WOLF CREEK, BATTLE OF
The largest intertribal battle on the southern plains was fought in mid-June 1838 in northwestern Oklahoma when allied Cheyenne and Arapaho attacked camps of confederated Kiowa, Comanche, and Plains Apache on Wolf Creek, about twenty miles above (southwest of) present Fort Supply (in present Ellis County). The Cheyenne and Arapaho had traveled from southeastern Colorado in search of their traditional enemies, the Kiowa, to avenge the deaths of Cheyenne Bowstring Society warriors slain in 1836 while raiding along the Washita River.
The Cheyenne and Arapaho fell upon the camps in the morning, killing many people who were either berry picking along Wolf Creek or hunting buffalo in the nearby hills. Some defenders went out and challenged the attackers, while others protected the camps. On both sides, the fighting was done by individuals or by small groups, armed with traditional weapons such as bows and lances; a few Cheyenne had guns. Repeated attacks during the day failed to overwhelm the Kiowa and their allies, and the attackers, their need for revenge satisfied, ceased fighting in the afternoon. An unknown number lay dead. The scene of carnage was witnessed three days later by a U.S. Army dragoon detachment escorting friendly Osage chiefs to a council with the Kiowa.
A positive consequence of the battle was a peace agreement made among the five tribes. Warriors who had tested each other in battle now faced a new menace in the form of Euroamericans who were entering the southern plains. Intertribal cooperation was desperately needed, and in the summer of 1840 at Bent's Fort, in southeastern Colorado, representatives of the tribes came together to make peace. The resulting alliance lasted throughout the struggle with the United States during the Indian wars of the last half of the nineteenth century.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: George B. Grinnell, The Fighting Cheyenne (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1955). Stan Hoig, Tribal Wars on the Southern Plains (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993). James Mooney, "Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians," in Bureau of American Ethnology, Seventeenth Annual Report, Part I (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1898).
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