The Turk

The Turk was to play an important part in the future movements of the Coronado expedition. He must have gone with Alvarado when that captain returned to Tiguex. There, during the winter, he related to Coronado the wonders of the country of Quivira and two adjoining provinces—Arche and Guaes. In Quivira there was some silver and gold, he said, but more in the adjacent lands. It is admitted that he was a man of superior intelligence, and it is probable that when he learned that the Spaniards desired gold above all other things, he told of great store of it in these distant countries, doubtless hoping these stories would in some way turn to his own benefit. He overplayed the part which he had assumed, or which, as he later claimed, was assigned to him by the people of Cicuye, and was found to be lying, but so intent were the Spaniards on finding another Peru that they disregarded that fact.

On the 23d of April, 1541, Coronado set out from Tiguex to find the rich land of Quivira. The Turk was the guide, and once upon the way, there remained no doubt of his knowledge of the country to be traversed. Coronado went by Cicuye, but did not stop there. He was impatient to reach the golden settlements and held steadily to the eastward. In nine days from Cicuye the army emerged on the Great Plains and saw the buffalo, then just beginning the annual migration to the north. Still the Turk pointed to the east, and the Spaniards toiled in that direction thirty-five days without a single sign of civilization to encourage them. Other Indians were found, following the buffalo herds, the Querechos and the Teyas. They were first spoken to by the Turk, and later they confirmed what he had said about Quivira. An advance guard was sent on to find the country of Haya or Haxa, described by the Turk, but no such land appeared. With Coronado was an inhabitant of Quivira, one Ysopete, who insisted from the start that the Turk was lying. At first no credit attached to what he said, but on the treeless wastes doubt of what the Turk was saying became general in the army. Upon their entry into the settlements of Cona, a portion of the country of the Teyas, the Turk was not permitted to first talk with the people. They said Quivira was in the North—or towards the North—and not in the direction in which the Turk was taking them. Then heed was given to what Ysopete had said of the Turk and his stories.

After resting in a river-bottom where there were trees—a ravine as the old writers have it—it was decided that Coronado should take thirty horsemen and “half a dozen foot-soldiers” and go on to Quivira. The remaining portion of the army was to return to Tiguex, which it did by a shorter way than that taken in the outward march. The Teyas furnished new guides, and Coronado bore to the northward. The Turk was carried along, now a prisoner, and not permitted to converse with Ysopete or the Teyas. On a day counted that of St. Peter and St. Paul in the old calendar of the Roman Church a tolerable river was found and crossed, and which was named for the day of its discovery. This river is spoken of as “there below Quivira,” by which we are to suppose it was south of that land—or perhaps bounded its southern borders. It is more likely that Quivira was up the stream from that point. This river had been identified with the Arkansas by most writers, and the point of crossing, where it turns to the northeast below the present Fort Dodge, or Dodge City.

Coronado followed this river—”went upon the other side on the north, the direction turning towards the northeast.” In three days Indian hunters were found killing the buffalo—”and some even had their wives with them.” They began to run away, but Ysopete called to them in their own tongue, when they turned about and approached the Spaniards without fear.

Coronado was reassured. He felt once more certain of his ground. He had emerged from the labyrinth in which the Turk had sought to involve him. As he stood recovered there, the sense of location returned to him. And standing on the shores of the river given the holy name, reflecting doubtless on perils now safely passed, another matter occupied his attention. He weighed the fate of that Indian who had led him astray in those wilds. A judgment was determined and a death decreed. The Turk—in chains now at the rear of the army—was brought to account. Perhaps they asked him why he had deceived them. No doubt he stated his reasons like a brave man. Who shall blame him for his course? He had seen, maybe, the butchery of the revolted inhabitants of Tiguex. He evidently knew of the fate of those hundreds who had perished at the stake or had been trampled into the earth by Spanish horses after they had surrendered and had been granted peace. These strangers astride fierce animals seemed invincible. In brutality and cruelty they surpassed the barbarous Indians. They were devoid of honor. Their plighted word was worthless. To the Turk it was plain that if they came in numbers the Indians must perish or be enslaved. To avert this calamity to his people he planned to lead the strangers a devious course through deadly mazes. And now he faced the cruel Spaniard and admitted again the truth, though he knew his life was forfeit and his doom at hand. From the temper of his race we know that he was not appalled at his fate. He stood on the shores of two rivers—one seen, the other unseen. There may have been bars of tawny sand lying over beyond the shining river flowing there at his feet. Our knowledge of plains-streams might permit us to say there were water-bushes fringing its intangible shores. Up and beyond, there were the rolling, limitless prairies covered with billowy turbulent herds of wild oxen. And over all were the opalescent skies of the Great Plains, merging into a mystic shimmering haze at the horizon. And, perchance, the Turk saw these and was not moved as the garotte tightened about his throat and he was no more— “an example” to those assembled there—the first of his people to die on the soil of Kansas by the hand of the white man.

