Quanah Parker was a man of two worlds. His father was the famous Peta Nocona, chief of the Noconi (Wanderer) band of Comanche. His mother was Naudah (Cynthia Ann Parker). Naudah was a white woman who was taken captive as a young girl from Fort Parker in Texas, in 1836.
Quanah Parker was born around 1852, in a place called Laguna Sabinas (Cedar Lake), near the Wichita Mountains in what is now Oklahoma. The name Quanah translates as smell, odor, or fragrance. Quanah had a brother and a sister, but they both died before reaching maturity.
Quanahs youth was spent in a world where his people were at constant war with the United States and Mexico. In 1860, while Quanah was still a boy, his 24-year-old mother was kidnapped from her husband and sons by a unit comprising soldiers, Texas Rangers, and Tonkawa Indian scouts.
In the same raid, Peta Noconas band was destroyed, leaving Quanah with no family and no home. The youngster found refuge among the Quahadi Comanche band that lived in what is now northern Texas.
War over buffalo
In Quanah's youth, white buffalo hunters appeared on the plains to slaughter and nearly eradicate the vast buffalo population for their hides. Given that the buffalo was the Plains tribes' main sustenance, the Comanche beheld the slaughter as a sustained attack on Native American peoples, a direct assault on their very existence, and so Indian resistance erupted.
At the Medicine Lodge peace council of 1867, the Quahadi rejected a proposed treaty that called for them to give up their tribal lands, and refused to accept the provision that would confine the Southern Plains Indians to a reservation. Because of that rejection, the Quahadi became fugitives on the Staked Plains (Llano Estacadoš).
Following the council at Medicine Lodge, Quanah and his band stepped up their raids on Texan settlements. During those raids, Quanah distinguished himself as a valiant natural leader.
The Quahadi Comanche waged a war on the plains unlike any war seen by the U.S. cavalry during the plains wars˛. Those brave Comanche warriors fought with unmatched skill and ability. They established themselves repeatedly in battle to be far superior in combat than their enemy. Even with repeating weapons, cannon, and superior numbers, the Comanche apparently could not be defeated.
During the Red River War, numerous tribes even mortal enemies made alliances with each other to stop the slaughter of the buffalo and drive the white men from the land.
As buffalo hunters spread like a disease onto the buffalo plains, annihilating the Indians' chief source of subsistence, Quanah Parker and the Quahadi targeted buffalo hunters in their raids. To the Comanche, the senseless killing of buffalo for just their hides was an abomination. In June 1874, approximately 700 Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, and Comanche warriors attacked Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle where 28 hunters and one woman were staying.
The warriors charged and the hunters began to fire. Unfortunately, the hunters' advanced weaponry enabled them to withstand the force of repeated attacks. The Comanches finally withdrew and the alliance fell apart. Quanah was wounded, but emerged from the Red River War as a great chief.
Just before dawn On September 28, 1874, Colonel Ranald Mackenzie's 4th Cavalry and Tonkawa scouts stumbled upon a large camp of sleeping Comanches in Palo Duro Canyon and attacked it. They massacred women and children, and destroyed the entire camp. The soldiers and scouts then shot all the horses that the Tonkawa scouts did not keep for themselves. Some of the dead bodies were pillaged and desecrated. They were decapitated and their heads sent to Washington, D.C., for scientific study.
Colonel Mackenzie issued an order that all Comanche who did not submit to reservation life would be exterminated. An envoy of Mackenzie, doctor and post interpreter Jacob J. Sturm, sought out Quanah and his people with an offer of fair treatment if he surrendered. As women, elders, and children were non-combatants, their welfare was of great concern to Quanah.
To the reservation
With their land stolen, the wildlife all but gone because of the white invasion and continual warfare with the U.S. Army, Quanah realized that there was no other choice but to capitulate. On June 2, 1875, he and his band the last free Comanche people surrendered at Fort Sill in present-day Oklahoma, and were sent to the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Indian Reservation. The Quahadi did not receive the fair treatment that they were promised; instead, they were abused and humiliated.
Nevertheless, for the following 25 years, Quanah led his people with forceful, yet down-to-earth leadership. He promoted self-reliance. He quickly accommodated himself to the white culture by learning Spanish and English, adopting new agricultural methods, promoting the creation of a ranching industry and leading the way by becoming a successful stockman. He also created wealth for fellow Indians by persuading them to lease surplus tribal lands to white cattlemen. He promoting education for his fellow Indians. To that end, he supported school construction on reservation lands and encouraged Indian youth to learn the white man's ways.
His influence also was successful in preventing the spread of the militant Ghost Dance among his people, which generated uprisings elsewhere.
Quanah had joined the white mans world, but he did it his way. He refused to cut his long braids, or forsake polygamy. Over his lifetime, Quanah Parker was reported to have had seven wives and as many as 25 children. Many people are descendants of Quanah Parker. His family has branches on both sides of his heritage, Comanche and white.
In 1892, the Jerome Commission coerced the three reservation tribes into accepting an agreement providing for the allotment and sale of about two-thirds of the reservation to the United States.
In 1905, Quanah was one of five chiefs chosen to ride in Theodore Roosevelt's inaugural parade. He rode beside Geronimo. Among his friends were cattleman Charles Goodnight and the president himself.
Quanah Parker was the only Comanche ever recognized by the U.S. Government with the title, "Chief of the Comanche Indians." He was a major figure both in Comanche resistance to white invasion and in the tribe's adjustment to reservation life.
A resilient leader falls
On February 11, 1911, while visiting the Cheyenne Reservation, Quanah became ill with an undiagnosed ailment. After returning home, he died on February 23.
Two of his wives, To-nar-cy and To-pay, were with him. Sixteen of his 25 children survived him. Quanah Parker was a warrior, compassionate leader, and peacemaker. His funeral was the largest ever witnessed in that part of Oklahoma in which he had lived. At his funeral, he was dressed in the full regalia of a Comanche chief. He is buried next to his mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, in the military cemetery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Resting Here Until Day Breaks
And Shadows Fall and Darkness
Disappears is Quanah Parker
Last Chief of the Comanche
Died Feb. 23, 1911
The epitaph of Quanah Parker
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glint in snow
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush.
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
šA level, semiarid, plateau-like region that marks the southernmost extent of the High Plains, 40,000 square miles of eastern New Mexico and west Texas, between the Pecos River and the Cap Rock escarpment. The Llano Estacado is one of the largest expanses of near-featureless terrain in the U.S. Early Spanish explorers, who placed marker stakes to avoid losing their way on the flat land, named the region.
˛ The Quahadi Comanche waged a hit-and-run guerrilla war, much as the Patriots did during the War of Independence.