By Grant Foreman
The history of Oklahoma is best understood if we keep in mind the fundamental policy of the Federal Government to make Oklahoma the exclusive home of the American Indian, a policy only recently abandoned. This policy was first indicated by President Jefferson immediately after the Louisiana Purchase, when he proposed measures for removing here the Indians from the East. Nothing was done under this proposal; but the idea gained force with the passing of the years, and was strengthened by the pronouncements of President Monroe. Finally, when Andrew Jackson became President, Congress enacted what was known as the Indian Removal Bill in 1830, under which the Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes were emigrated to what is now Oklahoma, followed by other Indians from north of the Ohio River.
Of the more than fifty Indian tribes represented in Oklahoma, only a few are indigenous to the soil. Of these few the Kiowas and Comanches are probably better known than any others. These Indians were described by early French and Spanish explorers, and at the time of the Louisiana Purchase were known as Indians of the Plains, who followed the herds of buffalo from south to north and back again, from Kansas to Texas, crossing Oklahoma in their yearly migrations.
The history of what we now know as the Kiowa and Comanche Reservation may be traced in a sequence of related events from the time these Indians were first known until their reservation was thrown open to settlement in 1901. Each of these events was related to those that preceded and followed; a brief account of them will help to an understanding of the history of this reservation.
After the passage of the Indian Removal Bill in 1830, and the actual emigration of the southern Indians was begun, it was realized that some understanding would have to be had with the so-called Plains Indians to induce them to accept the emigrants from the east as their new neighbors, and make it possible to locate them within the Indian Territory
With this in view, and to provide for a measure of Indian administration in the country, Congress authorized and President Jackson, on July 14, 1832, appointed a commission that came to Fort Gibson to perform the duties assigned to it. The chairman of this commission was Montfort Stokes, governor of North Carolina, who resigned his post to come out here. As soon as the commission was organized at Fort Gibson, it undertook to learn something about the wild Indians of the Plains, and in the early autumn of 1832 dispatched a company of mounted troops called Rangers, under the command of Lieut. Jesse Bean, to visit these Indians and see if he could make friends with them. This company went up the
Arkansas River past the site of Tulsa, and traveled down to the vicinity of Oklahoma City and Norman, before returning to Fort Gibson a month later. This effort, however, accomplished very little of value except that it furnished Washington Irving, a guest member of the party, with material from which he compiled his classic "Tour on the Prairies."
The next summer, still another effort was made, and a larger expedition was sent to the southwest; but it also failed to make the desired contact with the Indians, and returned fruitless to Fort Gibson. In 1834 a still larger expedition of 500 dragoons was sent out from that post. This was a disastrous expedition which resulted in the death of almost a third of the men from typhus fever aggravated by hardships, devastating heat and bad water. The disabled organization, about half of those who left Fort Gibson arrived at the approximate site of Fort Sill, where they had an interview with the Comanche Indians, and then continued to the west end of the Wichita Mountains where they had a council with the Wichita Indians. In spite of their hardships and disasters, they induced a number of these Indians to return with them to Fort Gibson, where an interesting council was held in August, and where promises were made to the Indians to hold another council the next year, which the Indians insisted must be held in the buffalo country, as they refused to take the chance of starving in a region where buffalo were not to be found.
Accordingly, plans were made the next year, and the council was held at a place near the present Lexington, Oklahoma, where six or eight thousand Indians assembled, and where an important treaty was made with the Comanche, Wichita and other Indians,—the first treaty ever made with them. The Kiowas did not remain to participate in the treaty, but two years later a treaty was made with them to the gratification of the representatives of the Federal Government in the west. These treaties guaranteed peaceful passage through the country by the whites and emigrant Indians, and indicated a peaceful continuance of the government's plan to remove the Indians from the east into the Indian Territory.
