Texas, as much as any state in the Union, embodies the U.S. motto of E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one). We Texans are a product of many different cultures, among these are; Mexican, Spanish, White, and German. One of the cultures that is often overlooked, but certainly no less important than the others, is the Native American culture; especially the Comanche. Their history is our history, their art is our art, and their heroes are our heroes. No leader embodies the spirit of the Comanche more than the last chief of the Quahadi band, Quanah Parker.
Quanah Parker was born near Wichita Falls, Texas, sometime around 1848. He was the son of Chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, whom Nocona captured during a raid on Fort Parker, in North Central Texas. In 1860, the Texas Rangers raided the Comanche camp, rescuing Cynthia Parker and her daughter Prairie Flower, though by then, they considered the Comanche their family, and had to be taken away by force.
Quanah was known as a cunning and fearless fighter and became a full warrior at age 15. He joined several different Comanche bands before settling with the Quahadi band, whose hatred of the buffalo hunters that roamed North Texas and the Panhandle, matched his own.
In 1867, the U.S. government began moving the Texas tribes onto the reservations, but Quanah refused to move his people there. In June 1874, Quanah met with a medicine man named Isa-Tai, who claimed to have the power to make the Comanche impervious to the White man’s bullets. Together, they gathered an army of seven hundred warriors and attacked a group of buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls. Though the buffalo hunters numbered less than thirty, they had the new Henry repeating rifles, and inflicted heavy casualties on Quanah and his men, forcing them to retreat.
After the Battle at Adobe Walls, the U.S. government doubled their efforts to bring in the remaining Indians. Within a year, the Comanche Wars ended with Quanah’s surrender at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He settled on a reservation in Southwestern Oklahoma, where he worked as an advocate for his people, interpreting white culture for the Comanche and encouraging them to become educated. He also became a very successful businessman, even becoming good friends with President Theodore Roosevelt.
While Quanah Parker spent the last thirty-six years of his life living on the reservation, by all accounts, he enjoyed a fuller life than his mother and sister. They had tried numerous times to rejoin their Comanche family, but were prevented from doing so by their white family. Cynthia Ann was never able to re-assimilate into the white community. When Prairie flower died in 1864, Cynthia seemed to give up, and died in 1870.
The stories of white children captured by the Indians almost never had a happy ending, and the tragedy was further complicated by the lack of understanding on both sides. To the families of those captured, bringing them back home seemed like the most natural thing in the world, and they could not understand why the children were unable to adjust back to their old life. The Indians, for their part, did not understand why the Whites would not simply leave the children in the life that they had become accustomed to and obviously didn’t want to leave. Bigotry, hatred, and indifference trumped what was really in the best interest of those involved, though what that might have been would stump even the advanced sensibilities of today’s most well-meaning think tanks. The children were merely pawns in the larger war that raged across the Texas Plains during the first two-thirds of the nineteenth century.
Quanah Parker died at Fort Sill in 1911 and was buried next to his mother. His is the story of a man who rose from the most unlikely of circumstances to become one of the greatest leaders of his people. He fought for what he believed in, and never stopped fighting to achieve a better life for the Comanche.
Thank you for reading and for your support of Under the Lone Star. Now, saddle up, get out there, and enjoy all that the great state of Texas has to offer.
©06/18/2018 Under the Lone Star