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Coronado's Expedition, Frederic Remington, 1898.
As early as 1530 the Spanish authorities in Mexico
heard reports of the "Seven Cities of Cibola," which were reputed to be
exceedingly opulent, but it was not until ten years later that any systematic
attempt was made to find them and exploit their wealth. The
Expedition was sent out from New Spain for that purpose in 1540, and while
in winter quarters near the present city of
Coronado learned from an
of a province teeming with wealth somewhere in the interior. This province
subsequently became known as Quivira. There is some question as to whether the
name "Quivira" is of
Shea suggests that the original name might have been "Quebira," from the Arabic
word "quebir" -- meaning great -- and that it was probably first used by the
survivors of the Narvaez expedition who found their way to Mexico in the spring
The province of Quivira has been claimed by nearly
every state in the
Valley, and it was only in the late 19th Century that it has been given anything
like a definite location by archaeologists. Acting upon the information received
Coronado set out in April, 1541, for the province, which he finally reached
after wandering over the plains for more than two months.
As the season began to wane he returned to his
quarters of the preceding winter, where on October 20, he wrote to the king of
Spain a letter, in which he said:
"The province of Quivira is 950 leagues from Mexico. Where I reached it is
in the 40th degree. The country itself is the best I have ever seen for
producing all the products of Spain, for besides the land itself being very fat
and black and being 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.
I had been told that the houses were made of stone and were several storied;
they are only of straw, and the inhabitants are as savage as any that I have
In that half-forgotten era,
With the avarice of old,
Seeking cities he was told
Had been paved with yellow gold,
In the kingdom of Quivira --
Came the restless Coronado
To the open Kansas plain,
With his knights from sunny Spain;
In an effort that, though vain,
Thrilled with boldness and bravado.
League by league, in aimless marching,
Knowing scarcely where or why,
Crossed they uplands drear and dry,
That an unprotected sky
Had for centuries been parching.
But their expectations, eager,
Found, instead of fruitful lands,
Shallow streams and shifting sands,
Where the buffalo in bands
Roamed o'er deserts dry and meager.
Back to the scenes more trite, yet tragic,
Marched the knights with armor'd steeds;
Not for them the quiet deeds;
Not for them to sow the seeds
From which empires grow like magic.
Thus Quivira was forsaken;
And the world forgot the place
Through the lapse of time and space.
Then the blue-eyed Saxon race
Came and bade the desert waken.
-- Eugene Ware
They have no clothes, nor cotton to make them of; they simply tan the hides of
the cows which they hunt, and which pasture around their village and in the
neighborhood of a large river. They eat their meat raw like the Querechos and
Tejas, and are enemies to one another and war among one another. All these men
look alike. The inhabitants of Quivira are the best of hunters and they plant
Jaramillo's account confirms the description given by Coronado and says the only
metal found in Quivira consisted of some iron pyrites and a few pieces of
copper. As the main object of the visit was to find gold and silver, the
disappointment of the Spaniards can be readily imagined.
"prunes" mentioned by Coronado were no doubt the wild plums that abound along
the streams in central and western
Kansas; the "fat," black and well watered land answers the description of
the soil about the junction of the Smoky Hill and Republican Rivers; and the
statement that Quivira was in the 40th degree bears out the belief that the
ancient province was somewhere in central or northeastern
Kansas, as the northern boundary of the state is the 40th parallel of north
latitude. Castaneda, the historian of the expedition, bears out the description
of the houses given by Coronado. He says: "The houses are round, without a wall,
and they have one story like a loft, under the roof, where they sleep and keep
their belongings. The roofs are of straw."
fact that the people lived in straw houses, or at least in huts with roofs of
straw, Hodge identifies the inhabitants of Quivira as the Wichita
tribe, of all the plains
accustomed to thatch their huts with straw.
in his Gilded Man, after a careful analysis of the various accounts of
Quivira, sums up the results of his research as follows: "I have shown that
Quivira was in central Kansas, in
the region of Great Bend and Newton, and a little north of there. It is also
clear that the name appertained to a roving
and not to a geographical district. Hence, when I say that Coronado's Quivira
was there, the identification is good for the year 1541, and not for a later
time. The tribe wandered with the bison, and with the tribe the name also went
hither and thither."
Bandelier is correct in his deductions, as he probably is, the fact that the
name wandered with the tribe may account for the various locations of the
province of Quivira, though, as he shows, the Quivira visited by Coronado in
1541 was unquestionably somewhere within the present limits of the State of
Kansas. Bandelier also says: "With
the return to Mexico of the little army that Coronado commanded, the name of
Cibola lost its fascination. But Quivira continued to exercise an unperceived
influence on the imagination of men. Notwithstanding, or perhaps because
Coronado had told the unadorned truth concerning the situation and conditions of
the place, the world presumed that he was mistaken, and insisted on continuing
the search for it."
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