It was not long, however, before the difficulties between Mexico and Texas threatened to involve these wild Indians on the side of the Mexicans, and the federal government was obliged to exert itself to offset this influence. The Indians were reminded of their treaties of '35 and '37; but they replied that their treaty was binding only with reference to the country north of the Red River, and did not have any application to the Texans, against whom they maintained implacable hostility. The difficulties with the Texans continued during the years, and when, in 1845, Texas became part of the Federal Union, which inaugurated another phase of the history of these Indians, they refused to recognize the Texans as embraced in their treaties of friendship, and continued their raids into Texas.
Finally the treaty with Mexico in 1848, and resulting extension of our national domain to the Pacific Ocean, presented another aspect that colored the history of this region. Discovery of gold in California in 1848, was immediately followed by the Gold Rush. Thousands of adventurers travelled across the country through Kansas, through Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. This situation presented a troublesome problem to the Indians, who witnessed the white people killing off the buffalo, and thereby destroying an essential element of their economic and tribal existence. The raids by the Indians on the white settlements continued. There were peaceful Indians in these western tribes who withdrew from the raids of the young bucks, and tried to live a more tranquil life on the Brazos River in Texas; but the wilder members of the tribes continued their raids with every full moon, and returned with scalps and stolen horses to their hiding-places within Oklahoma, in and around the Wichita Mountains. Texas Rangers made two or three futile pursuits within Oklahoma, but the federal government refused their request to campaign in this country in an attempt to wipe out their aggressors. Finally by cooperation between Texas and the United States, an Indian reservation was laid out in 1854 on the Brazos River, Texas, in which nearly 1,000 peaceful Indians were located under an Indian agent.
The wilder faction of Indians, however, continued their raids into Texas, and continued to find shelter in Oklahoma. The Texans became so incensed at these raids that they threatened to vent their feelings on the peaceful Indians on the Texas reservation, and the Federal government was forced to consider another location for them. With this in view, the government in 1855 negotiated with the Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians for a lease of the west half of their country, which thereby became known as the "Leased District."
The Kiowa and Comanche Indians raided the Chickasaw and white settlements in the western part of the Chickasaw Nation and caused great apprehension and dissatisfaction among these people as well as those in western Texas. The situation in the west generally became so bad that in 1855, the year the so-called "leased district" was acquired, Congress in March authorized the organization of two mounted regiments to police the western country. These were called the First and Second Regiments of Cavalry but later in the Civil War became the Fourth and Fifth Cavalry.
The First was sent out to occupy the country west of Ft. Leavenworth. The Second was organized at Jefferson Barracks and marched down through Indian Territory by way of Fort Gibson to Fort Belknap in Texas which became its permanent station. From here it was expected to police Texas and southwestern Oklahoma and thus control the movements of the Kiowa and Comanche Indians.
The organization of this regiment is a subject of considerable interest because of the officers included in it who distinguished themselves during the subsequent Civil War, the most of them on the side of the Confederacy. Albert Sidney Johnston was a Colonel, and Robert E. Lee a Lieutenant Colonel. George H. Thomas, "The Rock of Chickamauga," in the Union Army, was a Major; Earl Van Dorn and Edmond Kirby Smith and John B. Hood were captains, and other captains included Charles E. Travis, son of Colonel Travis, hero of the Alamo. Another captain was Theodore O'Hara, who served in the Mexican War and lived to write the immortal "bivouac of the dead," which most of us recited in school, and which O'Hara wrote for the dedication of a monument to his companions, "The Kentucky Volunteers," killed at Buena Vista, Mexico. A verse or two of this matchless poetry, inscribed in bronze, is to be seen in every national cemetery in the country.
In the early part of 1858 the Seventh Infantry was removed from Indian Territory to Utah, thus abandoning Fort Arbuckle, Fort Washita and Fort Smith and exposing the country to raids by the Indians. In order to cope with the raiding Kiowas and Comanches Major Earl Van Dorn crossed Red River with a command of the Second Cavalry and established a post at a place on Otter Creek in the northern part of Tillman County. He reported his arrival here on September 26, 1858, and said that he was engaged in erecting a stockade for the protection of supplies and animals during the absence of the cavalry on scouting trips after the Indians. He had named his post Fort Radziminski in honor of the late Lieutenant Charles Radziminski of the Second Cavalry, whose death he had just learned of. The Comanches had run off several hundred horses from Texas and when threatened with punishment undertook to deliver the horses at Fort Arbuckle. While on this mission the Comanches under their chief Buffalo Humps went to the Wichita town near Rush Creek within the present Grady County to hold a council with the Wichitas. When Major Van Dorn heard of their presence there, with four hundred cavalrymen he made a forced march from Camp Radziminski across the Kiowa and Comanche Reservation to the Wichita Village in the night of October 1, and in the morning just before day-light fell upon the Indians, killing four Wichita and sixty Comanches.
