Manataka® American Indian Council









De Soto Traveled to Manataka


Since 2005, the current superintendent of Hot Springs National Park, Josie Fernandez, has systematically ordered a number of significant artifacts and monuments be removed from public display.  A different history of Hot Springs is now being told that contrasts sharply with the history known by long-time residents and the story told by the National Park Service itself only a few years ago.


The removal of the Manataka Commemorative Plaque from  Hernando De Soto Rock in Arlington Park is only one example.  The plaque is an important piece of Hot Springs' history, yet it is now gathering dust, out-of-sight and forever hidden from our children's children.


As a history revisionist, Fernandez lays all her bets on the idea that Hernando De Soto and his army of Conquistadors did not venture anywhere near the great waters of the hot springs (Arkansas).  She uses a generally foggy history and academic controversy surrounding the travels of the Conquistadors to deny obvious facts and thus destroys truth by failing to recognize it and giving it honor.


The purpose of the following paragraphs is to present support for proof that the Conquistadors did meet in battle at Caddo Gap, Arkansas with the Tula people (Keepers of Manataka) and did journey to the ancient Place of Peace (Manataka) - Hot Springs, Arkansas.


Travels of De Soto's Spanish Conquistadors

and the Tula People


click on the map below to enlarge


The chronicles of Spanish exploration give a sketchy description of the travels of Hernando De Soto and his Conquistadors and the exact route taken by De Soto's men remains controversial even though recent theories developed by history revisionists are proven to be incorrect .  As you can see from the map left (click to enlarge), attempts to equate every feature in the expedition narratives with some spot on a modern map result in convoluted routes that seem implausible to most historians.  


De Soto Narratives

The four narratives of the expedition are (1) that of Rodrigo Ranjel, De Soto's secretary, (2) that of Luis Hernandez de Biedma, who had charge of the King's interests, (3) that of the anonymous Gentleman of Elvas, who belonged to a Portuguese contingent, and (4) that of Garcilaso de la Vega, the longest, most romantic and least reliable of the narratives but one not to be ignored.


According to Spanish accounts, De Soto and his Lieutenant, Luis de Moscoso Alvarado and their army of  Conquistadors traveled southwest from the Coligua (near present day Little Rock, Arkansas), and then after a few days travel hauling heavy cannons and supplies, Along the way, the Spanish describe a river full of salt.  Between Coliqua and the Tula is the Saline River (Present day Rockport, Arkansas).  They boiled salt and continued west by southwest when they came to the southeast side of some rugged mountains (the Zig Zag Mountains) where they followed the Caddo River to the villages of the Tula (also spelled Tulla) people.  According to the narratives, the Spanish discovered " brackish water" a naturally occurring thermal springs that rises from the riverbed of the Caddo River. 


The hot springs average ninety-five degrees Fahrenheit and can be felt as the thermal waters rise from the depths into the river.  Today the area is called Caddo Gap, Arkansas.


This is the only place in Arkansas or anywhere in North America where hot springs flow from a riverbed.  This fact is critical to understanding the travels of De Soto. 


A few history revisionists place the location of Tula sixty-five to eighty-five miles northwest near present day Fort Smith. 


The Conquistador narratives described "brackish waters" located a short distance from between Coliqua (Little Rock) and the Tula village.  Only the Saline River fits the exact description.  


The marching time between Coliqua (Little Rock) and Fort Smith (158 miles) would have taken the Spanish over a month to travel that distance by foot and horseback.  Another suggested the Spanish army struggled up-river to a place near Fort Smith.  The Spanish took only about 14 days to travel to meet the Tula.  Even by boat, the journey would have taken more than three weeks going that route.  The Tanico Indians who served as guides to meet the Tula, would have never traveled such a convoluted route to the Tula Province. 


The location of Tula cannot be disputed.  De Solo's route in Arkansas is clear once all the major rivers are correctly identified.  The United States Desoto Expedition Commission Final Report devoted nine full pages to the identification of Arkansas rivers and the location of the Tula.  For over fifty-years all attempts by archaeologists to refute the original river identifications and the location of the Tula have failed.  Some ambitious archaeologists have attempted to link known sites in Arkansas to Spanish travels, but they have failed to prove any connection. 


According to indigenous people encountered by the Conquistadors after they crossed the Mississippi River, the Tula were very rich and powerful, known as the keepers of a "great water".  The Tula were also known among many southern tribes to be fierce fighters who often used battle tactics completely unknown to other tribes.  The most ferocious tribe on the southern plains were the Osage who often ventured south to raid peaceful Caddo villages near the Tula.  The Osage kept a wide-berth around the Tula.   


