Quanah Parker was the
last Chief of the Commanches and
never lost a battle to the white man. His tribe roamed over the
area where Pampas stands. He was never captured by the Army, but decided to surrender and
lead his tribe into the white man's culture, only when he saw that there was no
His was the last tribe in the Staked
Plains to come into the reservation system.
Quanah, meaning "fragrant," was born about
1850, son of Comanche Chief Peta Nocona and
Cynthia Ann Parker, a white girl
taken captive during the 1836 raid on Parker's Fort, Texas. Cynthia Ann Parker was
recaptured, along with her daughter, during an 1860 raid on the Pease River in northwest
Texas. She had spent 24 years among the Comanche, however, and thus never readjusted to living
with the whites again.
She died in Anderson County, Texas, in 1864 shortly
after the death of her daughter, Prairie Flower. Ironically, Cynthia Ann's son would adjust remarkably well to living among
the white men. But first he would lead a bloody war against them.
Quanah and the Quahada Comanche, of whom his father,
Peta Nocona had been chief, refused to accept the provisions of the 1867 Treaty of Medicine Lodge, which confined the southern Plains Indians to a reservation, promising to
clothe the Indians and turn them into farmers in imitation of the white settlers.
Knowing of past lies and deceptive treaties of the
"White man", Quanah decided to remain on the warpath, raiding in Texas and
Mexico and out maneuvering Army Colonel Ronald S. Mackenzie and others.
He was almost killed during the attack on buffalo hunters at Adobe Walls in the Texas
Panhandle in 1874. The U.S. Army was relentless in its Red River campaign of 1874-75.
Quanah's allies, the Quahada were weary and starving.
Mackenzie sent Jacob J. Sturm, a
physician and post interpreter, to solicit the Quahada's surrender. Sturm found Quanah,
whom he called "a young man of much influence with his people," and pleaded his
case. Quanah rode to a mesa, where he saw a wolf come toward him, howl and trot away to
the northeast. Overhead, an eagle "glided lazily and then whipped his wings in the
direction of Fort Sill," in the words of Jacob Sturm. This was a sign, Quanah
thought, and on June 2, 1875, he and his band surrendered at Fort Sill in present-day
Biographer Bill Neeley writes:
"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."
Quanah was traveling the "white man's road,"
but he did it his way. He refused to give up polygamy, much to the reservation agents'
chagrin. Reservation agents being political appointees of the Federal Government, their
main concern was to destroy all vestiges of Native American life and replace their culture
with that of theirs. Quanah Parker also used peyote, negotiated grazing rights with Texas
cattlemen, and invested in a railroad. He learned English, became a reservation judge,
lobbied Congress and pleaded the cause of the Comanche Nation. Among his friends were
cattleman Charles Goodnight and President Theodore Roosevelt.
He considered himself a man who tried to do right both to the people of his tribe and to
his "pale-faced friends".
It wasn't easy. Mackenzie appointed Quanah Parker as
the chief of the Comanche shortly after his surrender, but the older chiefs resented
Parkers youth, and his white blood in particular." And in 1892, when Quanah
Parker signed the Jerome Agreement
that broke up the reservation, the Comanche were split into two
factions: (1). those who realized that all that could be done had been
one for their nation; and (2). those who blamed Chief Parker for selling
Quanah Parker died on February 23, 1911, and was buried next to his mother, whose body he had reinterred at Ft. Sill
Military cemetery on Chiefs Knoll in Oklahoma only three months earlier. For his courage,
integrity and tremendous insight, Quanah Parkers life tells the story of one of
America's greatest leaders and a true Texas Hero.