In this battle Van Dorn was wounded by two arrows, one of which entered his abdomen and passed through his body. Messengers were sent to Fort Arbuckle for a doctor, who cut the arrow point from the shaft which had passed through Van Dorn's body and pulled out the arrow. It was five days before he could be removed from the battle field, when a litter was swung tandem between two horses in which he was carried back to Camp Radziminski. He was later invalided to his home in Mississippi where his recovery was so rapid that with a vigorous constitution he was able to return to Fort Radziminski after little more than a month at home.
Later when Major Emory was seeking a site for the future Fort Sill he wrote to Van Dorn for his impression of the country between Radziminski and the Wichita Village. In answer Van Dorn wrote from Fort Radziminski on October 25, 1858, that as he traveled across the country at night when setting out for the Comanche encampment he was unable to describe the country, and on his return, as he was carried in a litter, he saw nothing of the country, but he believed from impressions received otherwise that the country at the mouth of Cache Creek was the best location for a military post.
After the troops departed from Fort Arbuckle in April, 1859, only five men were left in charge of a large amount of stores. Several thousand Comanche Indians, incensed by the recent attack on them in May on the Canadian River at the hands of Texas Rangers commanded by Captain John S. Ford, were encamped in June on this stream, where they planned a raid on Fort Arbuckle to secure arms, ammunition and provisions there. They had actually made a sortee on the fort, killing and stealing horses belonging to the settlers, and were pursued to the Wichita mountains by a force of Chickasaw Indians. These depredations continued and as the Federal Government refused to permit the Texas Rangers to cross north of Red River, a detachment of the Second Cavalry, under the command of Major Earl Van Dorn, again crossed the Kiowa and Comanche Reservation and on May 12, 1859, attacked one hundred Comanche and Kiowa Indians about fifteen miles south of old Fort Atkinson, of whom they killed forty-nine, including eight Comanche women. In this fight Major Van Dorn, Captain Edmond Kirby Smith and Lieutenant Fitzhugh Lee were wounded, the latter seriously. These hostilities prompted the Secretary of the Interior to renew his request for the establishment of an Army Post for the protection of the prospective immigrants coming from Texas, to protect their agency about to be established, and to control the raiding Kiowa and Comanche Indians.
Elias Rector was Superintendent of Indian Affairs for what was called The Southern Superintendency with headquarters at Fort Smith. To him, on October 21, 1857, A. H. McKissick made his first report as "agent for the Wichitas and other wild tribes," being thus the first report by an Indian Agent within what is now the Kiowa and Comanche Reservation.
With a view to the location of the Texas Indians and their protection in the new home and with the approval of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs at Washington, Rector set out in June, 1859, with a cavalry escort of fourteen men from Fort Arbuckle detailed by Major Emory, commandant at that post, to explore the country in the vicinity of the Wichita mountains and to determine on the site for the construction of the fort. "On June twenty-second," says Rector, "we reached the site indicated for a fort by Major Emory, being that of the old Wichita Village, on the
Clear Fork of Cache Creek, south of the Blue Mountain, a principal peak of the Wichita range." However, he reported that, "the fertile and beautiful valleys of which I had heard, the clear streams flowing through them, and the gushing springs, have no existence. The streams that flow past this barren and desolate region are prairie streams of impure water, discolored with red earth and impregnated with lime, except Clear Creek, which has no valley of arable or grazing land, and, except as a hunting ground, I consider the whole region to be utterly worthless, and unsuitable for human habitancy. This is not only my deliberate judgment, but that of all who accompanied me; the expectations of all of whom were as grievously disappointed as mine were."
Having decided that the present site of Fort Sill and Lawton was unfit for human occupancy or for the Indian Agency, Rector and his party continued northeast and selected the site of an old Kichai village where is now Anadarko on the south side of the Washita River, at the mouth of Sugar Creek, where he proposed immediately to erect an agency house and out-buildings for the administration of the affairs of the expected Texas Indians as well as the bands of Wichita, Shawnees, Delawares and Caddos already living in the country.
In August, 1859, the Indians of the Brazos Agency in Texas were brought up under military escort to protect them from the people of Texas. These Indians were the Anadarkos, Caddos, Tawakoni, Wacoes and Tonkawas and numbered 1492. Part of this escort was commanded by Major George H. Thomas of later Civil War fame. An important Indian council was held by Rector, where the subject of their location was discussed. The Wichitas said they had the oldest claim to the country, because they had a tradition that their ancestors were born from the rugged rocks of the Wichita Mountains. Appropriate areas were assigned to the Wichitas, and the other bands with them; an Indian agent was appointed, and Indian administration was thus inaugurated in this western country at what was called Wichita Agency, "Leased District." An Army Post for the protection of the Indians was established on October 1, 1859, by two companies of the Cavalry, about four miles southwest of where the agency was established on August 16, and called Fort Cobb. At the same time the Secretary of the Interior was urging the establishment of another Army Post in the Wichita Mountains, which was not realized until after the Civil War when Fort Sill was established.
Before the agency at Anadarko had functioned very well or the influence of Fort Cobb had accomplished much, everything was demoralized by the Civil War, that made it impossible to realize the Government's plans for Indian administration or civilization. By the coming of the Civil War the Indians of this agency were scattered; the Wichitas and some of the Delawares associated
with them were moving up into Kansas, where they stayed during the war.
After the war, the movement of the white emigrants through Kansas to Colorado, and the building of the Union Pacific Railroad through their country aroused the western Indians to fresh raids among the intruders. The Cheyennes and Arapahoes were particularly active; the movements of the Kiowas and Comanches also caused great concern. In an effort to put an end to these hostilities, a commission was appointed by President Grant, known as the Peace Commission, that called the Indians into a general council on Little Arkansas River in Kansas, where on October 18, 1865, a treaty was entered into in which the commissioners assigned to the Kiowa and Comanche Indians a vast tract of land including the Leased District, nearly all of what is now Western Oklahoma, south of the Canadian River, and extending west across Texas to New Mexico.
No benefit was derived from this vast assignment of territory, and another Indian council was called to meet in Kansas on Medicine Lodge Creek near Larned, where, on October 21, 1867, another treaty was entered into by which the Kiowa and Comanche Indians surrendered the land set apart for them in the former treaty, and accepted in lieu thereof a tract of country containing 2,968,893 acres, being what we now know as the Kiowa and Comanche Reservation. In the mean time complete title to this area, the Leased District, on April 28, 1866, had been purchased from the Choctaws and Chickasaws for the sum of $300,000. On the same day a separate treaty was made with the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Indians, by which the latter were incorporated with them, and this reservation became the common property of the three tribes, all of whom were equally bound by the terms of the two treaties. In these treaty councils another large area north of this reservation was assigned to the Wichita, Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, and the government now endeavored to make these Indians move onto the reservations, and submit to the authority of the Government as represented by the agents and the military. In this they were far from successful, for the Indians continued their raids, and scorned the authority of the federal government.
Finally General Philip H. Sheridan was sent to Fort Leavenworth, and vested with authority to suppress the raids of the Indians in Kansas and adjoining country. The first manifestation of punishment by the federal government was a raid performed by General Hancock; but the Indians having scattered, it was impossible to punish them effectively, and General Sheridan planned a punitive expedition into the Indian Territory where many of these Indians had taken refuge. In organizing his campaign he called on the Governor of Kansas for a company of volunteer cavalry, which was duly organized under the name of the Nineteenth Kansas Cavalry, and put under his command. The expedition departed from
Kansas in the autumn of 1868, in the direction of Camp Supply, a post established as a part of this campaign in the present northwestern Oklahoma, where the supplies from Kansas were being concentrated. Information of a trail of Indians having been brought to General Sheridan's attention, he ordered General Custer to follow the trail and attack. This resulted in the famous Battle of the Washita in which more than a hundred Indians were killed. Captain Hazen had been sent to Fort Cobb to re-establish the Indian Agency which had been burned during the war, and where the Kiowa and Comanche Indians had obligated themselves in their recent treaty to come in and settle, and withdraw from their hostile parties and activities. After the Battle of the Washita, General Sheridan started from Camp Supply down the Washita River to Fort Cobb. Near the fort he encountered some of the Kiowa and Comanche Indians, who presented credentials to Sheridan from Hazen, showing that they were under the protection of the Agency, and they thus escaped attack by Sheridan. This expedition was almost unparalleled in Oklahoma History in the extent of the hardships and sufferings endured by the men engaged in it. A blizzard hampered their movements and before the Kansas cavalry had reached Camp Supply, they had lost 700 horses from starvation and cold; and between there and Fort Cobb, 148 more perished. After Sheridan's arrival at Fort Cobb, he spent some time in the country trying to establish the Indians on their reservations and looping about for a location for a permanent army post; and when he found a place that suited him, he held a stake while General Grierson drove it into the ground, to mark the site of the future Fort Sill. While he was here, he sent Custer on another expedition to the west, to visit an encampment of Indians on Sweet Water Creek just across the line in the Texas Panhandle. Due to the difficulty of getting supplies that had come up the Arkansas River to Fort Gibson, and were supposed to be going overland to Fort Arbuckle and Fort Cobb, the soldiers nearly starved. As Custer's command continued west, there were days when they had nothing to eat but the flesh of mules that had died of starvation. The Colonel of the Kansas Cavalry related that: "Every morning the mules and horses that were unable to travel were killed by cutting their throats; and the extra wagons were run together and set on fire." Nothing but extreme fortitude and endurance made it possible for Custer's command to carry out their mission, and return to Fort Sill.
As soon as Sheridan got established, General Hazen removed his Indian agency to the place, and Col. Albert Gallatin Boon, a grandson of Daniel Boone, arrived to act as agent for the Kiowas and Comanches. This establishment was called "Camp Wichita, Wichita Mountains," until July 1869, when it became Fort Sill, named for General Joshua W. Sill, killed at Stone River, December 31, 1862. The Fort Sill military reservation of thirty-six square miles was established by executive order, October 7, 1871.
There was much criticism of the Indian service in the west on account of dishonesty in its administration. Friends of the Indians met at Cooper Union in New York to consider the subject, and General Hazen wrote to Peter Cooper inviting him and his associates to send a representative to Fort Sill in order that they might be fully advised of the Indian situation on the reservation. As a result, Hon. Vincent Collier of New York was sent out, and arrived on March 29, 1869, at Fort Sill, where he met General Hazen and Benjamin H. Grierson of the Tenth Cavalry, who had succeeded Sheridan in command of the post. Collier wrote very interesting accounts of the Indians and the administration under Hazen's superintendency.
General William T. Sherman came to Fort Sill in May 1871, and while here received news of a raid in Texas by Kiowa Indians led by Satanta, Satank and Big Tree, who then returned to Fort Sill. General Sherman had them placed in irons and started with a military escort for Jacksboro, Texas, to stand trial for murder. On the way, in an effort to escape, Satank was killed; Big Tree and Satanta were convicted and sentenced to hang, but on the solicitation of their agent, Laurie Tatum, the governor of Texas commuted their sentence. The Kiowas continued to raid in Texas, and paid little attention to the advice of the white people. Finally, in a general council at Okmulgee, the Five Civilized Tribes delegated a number of their people to go over to the vicinity of Fort Cobb and call the wild Indians into council, where they admonished them on the folly of their conduct. This was followed a few weeks later by another conference with representatives from Washington, who induced a number of the Kiowa, Comanche and other Indians to accompany them to Washington, in charge of Capt. Henry E. Alvord. They left Fort Sill September 20, 1872. A representative of the New York Herald described the excitement and commotion as forty-five delegates from these tribes, on horseback and in half-a-dozen sixteen-mule-drawn army wagons from Fort Sill took their departure for Atoka, the nearest railroad point, where they arrived six days later. From here they were carried to St. Louis and then on to Washington. A condition of their consent to go was that they would be permitted to see Satanta again. He was brought up from the Texas penitentiary to Atoka, the temporary terminus of the M. K. & T. Railroad, and carried to St. Louis on another train. The meeting of the Kiowa delegates with their beloved Satanta, in a room at the Everett House in St. Louis, on September 29, was said by Captain Alvord to have been very affecting and impressive. Satanta was not permitted to accompany the delegation to Washington, and until their return was confined in the Four Courts, the city prison at St. Louis. Later he was returned to the Texas penitentiary, where he afterwards committed suicide.
The wanton and wholesale destruction of the buffalo alarmed and incensed the Indians; and the Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne
and Arapahoe, in 1874, held a great council on Kiowa Medicine Lodge Creek, west of Camp Supply, to consider what they could do to protect this great natural resource, threatened with early destruction. They left their reservation and sent out marauding parties in all directions. One of the first objects of their wrath was a company of buffalo hunters, who took refuge within the adobe walls of Bill Bent's old trading post on the Canadian River in the Texas Panhandle; and there resulted, June 27 and 28, 1874, what became known as the Battle of Adobe Walls. It being Sunday, and the white hunters resting in their camp, they were able, with the fortifications and superior arms, to make a formidable resistance against the hundreds of Indians, who were repulsed with a loss of thirty lives.
The stealing of their horses by white people also infuriated the Indians during the summer of 1874, and according to their fashion of reprisal, they killed any whites whom they met. So on the Abilene Cattle Trail, near Kingfisher Ranch, July 2, they killed William Watkins; and two days later attacked Pat Hennessey's wagon train loaded with sugar and coffee for agent J. M. Hayworth of the Kiowa-Comanche agency. In this affair, the Indians killed Hennessey, George Fant, Thomas Calloway and Ed Cook.
United States troops were ordered from Fort Sill, Fort Coneho and Fort Leavenworth to punish the Indians and drive them back to their reservations. The campaign was headed by General Nelson A. Miles, who left Fort Leavenworth with part of his troops, and completed his organization at Fort Dodge. He had under his immediate command eight troops of cavalry in two battalions, four companies of infantry, a detachment of artillery, and a body of trailers, guides and scouts, the latter composed partly of Delaware Indians. Miles's command proceeded through Western Oklahoma; and after being fought and chased by the soldiers up and down through the country, from July 1874 to April 1875, many of the Indians were captured from time to time, and held as prisoners at Fort Sill and the Cheyenne agency.
Part of the Kiowas and Comanches surrendered in September, 1874, with two thousand head of horses and mules; the animals were so nearly starved that 760 of them either died from starvation or were shot; 856 ponies and 96 mules were sold by the army officers for $15,339.00. Gen. R. S. Mackenzie sent officers into New Mexico with the proceeds of the sale, to purchase sheep for the Indians. In February 1875, another band of Comanches gave up, with 557 ponies and 109 mules, which the officers sold for $6,000. Many of the Cheyennes likewise surrendered to the officers.
The military thus, as they expressed it, "disarmed and dismounted the Indians." By taking their horses and mules, they were incapacitated from engaging in further hostilities, if they were so inclined; and as buffaloes were about exterminated, they had little use for the great numbers of riding animals that had
been their dependence and pride. The change thus facilitated efforts to make the Indians work the land for their living.
A few years later the Kiowa and Comanche agency at Fort Sill was eliminated by consolidation with the Wichita Agency. The Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches were removed in the fall of 1879 from Fort Sill to the Wichita agency at Anadarko. There they were located with the Wichitas, Wacoes, Tawakonies, Kichais, Caddoes, Delawares, and Penetnethka's Band of Comanches, who were brought up from Texas. The consolidation of the nine tribes was facilitated, the agent reported, by the fact that they all spoke the Comanche language, the "court language" of the Plains Indians, and thus interpretation was simplified.