The Tula maintained many small scattered villages and farms of individual families stretching several miles east along the Caddo and Ouachita rivers leading to their main village. (called Caddo Gap today).  East along the Ouachita river (called Anilco in Spanish chronicles) the Tula kept overnight lodging and supply stations that were used during frequent trips to the great waters of the hot springs (Manataka - a Tula word).  As the Ouachita river neared the area of the hot springs, about 40 miles east of their main village, the Tula maintained a large work village to process the valuable whetstone (novaculite) and house people who came to bathe in the hot springs.  That work village was located at the foot of Hot Springs (Manataka) Mountain on Hot Springs creek near Indian Mountain.


As the arrogant Conquistadors worked their way west along the Caddo River after leaving the rugged Zig Zag Mountains, (also described in the narratives) they robbed and enslaved several people from small scattered Tula farming areas before coming to the main village.  There the headmen and women of the Tula told the Conquistadors that they must return all that was stolen.  The Conquistadors refused and a battle began. 


The first day of the battle the Tula were nearly decimated.  The Tula had never seen the frightening spectacle of men on horseback.  The Tula had never seen men-beasts wearing metal helmets and breastplates that easily repelled their arrows and lances.  The Tula had never felt the sting of bullets or heard the roar of cannon fire. The Tula warriors carried long pole lances that proved very effective against Conquistador cavalry. Many Tula warriors were lost on the first day of battle. 


That evening the head men and women of the Tula decided to change battle tactics and planned a guerrilla campaign to sabotage and slow the Spanish.  Tula warriors used the mountainous terrain to hit-and-run against the Spanish and lured a number of Spanish to an area beneath the river gorge and rolled massive whetstone slabs and boulders down on top of the Spanish and their horses.  By sundown of the second day, it was evident the Conquistadors lost many men and horses. The Tula tasted the blood of their new enemy and knew who he was from prophesies of old.  That night, Tula leaders decided not to send their warriors back into battle against the Conquistadors. 


Before dawn the next morning, rifle shots, cannon fire and screaming were heard by Tula warriors as they emerged from the lodges that was coming from the direction of the Spanish encampment.  Surprised, they went to the battle area and saw Tula women who were charging Spanish battle lines.   The Conquistadors became confused and demoralized at the sight of fearless, screaming, mostly nude women coming at them in battle.  The Spanish turned tail and ran.  It was the first time the Conquistadors retreated during their long adventure in North America.  After being defeated after a three-day battle with the Tula at Caddo Gap the Conquistadors made a u-turn and retreated along the Ouachita River to discover the "great waters" of the hot springs several days later, some say ten days later they found the great hot springs waters. 


De Soto's secretary, Rodrigo Ranjel described the Tula as, "the best fighting people that the Christians met with."  Battles with the Tula convinced De Soto to turn around and find the easiest egress to the south and the ocean.


The Spanish version of the battle with the Tula is different than stories told by Tula survivors.  According to the Spanish version, they lost only a few men and horses and they voluntarily decided to turn back because the Tula advised them there was nothing beyond Caddo Gap.  Spanish narratives tell a tale about a Tula chief who came begging for relief and gifted the Spanish with buffalo robes and other gifts.  The Spanish decided to spare him and his people. 


The Spanish left the area via the Ouachita River valley in hopes of finding the "great water" of Utiangüe on the River of Anilco (mistaken by some historians as the Arkansas River, but correctly identified as the Ouachita River) that may lead them back to the Caribbean. 


Some history revisionists have the Conquistadors retreating east along the same route they arrived -- along the Caddo River toward the treacherous Zig Zag Mountains.  Strategically, that route does not make much since.  De Soto wanted to find the "great water" of Utiangüe and he did not want to climb the rugged mountain range again.  The Conquistadors chose the route offering the least geographic resistance along the Ouachita River because the broad relatively flat areas along the river valley.  They moved along their route at approximately three miles per hour and it took them 10 days to travel to arrive at the place of the "great water" where De Soto decided to encamp for the winter.  


The Spanish and their guides were led in a direction, offering them best travel route, toward a known target -- the "great waters" of Utiangüe.  The Spanish narratives are very clear.  


However, what it clear to us is confusing for some historians who make the obvious error of assuming the "great waters" spoken about in the narratives described a large body of water.  The Great Waters were the sacred hot springs of Manataka.  Not great because of their size, but great for their healing powers.


De Soto wandered into the sacred Manataka valley.  His army remained here for over a month, after quickly building a palisade around their camp, thoroughly scouting the area daily, licking their wounds, and searching frantically for the primary reason for their exploration.  They did not worry too much about food because there was always a large store of corn and other supplies at Manataka / Utiangue, and no Indians were present guarding the stores.


[There is evidence of an old gold and silver mine at Manataka, but there is no indication to believe De Soto ever found an ounce.  He did find the healing hot springs and he did leave with serious sickness among his advisors and it killed him too a few weeks later as the retreating Spanish army neared the Arkansas River.]   


