One of the groups of American Indians living in this area for years prior to the Santa Fe Trail were the Quivira (Wichita) Indians. There were several thousand living in this area. They lived in grass huts and were farmers. They followed the ancient trails as they traded their corn and other crops with Indians to the west who hunted buffalo.
Almost three hundred years before William Becknell began trading with the Mexicans in Santa Fe, a Spanish conquistador and his men traveled along the same Indian hunting and trading trails. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado was the Spaniard searching for the Seven Cities of Gold. He traveled from Mexico into the area that is known today as Kansas. He didn’t find the Cities of
Gold but he did fi nd Quivira (Wichita) Indians living in grass huts. Imagine how disappointed he would have been as he returned to Mexico a failure.
Years later, the American traders from Missouri followed nearly the same route as Coronado to trade with the people of the newly formed country of Mexico. As the traders passed through this area, they did not see the grass huts of the Quiviran Indians that Coronado had seen. These Indians had moved further south long before the beginning of the Santa Fe Trail. However, the Trail did pass through lands of many other American Indians.
The Coronado-Quivira Museum has many items from the three cultures—Indians, Spanish, and American traders. You will see a model of a grass lodge in which the Quivira Indians lived. You will also see chain mail and other artifacts believed to have belonged to Coronado or his men. Don’t worry, though, the Santa Fe Trail has not been forgotten in this museum. Look for the display cases that show artifacts believed to have been from the Plum Buttes Massacre, a nearby site where Indians attacked a wagon train, killed some of the members, and burned the wagons.