Meaning of the word "Wichita"
From: History of Wichita and Sedgwick County, Kansas
Past and Present
O. H. Bentley, Editor-in-Chief
C. F. Cooper & Co. Publisher.
Chicago 1910


For a week or more the literal English meaning of the word "Wichita" has been in controversy. Some stranger came here from the East and asked a hotel man what the word meant. Hotel men in Wichita are a little too busy to give any time to the origin and meaning of the Indian words, and if he did not tell his guest that much, he indicated it by his actions. It made the Eastern man indignant to see such indifference to one of the prettiest town names in the gazetteer, and he began telephoning all over town - to editors, college professors, school teachers, city statesmen, and everybody else who, he thought, ought to know the meaning of the word. Not one of them knew, until the greatest of all authorities on subjects concerning this valley James R. Mead, pioneer and historian - was reached. It was on the end of his tongue - "Scattered Lodges."

For fully two days this authority was accepted, until an Irishman came along and asserted to the "Eagle" that the word "Wichita" meant "Tattooed Faces." We hated to hear the decision of Mr. Mead disputed - especially by a foreigner - and we called up William Mathewson, a man who was here before the Askansas river was dug, and asked him about it. He dissented very strongly from the Irishman's opinion and stood loyally by his pioneer friend, J. R. Mead. He informed us also that the word "Wichita" is not a Wichita word At all, but an Osage word, and it was from the Osages themselves, many years ago, that he learned that the word meant "Scattered Lodges" or "Scattered Tillages," which means the same thing.

Now comes the Irishman, who cites as his authority no less a person than J. W. Powell, director of the Bureau of 'American Ethnology. We have examined Mr. Powell's references to the matter in the Seventeenth Annual Report of his bureau, and a casual reading of it would indicate that the Irishman was a little more than a match for the two famous Kansas pioneers. A more attentive reading, however, reveals the fact that "Tattooed Faces" comes from a Kiowa word which was applied to the Wichita, Waco, Tawakoni and Kichai Indians on account of their habit of tattooing their faces and mouths. The word in question is "Doguat," which evidently means "Wichita," for we find the Wichita mountains in Oklahoma called "Doguat kop" by the Kiowa even unto this day.

The question now is whether the Osages knew more about the Wichitas than the Kiowas did. We doubt it, but for all that, the name "Wichita" has been recognized by the government for a great many years, and no one would be willing to give it up for such an ugly word as "Doguat."

It is settled, therefore, that "Wichita" means "Scattered Lodges," and not "Tattooed Faces," and the superintendent of education ought to have it at once proclaimed in the school houses, so that when the next inquiring Easterner comes along and asks the question, all may be able to answer him.

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