So, thus perished the Turk. He carried to Europeans the first tidings of Quivira—Kansas. He was the prey, the first Kansas victim of the brutal spirit which wrecked nations in the New World—then seeking other countries, including his own, for destruction. He was a hero. He acted only as had every patriot in the world with the fate of a people weighing on his soul. Lettered bronze and graven granite should rise in his honor on the plains he sought to save to his race.

Vengeance wreaked, Coronado continued his journey. He came into the land of Quivira. Indeed, he then stood on the borders of Quivira, but the settlements were some leagues beyond. It was a country inhabited by just such Indians as were found on the plains of Kansas and Nebraska two centuries later. They planted a little corn, but they lived chiefly by hunting the buffalo. They had no gold nor anything else a civilized man would covet. Coronado spent twenty-five days in Quivira, traversing the whole width of the land. Then he returned to Tignex, using a shorter route, probably the ancient road later known as the Old Santa Fe Trail. ((In writing thus far I have followed the preponderance of evidence as developed by a majority of the writers on the subject. I have not been always satisfied with the routes indicated by these students, and perhaps they were not themselves convinced that they were right in every instance. It was necessary for them to reconcile many contradictory statements found in the old Spanish chronicles—and not a few had to be rejected altogether. The boldest dissenter from their conclusions is F. S. Dellenbaugh, himself a student and explorer, and long familiar with both the topography and geography of all the country traversed by Coronado. He contends with an astonishing array of evidence that the route of the expedition lay much more to the east than it had been placed. Cibola was on the Mimbres about the present Demming, rather than at the Zuni. His location of Tiguex, it seems to me, can not be disproved, and is much lower down the Rio Grande than the generally accepted site at Bernalillo.

See his article, “The True Route of Coronado’s March,” in the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society, Vol. XXIX, No. 4, 1897. In his “Notes on the Location of the Tigues,” he says: Benavides spent about seven years in the Rio Grande region of New Mexico prior to 1630. He was in charge of the chureh missions. He was a very intelligent man, and it is proper to regard his statements as fairly accurate. He says the first villages coming up the river from Mexico were one hundred leagues south of Taos. They were Qualcu and Senecu. This is apparently the same point at which Onate placed his first villages forty-one leagues above El Paso. Fifteen leagues up the river from Senecu was Sevilleta. Then there was a blank of seven leagues. Then came the Teoas villages, evidently identical with the Tiguex of Coronado and the Tiguas of Espejo. These villages extended up the river from the first one, twelve or fifteen leagues. Then came an interval of four leagues to the next village up the river, San Felipe, which appears to be the same as the town mentioned by Onate. From San Felipe it was about eleven leagues to Santa Ana, the location of which is more easily fixed because it was about twelve leagues east of Acoma. Thus Santa Ana and the Emeies of Espejo seem to have been very near together. Tiguex, therefore, was down the river from a point twelve or fifteen leagues east of Acoma. Consequently the site assigned to it by modern writers at Bernalillo is not correct.)) ((The information which had come down to us in insufficient. By it we can not trace the old routes with certainty. Archaeology and a full knowledge of the modern geography of the Southwest and Mexico may aid us much. With all this, however, in neither the desert regions nor on the Great Plains can the trails passed over by Coronado be surely identified. But they may be approximately fixed.

Read chapters XIX and XX Voyages, Relations et Memoires Originaux Pour Servir a L’historic de la Decouverte De L’Amerique. Relation Du Voyage de Cibola, entrepis en 1540. Paris, 1838. And see also the Spanish texts and translations on this point, Vol. XIV, Annual Report, Bureau of Ethnology. ))

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