The history of this region was complicated a few years later by the cattle business. In the early '90's the Kiowa and Comanche reservation was blanketed by leases of vast tracts under wire fence, the largest of which, amounting to 502,490 acres, ran to D. Wagoner and Son, cattlemen of Texas. E. C. Sugg and Brother held 342,638 acres. S. B. Burnett, 287,867 acres; C. T. Herring, 90,000, and J. P. Addington, 81,963 acres. Under instructions in May, 1892, the Indian Agent executed leases to the holders of these pastures at six cents per acre, for a term ending April 1, 1893.
The agitation for opening up the Indian country was highlighted by the introduction of people from Kansas under Payne and Couch. When General Miles was in the country in 1885 trying to compose the troubles of the Cheyenne Indians he addressed a thoughtful communication to the Secretary of War on the subject of the proper administration of the country. He proposed that as the Indians had more land than they possibly could care for, the President appoint a commission of three experienced and competent men to negotiate with all the tribes for the purchase of their surplus lands and secure for them all a title and possession of as much as they could use; the remainder to be thrown open for settlement under laws applicable to the public domain.
This policy was made effective by an act of Congress May 2, 1889, under which the President appointed a commission to negotiate with the Cherokees and other Indians owning or claiming lands west of the 96th meridian for cession to the United States, and ultimate opening up to settlement. The President appointed on this commission; General Lucius Fairchild, ex-governor of Wisconsin; John F. Hartranft, governor of Pennsylvania, and Judge Alfred Wilson of Fayetteville, Arkansas. This was followed by the first opening in Oklahoma Territory on April 22, 1889. This so-called Cherokee Commission was unable to make any progress with the Cherokees, with whom they first attempted to negotiate, and then proceeded to negotiate with the Sac and Fox, Pottawatomi, Kickapoo and other tribes; and finally, September 28, 1892, got around to negotiate with the Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches at Fort Sill. Here on October 6, 1892, four hundred fifty-six male
adult members of these confederated tribes signed a paper purporting to agree to the surrender of their lands amounting to 2,968,892 acres, which they held under their treaty of October 21, 1867. Eliminating 350,000 acres of mountain land, the amount of surplus suitable for farming was estimated at 2,150,000 acres. Subsequently members of the tribes claimed that the terms of agreement had been misrepresented to them; and in 1893 James Mooney of the Smithsonian Institution, Army Officers and others charged that bribery and fraud had been employed in procuring the agreements with the Indians. The controversy delayed ratification by Congress until June 6, 1900. The act of ratification provided for setting aside for the common use of the Indians 480,000 acres of their pasture land included in four "pastures." Number One became known as the "Big Pasture," west of Lawton, with 414,300 acres. The act provided also for allotting to each of the Indians 160 acres of land in the reservation. The government agreed to pay the Indians two million dollars, of which $500,000 was to be distributed per capita, and the remainder invested and the interest paid per capita.
In the name of the Kiowa Chief, Lone Wolf, on June 6, 1901, a proceeding was filed in the Supreme Court of the District of Columbia seeking an injunction against the carrying out of the agreement. The Court on June 26 entered a decree against him, which was later affirmed by the United States Supreme Court. The President, immediately after the decree of the lower court on July 4, 1901, issued his proclamation carrying into effect the act of Congress and the agreement with the Indians. This proclamation opened the country, except the pastures, to settlement on August 6, 1901, at nine o'clock in the morning; 443,338 acres had been allotted to 2759 Kiowa, Comanche, Wichita and Apache Indians, leaving 2,033,583 acres for white settlement. The proclamation opened also to settlement the adjoining more than half a million acres of the Wichitas and affiliated bands as well as the Kiowa, Comanches and Apaches.1
1This address was delivered by Dr. Grant Foreman at the annual meeting of the Oklahoma Historical Society, May 13, 1941. It is condensed from pages in the manuscript of his forthcoming history of Oklahoma.