Quanah Parker Biography

Learn about Quanah Parker, who was a great chief and a shrewd business man.

Shortly after Texas won its independence in 1836 a bitter war was fought with the Comanche Indians. In the first encounter the Comanches won a stunning victory. Among their captives was a girl by the name of Cynthia Ann Parker. The nine year old readily adjusted to life among the Indians. While in her teens she became the wife of a warrior by the name of Peta Nocona. Before long she had produced for him a son - Quanah, meaning "╦ťfragrant.' The baby looked just like a full blood Indian instead that his eyes were blue gray rather than black.

Quanah grew into a strong and capable young warrior. He killed his first enemy at age 15. Shortly thereafter, however, disaster came upon the young man. During an 1860 raid by Texas Rangers, his mother was recaptured by the whites and taken back to civilization. The loss of his mother was a severe blow to Quanah. For the rest of his life he sought to find out her fate. Soon thereafter Quanah's father died. With no tribal ties, Quanah now joined the more powerful Kwahadie band of Comanches.

During a peace council at Medicine Tail Creek in 1867, the Kwahadie refused to give up any of their tribal lands. At this time Quanah declared, "My band is not going to live on the reservation. Tell the white chiefs that the Kwahadies are warriors." At this time Quanah also heard of his mother's fate. She had repeatedly tried to get back to the Commanche. Her relatives, however, prevented her from doing so. Finally, overcome with grief at the death of her daughter Prairie Flower who had returned to civilization with her, she starved herself to death.

Following the failed peace talks Quanah and his band stepped up their raids on Texan settlements. During this time Quanah distinguished himself as a valiant natural leader of his warrior brothers. In September 1871, Colonel Ranald McKenzie assembled 600 troops at Fort Richardson to invade the Kwahadies and teach them a lesson. It didn't take Mckenzie long to meet up with Quanah and his warriors. But Quanah did not oblige McKenzie with an open battle. Rather his warriors would fight skirmishes with the Soldiers in frustrating hit and run tactics. On October 10th, just after midnight Quanah led a wild charge right through McKenzie's encampment, panicking the soldier's horses and then disappearing. The soldiers lost 66 horses as a result. The following morning McKenzie sent out a small detachment to recover the horses. Quanah and a small group of warriors went forth to meet them. Coming upon the soldiers, Quanah shot the closest one off his saddle and then rushed forth to scalp him. The others retreated. After following the Comanches for a further few days, McKenzie returned to his Fort in frustration.

The following March, McKenzie took to the field again. This time his men surprised a group of Kotsoteka Comanche encamped on McClellan Creek. 23 warriors were killed and 124 taken captive at the cost of just two dead soldiers. The result of this was that the Kwahadie curtailed their raiding in fear that their brothers the Kotsoteka captives would be harmed in retaliation. Thinking that the tribe had turned peaceful the Army released the prisoners. Immediately the raids began again.

On June 26, 1874 Quanah led a raid on the trading post at Adobe Walls on the South Canadian River. His band of 700 warriors stole upon the Post under cover of darkness. 29 white people were inside. A loud cracking sound, perhaps a gunshot, alerted the hardened buffalo hunters inside to the pending doom. The warriors charged and the hunters began firing. After repeated attacks, with Quanah at the forefront, the Comanches finally withdrew. Quanah had received a bullet wound to the back. Following this failure, the Indians scattered and engaged in wide ranging hit and run attacks. Again Colonel Ranald McKenzie was charged with bringing them in.

Just before dawn on September 28, 1874 McKenzie stumbled upon a large camp of hostile Comanches. The Indians were overconfident and did not post guards. The Soldiers were almost upon them when the Indians became aware of the threat. Yet most of the Indians escaped. McKenzie did manage to capture over 1,000 horses and destroy the entire village, however. Knowing that the Indians would attempt to recover the horses, McKenzie ordered them destroyed.

The Indian's back was now broken. Small bands began surrendering. But Quanah, with 400 people, held out. A few weeks later, a white doctor came across Quanah's band. He carried a note from McKenzie promising fair treatment if he surrendered. To everyone's surprise, Quanah agreed. On June 2,1875 he entered the reservation. Thus began Quanah's life as a peaceful reservation Indian.

When he surrendered Quanah knew very little English and had never lived in a house. It didn't take him long, however, to master the traits of European living. Soon he was hammering out shrewd deals leasing reservation lands to Texas cattlemen. He became a major shareholder in a railroad. He lobbied for Comanche rights in Washington. He purchased a 12 room mansion for his family to live in. But Quanah never forsook his Indian heritage. When he died in 1911, he was buried in full Comanche regalia.

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