Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 13, No. 1
March, 1935
THE KIOWA'S DEFIANCE

By DAN W. PEERY

Page 30

The Kiowa Indians are perhaps today the most civilized and progressive of any of the former Plains Indians. After living a neighbor to the Kiowas for years, and knowing many members of the tribe, I am convinced that no nation or tribe of people have developed from the savage state, and have become civilized, progressive citizens in so short a time as have the Kiowa Indians now living in Caddo, Kiowa and Comanche counties, Oklahoma.

I would not want to leave the impression that the writer thinks the whole tribe is a civilized, energetic and progressive people, for this is not the case, but its leading men and women are becoming educated and are ambitious to follow the white man's road. Many of them live on, and cultivate their farms with apparently as much success as their white neighbors.

Some of the younger members of the tribe take an active interest in politics but they do not all vote the same ticket. One of the representatives from Caddo county in the twelfth legislature was a Kiowa Indian. He became quite familiar with parliamentary procedure and was an aggressive member, working always in the interest of his constituents, both Indian and white. The chief deputy U. S. Marshal for the Western District of Oklahoma is a Kiowa, and resides in the Capital City. Another Kiowa Indian has made a reputation as teacher of athletics in the schools of the state; while several of the younger members are teaching in Indian schools and others are employed in the U. S. Indian Service.

The one thing in which the Kiowas have excelled, is art. There are four or five young men, members of this tribe who, as painters and blenders of color, are recognized by artists as the equal of any American artist. They have specialized in the painting of Indian pictures, and their work is to be seen in art galleries, not only in America, but also Europe. Some specimens of their art are to be seen in murals in the public buildings of this state. Some of the finest murals are painted on the walls of the Historical Society Building. There is something of a wildness and abandon about their Indian pictures that no white artist has ever been able to reproduce.

Chief Satanta

Page 31

A large part of the Kiowa children attend school with the white pupils, study the same books and recite in the same classes. The Indian children delight in the athletic side of education. You will find young Indian boys in most of the baseball and football teams organized in schools where there are Indian pupils. The Indian girls participate in basket-ball games and in other contests in which girls take part.

The Kiowas have good physiques and perhaps a stronger individuality than have most any other tribe. Prior to their becoming adjusted to the environments of civilized life, and while they felt that the only way they could maintain their right and hold their possessions was to crush their enemies, they became Spartan warriors, asked no quarter and they gave no quarter. They were not Ishmaelites, but were distinctly a separate tribe of people; had a language of their own so different from that of other tribes that the common sign language was their only means of communication with other tribes.

In later years they became affiliated with the Comanches and as the language of the latter tribe was much easier acquired, a number of Kiowas learned the Comanche tongue, but I doubt if any Comanche ever talked Kiowa language. As the language of the Comanches contained much Mexican-Spanish, more people could make themselves understood by the use of the Comanche dialect. Very few of the old scouts ever learned the Kiowa language, in fact, Jack Stilwell, who knew most every language and dialect spoken by the Indians of the southwest, also the Spanish, disdained the Kiowa language, and when he was United States Commissioner at Anadarko he listened to all testimony wherein a Kiowa was involved, only in Comanche language.

He said, "Comanche will be the court language of the two tribes in my court."

After the so-called Battle of the Washita in November 1868, and the subsequent campaign, the Indians were rounded up at Fort Sill the chiefs of the Kiowas and Comanches agreed to return to their reservations, quit raiding, horse stealing and committing crimes of all kinds against the white settlers. It was not long before some white thieves came over from south of the Red River and stole a lot of the Indian ponies. Then commenced a

Page 32

series of raids by the Kiowas, assisted by many Comanches on the settlers down in Texas. Many murders were committed, men, women and children were killed and scalped, and much property of the white settlers was stolen, including horses, mules and cattle.

These Indians would return to their reservations and would have the boldness to go to the agency for rations and also wanted more guns and ammunition. It was their claim that they had made no agreement not to raid, murder and steal in Texas. They pretended to regard Texas as "free range."

It was in the Grant administration that the policy was adopted of appointing Quakers in all departments of the Indian service. It was claimed that the religious sect known as Quakers had always been friends of the Indian. They pointed back to the peace treaty of William Penn, with the Delawares, which was never violated.