The De Soto Expedition Commission

A Commission was created in 1935 by act of Congress and its members were appointed by President Roosevelt.  The "Final Report of The United States: Desoto Expedition Commission printed in 1939,  Dr. John R. Swanton was selected to chair the commission.  He worked almost 40 years for the Bureau of American Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.  He also worked closely with Native American peoples throughout the United States.  The Final Report was

co-authored by the Vice chairman of the Commission, Colonel John R. Fordyce, a resident of Hot Springs, Arkansas.  .


The final report was praised for over a decade by scholars.  But in 1951, a report entitled "An Archaeological Survey in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley, 1940-1947." was released by three archaeologists, Philip Phillips, James A. Ford, and James B. Griffin.  Portions of the report was critical of the Commission's work.  They suggested a few minor adjustments to the route traveled prior to coming into what is now called Arkansas and they argued a more northerly crossing site where the Spanish boated across the Mississippi River. 


But, they also made some serious blunders when it came to identifying several rivers in what is now Arkansas.  They attempted to prove a route different from the Commission's work so that it would fit several specific archaeological finds. These mistakes and the misidentification of rivers critical to the Spanish route in Arkansas caused their criticism of the De Soto Expedition Commission to fall flat. 


John Swanton effectively responded to the critics in his 1952 essay entitled, "Hernando De Soto's Route through Arkansas".

Specifically addressing the location of the Tula, Swanton writes, "Above the Salt Province [Rock Port, Arkansas], on or near the River of Anilco [Ouachita River], was a tribe called Tula, and later on when De Soto's successor Moscoso undertook to go overland to Mexico, he came to a province called Naguatex, a Caddo name, and afterward to others in the near neighborhood which were all plainly Caddo. When the Spaniards were in the Province of Naguatex, moreover, Elvas writes that Tula was not far to the east. If the Spaniards were then in any of those Caddo towns near the bend of Red River, and Tula was where the Commission believes it to have been, on or near Caddo Creek [Caddo River] in southwestern Arkansas, that could be true, but it could not be true if Tula was on the Neosho unless we suppose that the Caddo Indians were all living in Oklahoma at that time, and that would throw any attempt to place Moscoso's line of march entirely out of any reasonable location and is not to be thought of."  Source: American Antiquity, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Oct., 1952), pp. 156-162 Published by: Society for American Archaeology Stable 


The integrity of the "Final Report of The United States: Desoto Expedition Commission" has survived harsh criticism for nearly seventy-five years and their map remains the most widely accepted route in high schools and universities across the country.  They strongly endorse the Swanton maps -- with appropriate minor revisions.


Most other criticisms regarding Spanish travels in Arkansas are minor and most have been proven to be without merit. But, there are a few historians such as Dr. George Sabo III whose contributions to the Spanish route through Arkansas are credible, to a degree.  Sabo is currently Director of the Arkansas Archeological Survey at the University of Arkansas.


Sabo Writes:

In his First Encounters Hernando de Soto in the Mississippi Valley, 1541-42,  "From Cayas, the Spaniards continued up the Arkansas River (their “River of Cayas”). They entered the northern Ouachita Mountains south of modern Fort Smith. Tanico guides led them to the Tula Indians, whose language the Tanico Indians did not understand.  Modern scholars believe the Tula were the ancestors of historic Wichita Indians who spoke a Caddo dialect. The Tula Indians used long lances to hunt buffalo, which proved remarkably effective against the charging Spanish cavalry. Both sides suffered significant losses in their battle, but Soto took no gold and precious little food."


Sabo forgot to include the Salt Province and the "hot brackish waters" described by the Spanish narratives of the expedition.  He also miscalculates the travel times and ignores other geographical notations.  Travelling "up" the Arkansas River against the strong current is not an easy task, especially since the entire army of over 300 who made the journey -- including cannons and other heavy weapons, horses and livestock, slaves, food and supplies.  Sabo includes no time to acquire or construct boats capable to hauling the entire army and seriously miscalculates a route the Tanico guides would have logically led them.

If the Sabo route was even partially correct, Tanico warrior guides would have taken the more direct route. The Spanish absolutely did not use the small, simple canoes belonging to the Tanico.  There is no mention of a long boat journey in the Spanish narratives.


The distance between Coliqua (near Little Rock) and "the northern Ouachita Mountains south of modern Fort Smith" (158 miles?) and the place where Tanico guides led the Spanish to the Tula Indians, would have taken the army nearly a month or more to travel. The Spanish narratives say it took them only 14 days to go from Coliqua (Little Rock) to meet the Tula. A much more reasonable route is the one provided by the Desoto Expedition Commission map where they boiled out salt along the way and encountered a rugged mountain range (the lower Ouachita Mountain range called today the Zig Zags.).  Sabo makes the same mistake in misidentifying the Arkansas River (the River of Coliqua) with the Ouachita River (the River of Cayas).


