Press Release

ETZANOA Announces Capital Campaign

For Immediate Release:
ETZANOA Announces Capital Campaign
$4.5 Million Raised

(Arkansas City, KS) With the announcement of a $500,000 SPRINT grant from the State of Kansas, the Etzanoa Conservancy is launching the public phase of its Etzanoa Cultural & Immersion Center Campaign. $4.5 million has been raised.

“We couldn’t be more pleased,” says Dr. David Ross of Topeka and Conservancy Board Chair. “The Conservancy and Campaign Leadership Committee is grateful to all those who have helped us reach this stage of the campaign. Thanks to their early involvement as donors, the recent $500,000 grant was made possible.”

Map of Kansas with Arkansas City, Kansas pinpointed at the southern boarder between Kansas and Oklahoma.

Ross added, “Over the last couple of years the Conservancy and the committee successfully secured property for the center, engaged a design group to develop architectural drawings for the center and most importantly raise $4.5 million during the quiet phase of the campaign.”

The Etzanoa Conservancy works to unearth and learn the history and heritage of a 500-year-old Indigenous prairie culture known as the Etzanoa. For an estimated five miles, the “great settlement” sits below the Kansas prairie on and around the Walnut River in Cowley County, Kansas.

“It is believed to be the second largest site ever identified in America,” said Sandy Randell, Etzanoa Executive Director. “It started as a mystery more than 80 years ago when the first small artifacts were found. Archeology in the last 15 years and academic research on two continents and three countries confirmed Spanish conquistadors visited the settlement of about 20,000 in 1601.”

“The mystery that was solved and the ongoing archeology and historical research has captured the attention of people around the world,” said Randell. “We’ve had more than 30,000 visitors in the last five years. And we’ve been invited to speak with groups in 16 states and four continents. Most recently Etzanoa was part of a National Geographic story detailing the five ancient cities that once ruled North America.”

Concept design of exterior of museum.

The center will incorporate two important components – an immersion museum and research wing. Exhibition galleries, immersion theatre and outdoor trails will bring to life the story of the Etzanoa and the presentation of other Indigenous nations. The research area allows for ongoing work and preservation of Etzanoa history and heritage will the rest of the center informs, educates, and immerses visitors into the life of the Etzanoa.

“A leadership gift from the VJ Wilkins Foundation and Conservancy board members started the quiet phase,” said John Farrar, Campaign Committee member. “With this announcement of the public phase, we are working to raise the final gifts to complete this project. It’s our hope to start open the doors to the new facility in 2025.


SPRINT Grant Recipients

Etzanoa announced as one of the recipients of the SPRINT grants. For more information from the state see here. An article about the grant and more information can be found here from WIBW and here from the Arkansas City Traveler.More details will be available in the following days.



Date: April 24,2023

Press Release

Etzanoa New Logo and Rebranding

The Etzanoa Conservancy is excited to announce a new logo in conjunction with rebranding.

In addition to the logo, a new website is at The objective of the rebranding was to create a comprehensive image compatible with the mission, vision, and growth of the conservancy.

Mark Dykes of Crowley County Community College and his students collaborated to formulate logo ideas for the Etzanoa Conservancy Board. Through this process, Dykes created a logo the board felt was aligned with the values of the Conservancy. Its nuanced reflection of the long history of Etzanoa can be seen in every line.

The colors are similar to the previous logo with the addition of an orange tone to represent the grasses on the Great Plains.

Dykes modeled the lettering of the logo after a 1605 copy of Don Quixote as a nod to the Spanish’s visit in 1601.

Key components of this logo include the “O” containing the portion of the Miguel Map, dictated by an indigenous man, was the clue to the rediscovery of the location of Etzanoa in Arkansas City, KS. The section of the map depicted has lines representing rivers and trails as well as two ovoid shapes indicating places of inhabitance. This is Etzanoa.


WSU professor, students continue research on archaeological discovery

Monday, April 3, 2017
Wichita State University

  • Wichita State professor of archaeology Donald Blakeslee began on-site research of the town of Etzanoa in 2015.
  • Since then, he has worked to rewrite the history of the town, which was previously thought to be a cluster of villages.
  • Blakeslee has involved Wichita State students with the research and hopes to continue researching the site in years to come.