There had never been trouble between the Indians and the Quakers. The first tenet of their religion was, "Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men." They never went armed, but always relied upon their faith and the goodness of God for their protection. Lawrie Tatum of Iowa was the first Quaker agent. He was a man with a big heart, who had great faith and a strong personality. He had the advantages of a good education, and had executive ability.

The following letter written by Lawrie Tatum from Fort Sill dated May 30, 1871, tells an interesting story of an epochal event in the history of Southwestern Oklahoma, in which, Santanta was the leading character.1


1Santanta was recognized as a leader of the most belligerent and blood thirsty faction of the Kiowa Indians. He thought himself a patriot and orator. He attended the Medicine Lodge peace council in October 1868—as one of the chiefs representing the Kiowa tribe. Henry M. Stanley who afterwards became famous for his explorations in Darkest Africa attended this council, as the correspondent of several metropolitan papers, reported the speech of Santanta in part as follows:

"All of the chiefs of the Kiowa-Comanche and Arapahos are here today. They have come to listen to the good word. We have been waiting here for a long time to see you and we are getting tired. All the land south of the Arkansas River belongs to the Kiowas and Comanches and I don't want to give away any of it. I love the land and the buffalo, and will not part with any. I want you to understand that the Kiowas don't want to fight and have not been fighting since the treaty two years ago. I hear a great deal of fine talk from these gentlemen, but they never do what they say. I don't want any of these medicine houses built in the country; I want the children brought up exactly as I am. . . .

"When I look upon you, I know that you are big chiefs and while you are in the country we go to sleep happy and are not afraid. I have heard that you intend to settle us on a reservation near the mountains. I don't want to settle there. I love to roam over the wide prairie, and when I do it I feel free and happy; but, when we settle down we grow pale and die.

"Harken well to what I say. I have laid aside my lance, my bow and my shield, and yet I feel safe in your presence. I have told you the truth. I have no little lies hid about me, but I don't know how it is with the commissioners; are they as clean as I am? A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers, but when I go up the river I see a camp of soldiers, and they are cutting my wood down or killing my buffalo. I don't like that; when I see it my heart feels like bursting with sorrow. I have spoken."

Concerning this Stanley writes, "Few can read the speeches of the Indian chiefs without feeling a deep sympathy for them; they move us by their pathos and worshipful dignity, but they are asking the impossible. The half of a continent could not be kept as buffalo pasture and hunting ground."
Stanley, Henry M. Autobiography. p. 226.

Lawrie Tatum's letter 1

Lawrie Tatum's letter 2

Page 33

Office Kiowa Agency
5 mo 30, 1871

Jona Richards
Ind Agent,

"On the 27 inst Santanta with several other Chiefs, women & children & a few young men came after their rations. Before receiving them the Chiefs & some of the young men came into the Office, & Satanta made, what he wished understood to be a "Big Speech," in which he said addressing me "I have heard that you have stolen a large portion of our annuity goods and given them to the Texans; I have repeatedly asked you for arms & ammunition, which you have not furnished, and made many other requests which have not been granted, You do not listen to my talk. The white people are preparing to build a R. R. through our country, which will not be permitted. Some years ago we were taken by the haid & pulled here close to Texans where we have to fight. But we have cut that loos now and are all going with the Cheyennes to the Antalope Hills. When Gen Custer was here two or three years ago, he arrested me & kept me in confinement several days. But arresting Indians is plaid out now & is never to be repeted. On account of these grievances, I took, a short time ago, about 100 of my warriors, with the Chiefs Satank, Eagle Heart, Big Tree, Big Bow, & Fast Bear, & went to Texas, where we captured a train not far from Ft Richardson, killed 7 of the men, & drove off about 41 mules. Three of my men were killed, but we are willing to call it even. If any other Indian

Page 34

come here & claims the honor of leading the party he will be lieing to you, for I did it myself."

"Satank, Eagle Heart & Big Tree, with several young men were present & assented to the correctness of the statement. I at once went to Post to see Gen Sherman & Col Grierson. Satanta followed me. They sent for the other Chiefs, and made preparations to arrest them. Satanta, Satank, & Big Tree were arrested. Eagle Heart had got nearly to the Post, when some young Indians commenced shooting arrows at the Soldiers, who returned the fire & killed one Indian. The women & children who were camped near the Commissary were on thin ponies, in several instances, two on one, fleeing to the timber in about two minutes.

"The prisoners are in irons, kept in one of the stone buildings. Before leaving Kicking Bird & some others, plead with Gen Sherman in their most eloquent stile for the release of the prisoners. He intends to send them to Texas.

"I feel very glad that Gen Sherman was in Texas, when he was, & here at this time. I think he understands Indian affairs better than when he left Washington. He has not heard from the troops who started on Satanta's trail. They were probably stoped by the sudden rise of Red River.

"Last night there was supposed to be about 200 Indians in the timber back of the Post. But it may be a false report, No one knows what to look for from the Indians. Gen Sherman I believe intends to compel the Indians to go onto their respective reservations, but he cannot do it at once. He leaves for Okmulgee this morning. Lizzie Smith left yesterday morning.

"Col Grierson & I wish to see Warloopa, Jake & some of the head men of the Caddo & Delaware Indians. Please have them to come here soon

"Please send the letter to Agent Darlington. He will want to know how affairs are here. Geo Smith is writing one for him while I am writing to thee.

Our school is going on. The schollars do not appear to be uneasy.

In love thy friend

Lawrie Tatum,
Ind Agent.

Santank

Page 35

"P. S. I would like thee to send this, or a copy of it to Agent Darlington as G. Smith may not write so particularly. L. T"

When this letter, from the agent Lawrie Tatum, was written the Kiowa prisoners were in the guard house at Fort Sill. Some time afterwards Lawrie Tatum wrote a book, entitled, "Our Red Brother," in which he recites some of the things told in his letter above and also tells the events that happened soon after the arrest of these Kiowa insurgents who boasted of the crimes they had committed in Texas.

He writes: "A day or two after the arrest Colonel McKenzie in command of the troops at Fort Richardson, arrived at Fort Sill, and reported that the recent heavy rains so obliterated the track of the raiding Indians that they could not be followed. In a few days the Colonel with his troops took charge of the prisoners to convey them to Texas for trial. Satank was so refractory that he was put in a wagon with two soldiers to guard him, and Satana and Big Tree were placed in another wagon. George Washington, a Caddo Indian rode by the side of the wagon as they left the Fort. It was on this journey Satanka said to him: "I wish to send a little message by you to my people", "Tell my people that I am dead." I died the first day out from Fort Sill. My bones will be lying on the side of the road. I wish my people to gather them up and take these home. Tell mg people to take the forty one mules that we stole from Texas to the Agent, as he and Colonel Grierson requires. Don't committ any depredations around Fort Sill or in Texas."

The way Agent Tatum tells of the tragedy that resulted in the death of Satank is as follows:

"When about a mile from the Post, Satank sang his death song. Then, with his back to the guard drew the shackles off of his hands, by taking some of the skin with them. With a butcher knife in hand which he had secreted, altho' twice searched by soldiers, he then started for the guard in the front of the wagon. They both jumped out leaving their guns. Satank picked one up and commenced loading it, when he received several fatal shots and in twenty minutes died in savage agony. There was cause to believe that he had killed many white people also Indians in addition to the last seven, for which he was arrested. He was

Page 36

buried by the soldiers at Ft. Sill. The Indians were told that they might take him up and bury him at their own camp which they declined to do."

Perhaps this story would not be complete without telling something of the fate of the other two prisoners who were guilty of the murder of the seven Texans and of many other atrocities committed by this branch of the Kiowas while raiding in Texas. Horace P. Jones the well known interprreter attended the trial at Jacksborough, Tex. The two prisoners Satanta, and Big Tree,2 were both found guilty of murder in the first degree, by a jury and were sentenced to be hanged on September 1, 1871. This sentence was never executed for, thru the influence of Agnt Tatum, General Sherman and other men prominent in the Indian service, the Governor of Texas was induced to commute the sentence to life imprisonment. However, both of these Indians were paroled in two or three years in consideration of an agreement made which the Kiowa tribe, in which, all the head men of the tribe agreed to cease raiding in Texas and live at peace with the white people and other Indians. The terms of this agreement were not kept and Satanta was returned to the Texas penitentiary to finish his life sentence. Satanta committed suicide by jumping from a window in the Huntsville, Texas penitentiary shortly after hoe had been returned for breaking the terms of his parole.



Return to top


Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site