Quanah Parker

Quanah Parker

Quanah Parker was a man of two worlds. Naudah was a white woman who was taken captive as a young girl from Fort Parker in Texas, in 1836.Early yearsQuanah Parker was born around 1852, in a place called Laguna Sabinas (Cedar Lake), near the Wichita Mountains in what is now Oklahoma. The name Quanah translates as “smell,” “odor,” or “fragrance.” Quanah had a brother and a sister, but they both died before reaching maturity.Quanah’s youth was spent in a world where his people were at constant war with the United States and Mexico. In 1860, while Quanah was still a boy, his 24-year-old mother was kidnapped from her husband and sons by a unit comprising soldiers, Texas Rangers, and Tonkawa Indian scouts.In the same raid, Peta Nocona’s band was destroyed, leaving Quanah with no family and no home. The youngster found refuge among the Quahadi Comanche band that lived in what is now northern Texas.War over buffaloIn Quanah's youth, white buffalo hunters appeared on the plains to slaughter and nearly eradicate the vast buffalo population for their hides. Given that the buffalo was the Plains tribes' main sustenance, the Comanche beheld the slaughter as a sustained attack on Native American peoples, a direct assault on their very existence, and so Indian resistance erupted.At the Medicine Lodge peace council of 1867, the Quahadi rejected a proposed treaty that called for them to give up their tribal lands, and refused to accept the provision that would confine the Southern Plains Indians to a reservation. Because of that rejection, the Quahadi became fugitives on the Staked Plains (Llano Estacado¹).The Red River WarFollowing the council at Medicine Lodge, Quanah and his band stepped up their raids on Texan settlements. During those raids, Quanah distinguished himself as a valiant natural leader.The Quahadi Comanche waged a war on the plains unlike any war seen by the U.S. Even with repeating weapons, cannon, and superior numbers, the Comanche apparently could not be defeated.During the Red River War, numerous tribes — even mortal enemies — made alliances with each other to stop the slaughter of the buffalo and drive the white men from the land.As buffalo hunters spread like a disease onto the buffalo plains, annihilating the Indians' chief source of subsistence, Quanah Parker and the Quahadi targeted buffalo hunters in their raids. In June 1874, approximately 700 Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, and Comanche warriors attacked Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle where 28 hunters and one woman were staying.The warriors charged and the hunters began to fire. Unfortunately, the hunters' advanced weaponry enabled them to withstand the force of repeated attacks. Quanah was wounded, but emerged from the Red River War as a great chief.Just before dawn On September 28, 1874, Colonel Ranald Mackenzie's 4th Cavalry and Tonkawa scouts stumbled upon a large camp of sleeping Comanches in Palo Duro Canyon and attacked it. They were decapitated and their heads sent to Washington, D.C., for “scientific” study.Colonel Mackenzie issued an order that all Comanche who did not submit to reservation life would be exterminated. As women, elders, and children were non-combatants, their welfare was of great concern to Quanah.To the reservationWith their land stolen, the wildlife all but gone because of the white invasion and continual warfare with the U.S. The Quahadi did not receive the fair treatment that they were promised; instead, they were abused and humiliated.Nevertheless, for the following 25 years, Quanah led his people with forceful, yet down-to-earth leadership. To that end, he supported school construction on reservation lands and encouraged Indian youth to learn the white man's ways.His influence also was successful in preventing the spread of the militant Ghost Dance among his people, which generated uprisings elsewhere.Quanah had joined the white man’s world, but he did it his way. His family has branches on both sides of his heritage, Comanche and white.In 1892, the Jerome Commission coerced the three reservation tribes into accepting an agreement providing for the allotment and sale of about two-thirds of the reservation to the United States.In 1905, Quanah was one of five chiefs chosen to ride in Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade. He rode beside Geronimo. Among his friends were cattleman Charles Goodnight and the president himself.Quanah Parker was the only Comanche ever recognized by the U.S. Government with the title, "Chief of the Comanche Indians." He was a major figure both in Comanche resistance to white invasion and in the tribe's adjustment to reservation life.A resilient leader fallsOn February 11, 1911, while visiting the Cheyenne Reservation, Quanah became ill with an undiagnosed ailment. After returning home, he died on February 23.Two of his wives, To-nar-cy and To-pay, were with him. He is buried next to his mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, in the military cemetery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.

Resting Here Until Day Breaks
And Shadows Fall and Darkness
Disappears is Quanah Parker
Last Chief of the Comanche
Born – 1852
Died Feb. 23, 1911

The epitaph of Quanah Parker

Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glint in snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush.
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.

¹A level, semiarid, plateau-like region that marks the southernmost extent of the High Plains, 40,000 square miles of eastern New Mexico and west Texas, between the Pecos River and the Cap Rock escarpment. The Llano Estacado is one of the largest expanses of near-featureless terrain in the U.S. Early Spanish explorers, who placed marker stakes to avoid losing their way on the flat land, named the region.
² The Quahadi Comanche waged a hit-and-run guerrilla war, much as the Patriots did during the War of Independence.

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