In 1541, when the Spanish explorer Coronado traveled through the area that is now Kansas, he came across the Wichita tribe. Disappointed that he hadn't found the Seven Cities of Gold, Coronado left, leaving a Franciscan missionary among the Wichita with the intent of converting them to Christianity. The Wichita killed the missionary and later migrated south toward the Canadian River in Oklahoma. Due to the area they have traditionally lived in, the Wichita have derived their food from a mixture of hunting, gathering and farming.
The University of Kansas Press published Kansas Archaeology in 2006, which stated that archaeological evidence shows that early Wichita Indians grew maize, sunflowers, beans and squash. They gathered grapes, plums, walnuts, hickory and hackberries, and they hunted bison, antelope, dog, elk and deer.
When the French moved through the area in the 18th century, Wichita Indians traded furs with them for food and other goods. In this way, new foods were introduced to the tribe, and they profited from the interchange. The Wichita hunted buffalo, used their meat for food and traded the furs to the French who needed them for clothing and blankets.
The Wichita Indians had a taboo about fish. They would not eat fish, and some would not even touch the skin of a fish, but it isn't clear where this taboo originated. Similarly, other tribes in the region had a similar taboo about bear meat. They believe the bear to have special kinship with humans. Perhaps the Wichita believed that fish had a similar kinship to humans.
The Wichita diet consisted largely of maize, which has raised concerns in recent years. A study done by the University of Palermo in Palermo, Italy, found that maize-based diets are deficient in tryptophan, the precursor to serotonin. The result of this deficiency is a tendency toward aggressive behavior or religious fanaticism. Besides southwestern Native American tribes, this maize-based deficiency has affected groups in Africa and the Balkans.
The procuring of food determined the division of labor between the sexes in the Wichita tribe. The men participated in seasonal buffalo hunts and hunted other smaller animals throughout the year. The women took care of the farming and gathering. In some places, Wichita women even planted plum trees in small orchards.