There is no proof of the idea that the Tula were ancestors of the Wichita.  The Tula were not anything like the Wichita Indians in customs, lifestyle, battle tactics, appearance or language. 


Hudson Writes:

The same section of the Spanish travels through Arkansas is described differently by Dr. Charles M. Hudson, Jr. (1932 – 2013) who was the Franklin Professor of Anthropology and History Emeritus at the University of Georgia, and a leading authority on the history and culture of Native Americans in the Southeastern United States.


"...The narratives clearly indicate that the expedition traveled west, meandering over many parts of the state. Most scholars agree that the initial trek west proceeded north of the Arkansas River, probably making at least one foray north into the foothills near Batesville (Independence County) At some point, the expedition crossed the Arkansas River and undoubtedly made contact with some Caddoan peoples. It spent October fighting with a fierce tribe called the Tula somewhere near present-day Fort Smith (Sebastian County)  Archaeologists have not identified the exact location of these people, but they were clearly not Caddo..."


In his Synopsis of the Hernando De Soto Expedition, 1539-1543 Hudson places Tanico villages near Russellville, Arkansas.  "...On September 16, they came to Tanico, a town to Cayas, probably in the vicinity of Russellville, AR..."  Hudson again mislabels the river Cayas.  The Cayas River was the Ouachita River, not the Arkansas River, effectively throwing off his entire interpretation of the Spanish route.  Hudson is attempting to put a square peg in a round hole.


Hudson writes in his Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun: Hernando de Soto and the South's Ancient Chiefdoms. University of Georgia Press. (1998) pp. 320–326. Retrieved 24 August 2013. "The fights with the Tula convinced Hernando De Soto to turn around and travel to the east. Based on information from other Indians, the expedition decided to winter in a place called Utiangüe, which had large amounts of stored corn. This was south of the Arkansas River, probably somewhere near present-day Little Rock (Pulaski County). When the winter ended, it made its way back to the Mississippi River. At a village called Guachoya, presumed to be somewhere near present-day Lake Village (Chicot County), De Soto died."


Unfortunately, the lack of archaeological evidence from the western and southern part of the state means that scholars are unsure of the route in these areas.  Hudson’s approximation cannot be considered the most accurate based on current knowledge and his failure to consider the actual narratives, the geography, proper identification of the major rivers and time lines renders some of his viewpoints useless.  


Hudson took the best approximations of the Desoto Expedition Commission map and combined them with the estimates of archaeologists to create a revised map.  However, Hudson makes the same mistakes of Sabo and the archaeologists.  To his credit and unlike Sabo, he did echo the learned opinion of Swanton and the Desoto Expedition Commission that the Tula were not Caddoan.


Location of Tula Province

The Tula are known to academic history only from the chronicles of Spanish conquistador Hernando De Soto's exploits in the interior of North America. Very little, if any archaeological study has been done in the area. However, we learned a wealth of information about the Tula from Chief Benito Gray Horse of Manataka as passed down to his wife, Napanee and people of Manataka prior to his death in 1946.  The Tula were not even remotely Caddoan people, even though they lived in the midst of many Caddo villages and spoke some Caddo language for trade purposes.  To academia, the Tula remain a forgotten people.


The Tula Province, was located at the headwaters of the Ouachita, Caddo, Little Missouri, Saline, and Cossatot Rivers in Arkansas.  This specific location was critical to the Tula.  They were superior military strategists who carefully surveyed the entire area of southwest Arkansas before deciding the location of their main village.  They strategically placed small scattered villages along each side of the rivers up to seven to ten days journey away.  There was plenty of game, fish, water, and arable land.  Moreover, it was within easy reach of the "great waters", the sacred waters of Manataka, that they served to protect.


Some historians misinterpret the words "great waters" used by Indian people along the Spanish route and in Spanish narratives to mean a "large body of water."  They have attempted for over fifty years to find that large body of water within 10 days march from Tula Province and have failed. 


The 'great waters' of Utiangüe were located at none other than the hot springs of Manataka near the River of Anilco, known as the Ouachita River today.   The "great waters" referred not to their size, but to the healing qualities of the hot springs.  After leaving Utiangüe in March, 6, 1542, the Spanish followed the RIver of Anilco south to the Gulf of Mexico.


There are no "great waters" in size located in the areas the Spanish travelled between the Tula and "...probably somewhere near present-day Little Rock (Pulaski County)..." as indicated by Hudson. 


The Tula were located in the area designated by the Desoto Expedition Commission map.  The Commission dedicated nine pages of their report to identifying the rivers of Arkansas and the location of the Tula people.  All other suggested locations are based on scant evidence and mere speculation.



