By: Margery H. Krieger

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: May 1, 1995

Quivira (Cuivira, Quebira, Aguivira) was the legendary Indian province first mentioned to Hernando de Alvarado and Francisco Vázquez de Coronado in the fall of 1540 by the Pawnee captive El Turco. According to the Turk's stories, Quivira lay far to the east of the New Mexico pueblos somewhere on the Buffalo Plains. The region was said to contain a large population with much gold and silver. However, when the Spaniards reached the supposed site of Quivira in 1541, they found only villages of grass huts and a partly agricultural, partly bison-hunting economy. El Turco, after confessing that he had told his stories to lure the conquistadors away from the pueblos, was garroted. Nevertheless, the legend of Quivira remained strong; the unsuccessful expedition of Francisco Leyva de Bonilla and Antonio Gutiérrez de Humaña in 1595 and that of Juan de Oñate in 1601 also visited Quivira, with the same disappointing results. Fray Juan de Padilla, who had accompanied the Coronado expedition, was martyred there after attempting to establish mission work among the Indians of Quivira.

Quivira has been identified with the Indians later known as Wichita. Frederick Webb Hodge stated that the name was possibly a Spanish corruption of the term Kidikwius, or Kirikurus, the Wichitas' name for themselves, or of Kirikuruks, the Pawnee name for the Wichitas. The actual location of Quivira has been a source of controversy and speculation among historians, ethnologists, and archeologists alike. Some, like Carlos E. Castañeda and David Donoghue, conclude from Spanish journals that Coronado and Oñate never went beyond the Panhandle of Texas or that of Oklahoma; they thus place the Indian villages above the South Canadian River in what is Hutchinson or Roberts County, or above the North Canadian (Beaver) River, in what is now Beaver County, Oklahoma. However, archeological evidence more readily points toward Hodge's conclusion that the fabled provincia was actually located north of the Arkansas River, somewhere between present Great Bend and Wichita, Kansas. Prominent Borderlands historians Herbert Eugene Bolton, George P. Hammond, and Agapito Rey also demonstrate the plausibility of the Kansas location in their writings.

David Donoghue, "The Location of Quivira," Panhandle-Plains Historical Review 13 (1940). Frederick Webb Hodge, ed., Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1907, 1910; rpt., New York: Pageant, 1959). Frederick W. Rathjen, The Texas Panhandle Frontier (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973).
  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Provinces
Time Periods:
  • Spanish Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Margery H. Krieger, “Quivira,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 26, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/quivira.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: