Monday, June 2, 2008

Quanah Parker - A My Town Monday Post

A few weeks back I did a My Town Monday post about legendary cattleman and Panhandle founding father Charles Goodnight. Goodnight established a ranch in Palo Duro Canyon and is regarded as a pioneer for doing so, yet the second largest canyon in the United States was home to native Americans for centuries before the first white men ever set foot in the area. (Palo Duro Canyon lies south east of Amarillo. There is a state park which I've linked to above, but a good portion of the land is private property and I actually live in a small finger at he head of the canyon.)
This week, I'm going to discuss the last of the native people to call the canyon home and specifically their leader Comanche Chief, Quanah Parker.

Quanah Parker was the last Chief of the Comanches, He never lost a battle to the white men. he was never captured by soldiers, and his followers were the last tribe of the Staked Plains to succumb to the inevitable and surrender to life on the reservation.

The name Quanah translates to fragrant. Quanah was born about 1850. He was the son of Comanche Chief Pete Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, a white girl that had been captured in 1836 at Parker's Fort, Texas. Cynthia Ann spent 24 years living with the Comanche but was recaptured in 1860 by a group of soldiers who were notified of her whereabouts by Charles Goodnight. Sadly, Cynthia Ann did not re-adapt to "civilized living" well and died a few years later after starving herself to death.

Quanah father died shortly thereafter due to an infected wound leaving him an orphan. One of his father's other wives took him in, but she soon died as well. Quanah became an outcast because of his mixed blood, a fact he only discovered after his mother's recapture. After his step-mother's death Quanah fended for himself. He worked hard to be a proper warrior, and he excelled at hunting, but still could not break the barrier of his mixed blood.

The Comanche Chieftianship was not an inherited right. It was earned through one's war record and his concern for his followers. Quanah excelled as a warrior but after such a tumultuous upbringing he was not always generous with his fellow warriors. As a crossbred warrior, Quanah had many dissenters and did not feel quite at home in any band of the Comanches until he formed his own band called the Quahadi, which means Antelope Eaters.

Quanah fell in love with girl named Weakeah but her father, Ekitaocup, refused to accept the relationship so the the young couple eloped. and spent several years out on the plains with his growing tribe. He was gaining a reputation as a fierce warrior and capable leader. Eventually Weakeah's father accepted the marriage and they were able to return to the Comanche Nation.

Quanah's Quahadi's joined raiding parties in both his father's old band and in his father-in-law's. During one raid the leader, Bear's Ear, was killed by pursuers as they neared the Red River. The warriors had planned to cross the Red River farther west, but with Bear Ear's death the group became confused. Quanah rallied the bands and headed north where they crossed the river safely. His actions saved the remainder of the party and their stolen horses. This led to his being accepted as a true leader and gained him the right to speak openly in tribal council. Something only a few ever obtained.

As leader of his band Quanah, refused to sign the treat at Medicine Lodge in 1867. Most of the Plains Indians accepted the treaty at that time and attempted to settle into a life of farming on the reservation but Quanah's warriors chose to remain on the warpath as he believed the latest treaty to be just another deception in a string of lies from the white men.

He was nearly killed in the battle at Adobe Walls in 1874, (a post I plan for another day) but for a umber of years The Quahadi outsmarted and outmaneuvered the US Army led by Colonol Ronald S MacKenzie, but by late spring of 1875 the band was tired and starving after the Army had decimated their winter camp and killed their horses at the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon.

Colonel MacKenzie dispatched a man named Jacob Sturm who was a doctor and an interpretor to seek Quanah's surrender. After hearing the man's plea, Quanah rode to a mesa, where he spotted a wolf. The animal howled and trotted away to the northeast. As the wold left an eagle flew overhead flapping its wings in the direction of Fort Sill. Quanah took these as signs and on June 2, 1875, he and his band surrendered at Fort Sill in present-day Oklahoma.

But that is not the end of Quanah's story.

The Comanche Chief accepted his fate as a "civilized indian" but he held onto his role as leader just as fiercely as he once fought the settlers who invaded his land. Some members of the reservation called him a sellout for abandoning traditional attire and donning the white man's suit, but Quanah kept his braids, smoked peyote, refused to give up any of his five wives.

In a mix of old tradition and new ways he invested in a railroad, negotiated grazign rights of the new Comanche land with cattlemen including Charles Goodnight whom he now counted as a friend. Quanah also became a reservation judge and lobbied congress on behalf of the Comanche Nation. He was counted as a friend by President Theodore Roosevelt and at one time was considered the richest Native American in the country. His fortunes were depleted however as he took care of many of those who lived on the reservation. It probably didn't help that he fathered 25 kids either.