Other Suggested Locations of Tula Province

Aikman Mounds - Bluffton Mounds - Some historians place the location of Tula Province at an archaeological Caddoan MIssissippian culture mound site, Bluffton Mound Site  also known as Aikman Mounds, 93.36w, 34.54n. 93w34n, along the Fourche La Fave River in a remote area near Bluffton in the southwest corner of in Yell County, southwest of the Arkansas River.  (Williams, Abbott, and Joseph 1992) This site is has correctly been identified as Caddoan.  Skulls found at this site are estimated to be between 6,000 and 8,000 BC old.   Midway between Fort Smith and Hot Springs the mounds have been found to contain large numbers of human skulls that appear to have been crushed or clubbed to death. There were also large quantities of bracelets, rings and animal bones.   In 1898 Professor Edwin Walters found a mass grave in Yell County. In a 30-acre area he found huge numbers of skeletons with crushed skulls or spearheads lying among the ribs. There were one hundred thousand deaths and the bones are  8,000 years BP, 6,000 BC.   (Weird America, Jim Brandon. pg. 20)


The Tula occupied the area in and around Caddo Gap from about circa 800 AD to the early 1700's.  They did not exist in Arkansas prior.  Therefore, any association claimed by historians to the Caddoan Bluffton/Aikman site is without basis. 


Caddoan sites are characterized by diagnostic arrow points and other lithic artifacts, and shell tempered ceramics, often richly embellished with Caddoan iconography. New vessel forms occur including bottles, plates, and carinated jars, and nonutilitarian human and animal effigies (spiritual artifacts) were also manufactured. Mississippian cultures continued to flourish in Arkansas and the southeastern United States until the arrival of European explorers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  None of the artrfacts at Aikman / Bluffton Mounds can be clearly identified with the Tula.


In 1988, the U.S. National Park Service prepared a report entitled, "Route of the Hernando DeSoto Expedition, 1539 - 1543 as required by the De Soto National Trail Study Act of 1987.  As a result of the Desoto Trail Study, the National Park Service determined of the route of the expedition fails to meet all three criteria for national historic trail designation.   The study points to the Aikman Mound as a "possible" location of the Tula.


NPS  failure to reach a determination of the route by the National Park Service's De Soto National Trail study was largely a product of their confusion between the various routes conjectured by history revisionists. Fernandez's actions to remove the bronze plaque from De Soto Rock is evidence of her own confusion.  However, we strongly suspect her motivation was more related to her distain for the other two words on the plaque -- Manataka and Tula.


Carden Bottoms - Home of the Cayas

A few historians claim the the Tula lived "in the northern Ouachita Mountains in the Petit Jean and Fourche valleys..." including

Timothy K. Perttula, Archeologist and  Leslie C. Stewart-Abernathy. with the Arkansas Archeological Survey.  In her article, Carden Bottom posted on the The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and CultureStewart Abernathy writes:  


"The expedition visited an important capital city, Tanico, in September 1542. Tanico was the capital of the province of Cayas. The inhabitants of Cayas were many, but they apparently lived in scattered settlements. The Spaniards stayed awhile, made salt there with an elaborate filtration process, and eventually headed out for a big battle two days’ march away at Tula with the Caddo. Because the great quantity of pottery looted from graves in Carden Bottom and nearby suggested a large Native American population, it has been convenient to assume that this area could be associated with Tanico. This association suggests that the most recent prehistoric Native American inhabitants of Carden Bottom called themselves the people of Cayas. However, the Cayas still cannot be connected conclusively to a modern group."  Leslie C. Stewart-Abernathy, Arkansas Archeological Survey. 


First, there are not now or have ever been any salt mines or salt slurries located immediately off the Arkansas River near or around Cardon Bottom south of Russellville, Arkansas.  Again, archeology is interfering with geology and geology wins.


Second, the River Cayas identified by Perttula and Stewart-Abernathy as the Arkansas River was actually the Ouachita River.  Third, she incorrectly associates the Tula with the Caddo.  Swanton correctly pointed out that Tula is not a Caddoan word.  Fourth, according to the the four Spanish narratives of the expedition, the Tanico people could not communicate with the Tula, but they alledgedly knew how to speak Caddoan.  If Tanico people were Caddoan, why were they unable to communicate with the Tula


Essays by Perttula and Stewart-Abernathy are copied from theories created by Phillips, Ford, Griffin; Sabo and Hudson and have no basis in fact. 


Swanton's Responses

In response to his archeology critics, John R. Swanton wrote in his 1952 essay entitled, "Hernando De Soto's Route through Arkansas",  "...It seems to me that they [archaeologists] would have known better had they given the Report serious study because we devoted something like nine pages to proof that the River of Cayas or Anilco was not the Arkansas but the Ouachita..."  wrote Swanton.


