Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Rayado Indians

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit

Rayados was the Spanish name for a Native American group visited by Umana and Leyba in 1594 and Juan de Oñate in 1601. The Rayado village, called Etzanoa, the "Great Settlement," was probably in southern Kansas near the Arkansas River. The Rayados were Wichita Indians related to those visited in Quivira by Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1541.



Most authorities agree that the Rayados were Caddoan speaking and members of one of several sub-tribes of the Wichita people. Their grass houses, dispersed mode of settlement, a chief named Catarax, a Wichita title, the description of their granaries, and their location all agree with descriptions of the Wichita. As Wichita, the Rayados were related to the people Coronado discovered in Quivira 60 years earlier. One scholar, however, dissents, calling them "Jumanos." Jumano seems to have been a generic term for Plains Indians with painted or tattooed faces, as was Rayados.

Both Jusepe's and Onate's accounts describe the Rayados as numerous. The more than 1200 houses Onate estimated to be in the settlement indicates a population of at least 12,000, if the houses was as large as those of later Wichita tribes. Moreover, Catarax said there were additional settlements upstream on that river and on other rivers. The fact that the Rayados abandoned their settlement on the arrival of Onate's expedition may be an indication that they had previous, and unfavorable, dealings with the Spanish.

An Indian captured from the Escanjaques by Onate, and later named Miguel, drew a map of the region for the Spanish. He called the "Great Settlement" of the Rayados "Etzanoa" or "Tzanoa."


The accounts of Jusepe and Onate do not permit a definitive location for the Rayado settlement to be determined. The two most likely locations are the junction of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers on the present site of Wichita, Kansas and the Walnut River flowing through Arkansas City, Kansas.

Based on archaeological findings the Walnut River site is favored. Archaeologists have discovered more than a dozen large settlements along six miles of the Walnut River. The occupation of these sites has been dated from 1500 to 1720. A small number of artifacts of Spanish origin have been found at the site.

It would appear that the Rayados abandoned the Walnut River site in the early eighteenth century. Perhaps they moved a few miles south to Kay County, Oklahoma where two 18th century archaeological sites, Deer Creek and Bryson Paddock, of the Wichita are known. They appear to have been much reduced in numbers by then, possibly as a result of Europeans diseases, warfare, and the slave trade in Indians. The descendants of the Rayados were absorbed into the Wichita tribe.


In 1594 or 1595, Antonio Gutierrez de Umana and Francisco Leyba de Bonilla led the first known expedition to the Great Plains of Oklahoma and Kansas in more than 50 years. A Mexican Indian named Jusepe Gutierrez was the only known survivor of the expedition.

Leaving New Mexico and traveling east and north for more than a month, Jusupe said that they found a "very large settlement." He said it extended for more than 10 leagues (about 26 miles) along a river and was two leagues wide. The houses had straw roofs and were built close together, but between clusters of houses were fields of maize, squash, and beans. The Indians were numerous, but "received the Spanish peacefully and furnished them with abundant supplies of food" The expedition encountered a "multitude" of bison in the region. It appears these were the same people later called "Rayados."


In 1601, Juan de Oñate, founder and governor of New Mexico led an expedition that followed in the footsteps of Leyba and Umana. Jusepe guided Oñate, more than 70 Spanish soldiers and priests, an unknown number of Indian soldiers and servants, and seven hundred horses and mules across the plains.

Onate met Apache Indians in the Texas Panhandle and, later, a large encampment of Escanjaques. The Escanjaques showed him the way to a large settlement about 30 miles away of a people Onate called "Rayados." Rayados means "striped" in Spanish, referring to their custom of painting or tattooing their faces. The Escanjaques, enemies of the Rayados, attempted to enlist the help of the Spanish to attack the Rayados, whom they alleged were responsible for the deaths of Leyba and Umana a few years earlier

The Escanjaques guided Oñate to a nearby river, surely the Arkansas, where they saw three or four hundred Rayados on a hill. The Rayados advanced, throwing dirt into the air as a sign that they were ready for war. Oñate indicated that he did not wish to fight and made peace with this group of Rayados who proved to be friendly and generous. Unlike the Escanjaques, Oñate said the Rayados were "united, peaceful, and settled." They showed deference to their chief, named Catarax, whom Oñate detained as a guide and hostage, although "treating him well."

Catarax led Onate and the Escanjaques across the Arkansas and to a settlement on the eastern bank, one or two miles from the river. The settlement was deserted, the inhabitants having fled. It contained "more than twelve hundred houses, all established along the bank of another good-sized river which flowed into the large one [the Arkansas]." The settlement of the Rayados was similar to those seen by Coronado in Quivira sixty years before. The homesteads were dispersed; the houses round, thatched with grass and surrounded by large granaries to store the corn, beans, and squash they grew in their fields. Onate restrained his Escanjaque guides from looting the town and sent them home. Catarax, who had been chained, was rescued by the Rayados in a bold raid.

The next day Onate and his army proceeded onward through the settlement for three leagues (eight miles), although without seeing many Rayados. The Spaniards were warned, however, that the Rayados were assembling an army to attack him. Discretion seemed the better part of valor. Onate estimated that three hundred Spanish soldiers would be needed to confront the Rayados, and he turned his soldiers around to return to New Mexico.

Oñate was worried about the Rayados attacking him, but apparently it was the Escanjaques who attack him as he began his return to New Mexico. Oñate claimed that many Escanjaques were killed in the battle, but many of his soldiers were wounded. After two hours, Oñate broke off the combat, retired from the field, and led his Spaniards and Indians back to New Mexico.


Rayado Indians Wikipedia