Quanah also founded the Native American Church which believes in the spiritual use of peyote. He believed that smoking the cactus buttons allowed him to communicate with Jesus. Here is a famous quote from Quanah ...

"The White Man goes into his church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his Tipi and talks with Jesus."

Quanah Parker died February 23, 1911.

Biographer Bill Neely wrote this about him ...

"Not only did Quanah pass within the span of a single lifetime from a Stone Age warrior to a statesman in the age of the Industrial Revolution, but he accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the whole Comanche tribe on the difficult road toward their new existence."

Here is the inscription on his tombstone ...
Resting Here Until Day Breaks
And Shadows Fall and Darkness
Disappears is
Quanah Parker Last Chief of the Comanches
Born 1852
Died Feb. 23, 1911.
The Texas town of Quanah, near the medicine mound where the Comanche Chief made the decision to surrender, is named in his honor.


Patti Abbott - Detroit, Michigan

Debra -- Village of Peninsula, Ohio

Lyzzydee -- Welwyn Garden City, England

Clair Dickson -- Brighton, Michigan

Clare2E (women of Mystery) -- New York, New York

DebbieLou -- Dunmow, England

Barbara Martin -- Toronto, Canada

Britta Coleman -- On the road to Wisconsin

Mary Nix -- Olmsted Falls, Ohio


texlahoma said...

He lived quite a life. I use to know a guy from around there, last name of Hobbs, I think he claimed to be kin to Quanah Parker.

Lyzzydee said...

You know I never associated Commanches with your neck of the woods, In fact I don't know where I thought they come from!!!! Interesting story. I am surprised by the names though,
I have a post schedualled to appear at 00.01 UK time!!!
Finally back in the land of blogged after missing in action for a couple of weeks, looking forward to catching up on everything I have missed.

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

Very cool!

You know I have been busy and tired and haven't had a chance to do my towns but this post made me want to do it again. I will try to research something good like this for next week!

Phats said...

This was really informative, want to teach my HS classes next year? I know who to call when I need a sub.

I am counting on you to be in for football guest picker!

Lana Gramlich said...

Wow, very interesting! Thanks for the intriguing history lesson!

debra said...

My post is up, Travis. I'll be back later to read yours.

Lisa said...

This was fascinating. It sounds more like fiction -- like the storyline from a Louise Erdrich novel -- than actual history!

Charles Gramlich said...

I often think of how much change the folks who lived through this age saw, and the pace of it. Amazing especially that someone could manage it and even thrive on the changes.

Interesting stuff. I've always loved good history.

Josephine Damian said...

TE: I finally did the writing desk meme:

I love the Jesus quote. As a kid when I first learned about Native Americans I was fascinated by their spirituality, and when my mom took me to a bookstore I was drawn to the Indian symbols on the covers of the Tony Hillerman novels. I started reading them - it was part of the beginning of my desire to write mysteries.

Josephine Damian said...

PS: Did you know I have a new blog?

Clair D. said...

That was quite a time for folks to live in-- particularly the native peoples. Nice post, Travis.

I've got one up this week.

Unknown said...


you are fantastic!!!

a kiss for you, my dear friend!

god bless u dear

can we exchange our link

r u ready to do?

Aaron said...

A wonderful article, Travis... but we need to talk about your spelling and proofreading errors! :P

pattinase (abbott) said...

Interesting story. We had some Indians here. Maybe I'll look into that for a less urban piece.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Hi Travis,

Great post!

Am having major access problems to the WoM site today so won't have an MTM unless someone else gets through and puts one up!


Travis Erwin said...

Texlahoma - With 25 kids he has to have a ton of descendants.

Lyzzydee -- Lots of tribes lived in my area at one time or another.

ello --I look forward to more of you town posts whether it be Brooklyn or D.C.

Phats -- Count me on on the picks, but trust me I'm not teacher material. I'd go to jail in a heartbeat for smacking one of the suckers.

lana - Thanks.

Debra - I would love to ride that train in your post.

Lisa -- Sometimes true history is more interesting than anything someone can make up.

Charles- I think most any span of a hundred years sees a great change. Just think if you were born in 1908 all that has changed.

Josephine -- Hiatus? What Hiatus?

Clair -- I bet your naked man post draws some interesting hits.

rohit -- Spam is best fried and served with taters.

aa -- yeah, I'm basically lazy. I try to save my editing for the fiction I write otherwise I'd never have time to do the blog.

Patti -- I actually am building to a particular story, but I needed to introduce a few of the players first.

Travis Erwin said...

Terrie- Sorry to hear that. I had trouble with blogger and statcounter all day yesterday.

Anonymous said...

Please check your facts about the Native American Church.

Travis Erwin said...

Anonymous -- I did check quit a few facts and while I did discover a variety or stories behind the origin of the church that majority seemed to indicate that Quanah Parlker introduced Peyotism to Oklahoma and that the Native American Church was formed there shortly thereafter based upon his teaching and beliefs.

Here is a snippet from one of my sources and here is a link to the complete article.

The American Native Church Movement

Quannah Parker is known to have founded the American Native Church Movement. He became an ardent follower of the Peyote religion after he went through a visionary experience of Jesus Christ. This happened when Parker lay wounded in a battle with federal troops. But how did Parker come in close association with the Peyote Religion? The plant Peyote contains hordenine and tyramine, phenylethylamine alkaloids and when applied in a combined form can work wonders on infectious wounds. A medicinal man thus applied Peyote on the wounds of Parker and at this particular juncture Parker saw Jesus standing in front of him and asking him to repent for his heinous misdeeds and other vices in life

This is where the American native church movement had its dawn when Parker desired to carry the religion to the Indian American inhabitants. The words and teachings of Parker include the doctrines of the core of the American Native Church and the “Peyote Road”.

In short, the Native American Church is not only a place of worship. It is an altar where human values like love, sacrifice and compassion are worshipped and shared successfully with great enthusiasm.

Clare2e said...

Travis- We've been having trouble with Blogger today, too. Even so, you can decide if our My Town Monday post is too little about My Town (or anyone's really) to include.

Your entry, on the other hand, was fascinating!

Debbielou said...

I loved this post and found it absolutely fascinating - brilliant pictures too !!

I've finally posted my My Town Monday this week - moved just outside of Bishops Stortford into a small town called Dunmow just over the county border

Barbara Martin said...

Great post, Travis, and very informative. I've posted mine on Toronto, although it doesn't have the reach yours does. I will be printing yours out and giving it to an Objiway friend to see if he will impart some information for me.

Charles: My grandmother came to Canada in 1906 from England where she had learned to operate the new sewing machine to primitive living conditions in central Alberta. She helped women to get the vote in Alberta in 1916. In any lifespan there are multiple changes one adjusts to: some people do better than others.

For my early years (1957) I remember milk being delivered by wagons pulled by draft horses; going to the moon was a fantasy at that time, and by the 1960s it was true. I recall going to the airport to see my grandmother arrive from Halifax in a propeller flown airplane, how exciting it was to watch it land; and now humans fly in jets.

Britta Coleman said...

I love the talking with Jesus quote, too.

And I totally agree with the spam and taters comment. Too funny.

A version of My Town is up...with a bonus Word of the Day.

Linda McLaughlin said...

Great post, Travis. Quanah Parker is an interesting historical figure. It's hard to tell in the pictures, but didn't he have blue eyes?

I didn't do a My Town Monday post this week. I have posted my report and some pictures from Book Expo America in LA.


Shauna Roberts said...

Wonderful post! I loved all the details you found about Quanah Parker. How very sad for his mother though—to be torn from her family and culture and everything she knew TWICE.

Mary said...

A fascinating post! :)

Unknown said...

Wow! Excellent story. I wish more people knew this story. It show that no matter where you start in life, you can make choices that will better your life. You can only be held down by yourself.

Ruth Parker said...

What an incredible story. I am a decendant of Quanah Parker and I learned a lot from this. I am more proud than ever to carry on the Parker name and heritage. I have a beautiful red and white paint horse that proudly bears the name Quanah.

David Cranmer said...

Fascinating history, Travis. I knew a little of this great Chief but you found some tidbits that had escaped my attention. Gracias.

Wright Forbucks said...

Very very interesting story. Note, I got to your blog via twitter. Perhaps, blogging, Google, Facebook, etc. are all becoming one big thing...

Anonymous said...

I have just been reading Bill Neeley's book about Quanah Parker and our county is applying to become a part of the Quanah Parker Trail. I'm so glad someone your age is interested in the rich history of our area. Tule Canyon which runs into Palo Dura (called Prairie Dog by the Indians) is actually where the horses were killed. There is a marker there on the HWY and he had 7 wives, I guess the facts may be differnt in different accounts, but I enjoyed your blog!

Christian said...

Great story! My grandmother was full blood Comanche from the Quahadi band and my mother was half indian. My mom was raised in the Fort Sill boarding School. I wish I had been more involved with my heritage. Love reading the stories of the Comanches and Quanah Parker.

Anonymous said...

This is my great great grandfather I have 1/8 Commanche blood! How can I prove this guys I was only enlightened from my grandfather on this topic!

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