"...I believe the archaeologists themselves have been led "seriously astray" by failure to observe that the areas in which archaeological remains having any bearing on the De Soto expedition can be looked for are inescapably curtailed by the narratives of the expedition and the topography of the country traversed. Our critics seem to assume that the narratives define distances and times so loosely that there is little certainty and that archaeologists may reroute the expedition to agree with sites they hold, on independent grounds, to have been occupied in 1541 when the Spaniards passed through.


If it were not for the preservation of the Ranjel narrative, there would be reasons for such belief, but, thanks to this story of the expedition, we know about where De Soto was on every day of his expedition until that narrative comes to an end, and it holds out until the spring of 1542 when the Spaniards were on the point of leaving the territory of what is now Arkansas...."


"...Of course, even this narrative does not enable us to fix every site on a transit and steel-tape basis, but, having a pretty clear idea of the time consumed by De Soto's army in a day's journey, we are enabled to assert some things with positiveness which limit beyond reasonable doubt the area in which such-and-such remains may be looked for. In particular, the great rivers of Arkansas can be identified with rivers mentioned in the narratives beyond reasonable doubt - unless all evidence is worthless. It happens, rather unfortunately, that the last of the rivers to which the Spaniards came in this State, the River of Cayas or Anilco, is the one that may be definitely tied down, and because it happened to lie somewhat beyond the area our critics were investigating, they adopted the erroneous conclusion that they could postpone consideration of it until a new area was studied...."


"...In taking the ground that the Commission's study of the Arkansas rivers could be put off until later and its conclusions as to the route followed from the Chickasaw towns to the Arkansas could be evaluated without reference to the problem of the rivers, our critics, I shall show, committed a cardinal blunder.


It seems to me that they would have known better had they given the Report serious study because we devoted something like nine pages to proof that the River of Cayas or Anilco was not the Arkansas but the Ouachita..."


There follows from this, first the identification of the River of Coligua with Arkansas River and the River of Casqui with White River, and after that the locations of points as far back as the Chickasaw country. Those river identifications strictly limit the archaeological sites that can have any value in the present discussion. It cannot be supposed for a minute that rivers as important as the White and Arkansas can have been passed without mention, and if the Ouachita was the River of Anilco then the identifications of the others are beyond doubt..."


Having in our Report proved the identity of the River of Anilco with the Ouachita - and I use the word proved with all that it implies - I do not feel called upon to do the same all over again in an article as short as this.  However, I will recapitulate.

1. At or near the headwaters of the River of Anilco the Spaniards came upon a province where they spent some time boiling out salt.  Now, the great salt area of Arkansas is in the southwestern part of the State, and on one affluent of the Ouachita which I visited potsherds were scattered everywhere.


There is no comparable area on the Arkansas which the Spaniards could have reached.  Lewis tried, indeed, to bring into the picture a saline on the Neosho. He assumes that the Spaniards set out from a town on the St. Francis, identified by him as Quiguate, crossed White River below the mouth of Little River, came to a "salt spring" near the present Heber Springs, and then went on to the Neosho [river] which they later confused with the Arkansas [river], reaching it just below the saline mentioned.


This "salt spring" would be at Ranjel's Calpista, and that would do well enough, but Ranjel also says that De Soto reached the River of Anilco near a place called Tutilcoya, five or six days after leaving Calpista, and that would have meant that the Spaniards marched about thirty miles every day. The Spaniards of this army never did it. It must be remembered that besides infantry there were Indians on foot laden with baggage and plunder and much other material that could not have been moved rapidly. The cavalry itself would sometimes cover twenty or twenty-five miles per day but we are here speaking of the army as a whole..."


2. Above the Salt Province, on or near the River of Anilco, was a tribe called Tula, and later on when De Soto's successor Moscoso undertook to go overland to Mexico, he came to a province called Naguatex, a Caddo name, and afterward to others in the near neighborhood which were all plainly Caddo. When the Spaniards were in the Province of Naguatex, moreover, Elvas writes that Tula was not far to the east. If the Spaniards were then in any of those Caddo towns near the bend of Red River, and Tula was where the Commission believes it to have been, on or near Caddo Creek in southwestern Arkansas, that could be true, but it could not be true if Tula was on the Neosho unless we suppose that the Caddo Indians were all living in Oklahoma at that time, and that would throw any attempt to place Moscoso's line of march entirely out of any reasonable location and is not to be thought of..."


3. The Province of Anilco was on the lower course of the River of Anilco, above its mouth but not far from the Mississippi. While the Spaniards were in that province they had occasion to march by land from Anilco across to the Mississippi. If Anilco had been on the lower course of the Arkansas, since the towns to which they marched were above the mouth of the River of Anilco, in crossing to the Mississippi they would have had to walk straight across White River, the deepest branch of the Mississippi in this entire region. That would be of course absurd. Lewis avoids this by placing the Mississippi towns in question below the mouth of the River of Anilco, but that is contrary to the documents..."


