out in the centre for a fireplace, and around this, and a little raised, are placed the beds of the inhabitants of the hut; which, when covered with good buffalo skins, make tolerable resting-places. Each of these wigwams is generally occupied by two families; and the Wako tribe is reckoned at about two hundred, that of the Witchita at not less than eight hundred members. These Indians practice agriculture; and beans, peas, maize, gourds, and melons are seen prospering very well round their villages.” 2
Whipple, A. W., Itinerary. In Reports of Explorations and Surveys to, Ascertain the Most Practicable and Economical Route for a Railroad from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean … 1853-1854. Vol. III. Washington. 1856, p. 22. ↩
Möllhausen, Baldwin, Diary of a Journey from the Mississippi to the Coasts of the Pacific. London, 1858. 2 vols., I, pp.115-116. ↩