Donald Blakeslee, professor of archaeology at Wichita State University, presented in March at the annual conference of the Society for American Archaeology discussing recent archaeological evidence that shows a thriving ancestral Wichita Indian town of more than 20,000 residents near Arkansas City, Kansas.

The discovery began with new translations of old Spanish documents by the Cibola Project at the University of California, Berkley. Members of the team made photocopies of the original documents, re-transcribed them from the Old Spanish and then retranslated them. Earlier historians and archaeologists who had used the documents dealt with misleading errors in transcription and translation, which is why many archaeological discoveries in the area were misinterpreted.

“It has been a lot of fun to rewrite the record so thoroughly. By joining the historical written record to the archaeology, we ended up rewriting both fields,” says Blakeslee. “Rather than a cluster of 30 little villages, there was a single town of 20,000 people.”

Research of the town, called Etzanoa, has completely revised the understanding of protohistoric settlements in the southern plains. Previous scholars often dismissed the Spanish population estimates as exaggerations, but with the evidence of the archaeological finds it can no longer be dismissed.

“One implication is that Old World epidemic diseases had not yet reached this region, but probably did so by around 1650, because there were far fewer Wichitas when the French arrived in 1718,” says Blakeslee.

Blakeslee reported archaeology that coincides with eyewitness accounts from five soldiers of Spanish explorer and founder of New Mexico, Juan de Oñate, who were interviewed in Mexico City in 1602.

Scattered surface finds match the description of the town as extending about five miles, and the description of the landscape and route of the Spanish army also line up. The biggest piece of confirmation came with the discovery of the site of a battle fought there in 1601. Metal detectors were used to uncover small iron shot from in front of the ravine where natives took shelter and well beyond it where shots eventually fell.

Blakeslee began work at the site in 2015 when he invited leaders of the Wichita tribe to visit and spent a week there researching. He’s been able to involve WSU students with the research as well and has taken them to the site each summer since. They plan to be there for four weeks during summer 2017.

“Work at Etzanoa will continue for the rest of my career and beyond,” says Blakeslee. “It will be an important part of WSU’s future.”


Searching For Etzanoa

Mar 14, 2016
American Archaeology Magazine

Searching For Etzanoa
Researchers may have found one of North America’s largest prehistoric settlements in Kansas.

By David Malakoff.

In the early summer of 1601, Juan de Oñate, a conquistador who helped establish the Spanish colony of New Mexico, set off on a search to find Quivira, a fabled “city of gold.” Led by the lone survivor of an earlier expedition, Oñate marched east from his base near what is now Santa Fe with some 200 soldiers and several cannons, as well as a dozen priests and a large gaggle of camp followers. Along the way, the explorers encountered herds of American bison, marveling at these “most monstrous cattle” and the Apache hunters who stalked them. And they were among the first Europeans to describe the lush prairies of the Great Plains, with “grasses so high that in many places they hid a horse.”

Oñate’s most eye-popping discovery, however, was yet to come. That fall, his band reached a river located somewhere near what is now the Kansas-Oklahoma border. Its banks were lined with more than a thousand large, thatched-roof buildings, scattered among fields of corn, squash, and beans. Many of the inhabitants had fled before Oñate’s arrival, and astonished scouts reported that the town stretched on for miles. “The end of the houses was not in sight,” soldiers later told Spanish officials, estimating that some 20,000 people lived in the settlement they dubbed Etzanoa.

For centuries, many scholars discounted Oñate’s account of Etzanoa. Conquistadors had a reputation for exaggerating, they said, in order to impress their royal bosses and church officials eager to save souls. Archaeologists and anthropologists also were skeptical. Now, however, some recent archaeological discoveries—and some fresh translations of accounts of Oñate’s journey—may be changing that argument. Researchers say they have found preliminary evidence of Etzanoa in south-central Kansas near Arkansas City.

Summary. Read More in our Spring 2016 Issue of American Archaeology, Vol. 20 No. 1.