4. When the Spaniards were at a place called Guachoya on the Mississippi at about the latitude of Anilco they were told of an important province called Quigual-tam three leagues (about 8 miles) below on the east side but were informed there were no great provinces but instead a very scanty population below on either side of the river (see Elvas in Bourne I, 153, 164-5), and when they floated down to the Gulf in 1543 they found this to be true. If the Arkansas was the River of Anilco we would have to suppose that there were no important towns and only a scanty population from the mouth of the Arkansas to the Gulf, and none on Natchez bluff. Are archaeologists prepared for that? The accompanying map (Fig. 73), will make these points clearer. In this Figure note: (1) the "saline" on the Neosho and the "saline" on the Ouachita and the distance of each from the River of Coligua as assumed by Lewis and by the Commission along with the number of days taken to reach them; (2) the relative positions of "Tula" according to the two theories; (3) the relative positions of "Anilco" with reference to the same two theories, their relations with reference to the Mississippi, Ouachita, Arkansas, and White; and (4) the relative positions of "Aminoya," the town from which the remnants of De Soto's army started to descend the Mississippi. Note also the relative positions of the Provinces of Casqui and Quiguate according to Lewis and the Commission, and how improbably crowded the Lewis sites are. Note how the Commission theory of De Soto's route checks with the documents and the topography just as soon as the River of Coligua is identified with the Arkansas and the River of Casqui with the White. Now as to the location of the Province of Casqui..."


CONCLUSION: What looks at first like a complete refutation of the conclusions of the De Soto Commission in general and mine in particular regarding the course pursued by De Soto's army through Arkansas proves to stem from an entire failure by the authors of the paper under discussion to grasp the significance of our work in identifying the rivers Casqui, Coligua, and Anilco. When that is rectified, the main part of the criticism collapses, leaving only some suggestions of minor changes.


Such changes as the result of archaeological work are to be expected and welcomed but unless those who undertake it understand thoroughly the conditions and limitations placed tip on them by the narratives and the topography they are likely to misfire. Another archaeological vice of the present paper seems to be an obsession that sites will be found in the exact condition left them when De Soto marched away. An attempt to match impressive archaeological sites with those particularly stressed in historical documents is natural enough but it by no means follows that there will be a perfect match or that wherever Indians lived, for however short a time, we shall invariably find traces of them. Lack of space has prevented a more detailed criticism of the present venture of Messrs. Phillips, Ford, and Griffin into southern history, but it is only fair to add that it constitutes only a small part of what impresses one as a very valuable archaeological publication and that it adds some useful items in spite of a fundamental methodological error. I regret, however, that it should have resurrected certain theories of the route pursued by De Soto which ought now to be relegated to a historical museum..".




Thus, we have the same mistakes made by a very small group of archeologists over and over again for the past sixty years! 


It is our prayer that one day the archeologists will prove themselves to be wrong and be professional enough to admit it.   Many expert archeologists do not agree with the rouges either because they refuse to associate known archeology sites with the actual De Soto route without more hard evidence.


Over the years, several archeologists and other scholars attempted to back up the criticisms contained in the 1951 essay by Phillips, Ford, and Griffin against the Desoto Expedition Commission.  Today, they cannot refute the Commission's identification of rivers found in Arkansas and correctly accepted by a majority of scholars.  They cannot refute the location of the saline river or the location of the Tula.  


To their discredit history revisionists distributed misinformation that trickled down and out to create confusion and other unfortunate incidents that compound their original errors.


Each scholar used one or two clues to pinpoint the location of the Tula, but none of them considered all the facts presented in the Spanish narratives,  the geography and the culture of the Tula.  If they had considered the history, language and culture of the Tula, they would have come to a much different conclusion.


It remains an unfortunate situation that little effort has been made to by academia to properly trace the origins and culture of the Tula.  It appears as if some historians and archeologists do not want to disprove or even verify their own erroneous theories.  We are all in favor of amending the route, provided that all known facts are used.  Even with his errors, Hudson made an honest attempt.  All the other critics have not.



Statue of Hernando Desoto inside the Fordyce Bathhouse at Hot Springs, Arkansas (Manataka).

Fernandez Attempts to Change History

For the past ten years Josie Fernandez, Superintendent of the Hot Springs National Park (NPS) has tried to destroy the reputation of John R. Fordyce, vice chairman of the De Soto Expedition Commission, and co-author of the Final Report to President Roosevelt and Congress.  She and other National Park employees have often said that Fordyce's only motivation for serving on the Commission and steering the Spanish expedition toward Hot Springs (Manataka) was monetary -- "...he had business interest in showing that the expedition discovered the location of Hot Springs..." to promote tourism for the Fordyce Bathhouse. 


The NPS wrote in 1988, "... Although he was an avid historian, he had no access to archaeological information..."  This statement is not true.  Fordyce was an avid historian who regularly consulted with a number of archaeologists throughout his life and especially during the time when the Commission was researching the De Soto route.


In 1951, John R. Swanton wrote: "...I was ably assisted by the vice chairman of the Commission, Col. John R. Fordyce, a resident of Arkansas, who had devoted very close attention to the possible route of the famous explorer through his State and those immediately adjoining.  When the final report appeared his contribution was used almost exclusively in that part covering Arkansas though it of course passed under my own eyes. It is a matter of profound regret on my part that he is no longer alive to answer a recent attack upon our mutual conclusions...."


During the past 10 years, Fernandez stripped the Fordyce Bathhouse of hundreds of ancient Indian artifacts to the detriment of  future generations to falsely prove that there was no Indian presence at the hot springs.  She now has her eye on dismantling and removing the famous statue of Hernando De Soto inside the Fordyce Bathhouse.   Shame on you!


She has also removed historic markers, plaques and other artifacts with significant historic value from public view.  No one outside of herself and a few temporary NPS employees know the exact location and condition of these pieces of Hot Springs history.  Is there something wrong with this picture?




The National Park Service and the Hot Springs -- "holistic values of the water"

The NPS still has a very simplistic if not blind-sighted viewpoint of the sacred waters. They do not account for the original intention of Earth Mother for the presentation and purpose of the healing waters.  Therefore, the NPS is in conflict with the Earth Mother. When the NPS is in conflict with nature, they are in conflict with their own purpose for existing as a caretakers.

When the NPS deliberately chokes off the free flow of the sacred waters, they are in violation of their oath and primary directive to preserve and protect nature "as is".   When they mix the waters in huge underground vats, they are masking its true intention and damaging the healing qualities.  Fernandez is not preserving and protecting the national source they were given to safeguard by the citizens.  That is an awful sin against nature and totally against the directive of the National Park Service and the mandate given to them by the United States Congress and the Executive Branch.


Fernandez is Killing the Hot Springs

We have it on good authority from several hydrologists that the sacred waters of Manataka, the ancient hot springs are drying up.  Some springs have stopped flowing.  Others are in danger of disappearing forever.   Current and past NPS administrations are responsible. 

Why does the NPS choke off the sacred water by capping it? Why do they divert the sacred waters to underground mixing tanks? Obviously, the reason is to control it. They have always thought if they control a "natural resource" they are powerful people and any benefits from that resource is theirs. It all comes down to how much money can the bureaucrats make from the sacred waters.

For many decades NPS said the reasons why they choke off the water is to protect them from pollution and keep radon gas from harming the public. Outdoor audio displays and brochures told that story.  Today, the NPS no longer tells those stories because they were never true.   Why do they insist on capping the sacred waters of Manataka?

The point is, NPS bureaucrats will tell the public anything to get their own way.  Their thinking is now and always has been upside down and backwards.  In our opinion, this is evil.



Hernando De Soto - Manataka Commemorative Plaque Desecrated

Travels of De Soto's Spanish Conquistadors and the Tula People

Honoring The Tula - People of the Great Water



For additional information:

“Caddo River.” (accessed January 27, 2006).


Childs, H. Terry, and Charles H. McNutt. “Hernando De Soto’s Route from Chicaca through Northeast Arkansas: A Suggestion.” Southeastern Archeology 28 (Winter 2009): 165–183.


Clayton, Lawrence A., Vernon James Knight Jr., and Edward C. Moore, eds. The De Soto Chronicles: The Expedition of Hernando De Soto to North America in 1539–1543. 2 vols. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993.


DeGray Lake Resort State Park. (accessed June 11, 2005).


Galloway, Patricia Kay. The Hernando De Soto Expedition: History, Historiography, and the “Discovery” of the Southeast. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.


Hudson, Charles. Knights of Spain, Warriors of the Sun: Hernando De Soto and the South’s Ancient Chiefdoms. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1997.


Hudson, Charles. Synopsis of the Hernando De Soto Expedition, 1539-1543 by Charles Hudson, University of Georgia


Mitchem, Jeffrey M.  Arkansas Archeological Survey,

Steward, Dana F. A Rough Sort of Beauty: Reflections on the Natural Heritage of Arkansas. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2002.


John R. Swanton Source: American Antiquity, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Oct., 1952), pp. 156-162 Published by: Society for American Archaeology Stable 


Swanton, John R. Final Report of the United States De Soto Expedition Commission. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985.


Westfall, Brian C., Corps of Engineers,The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, Brian C. Westfall, Corps of Engineers, DeGray Lake


Young, Gloria A., and Michael P. Hoffman, eds. The Expedition of Hernando De Soto West of the Mississippi, 1541–1543. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1993.






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