Published on November 26, 2012 by Amy
Dohäsan, Dohosan, Tauhawsin or Tohausen (late 1780s to early 1790s – 1866) was a prominent Native American. He was War Chief of the Kata or Arikara band of the Kiowa Indians, and then Principal Chief of the entire Kiowa Tribe, a position he held for an extraordinary 33 years. He is best remembered as the last undisputed Principal Chief of the Kiowa people before the Reservation Era, and the battlefield leader of the Plains Tribes in the largest battle ever fought between the Plains tribes and the United States.
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Dohäsan’s name, which was hereditary, has been variously translated as Little Mountain, Little Bluff, or Top-of-the-Mountain. He was the son of a chief named Dohá (Bluff). Because his name, and the Chieftainship of his band, was hereditary, (though not necessarily father to son) – Dohäsan himself was succeeded by his nephew, rather than one of his sons, and though his father was a chief, it was his uncle who was the hereditary war chief from whom he got his name.
The Arikara band was so named because of their close trading relationship with the Arikaras in the upper Missouri valley during the tribe’s early recorded history. Because of their trading relationships with traders from the US, Spain, and the French, the Kiowa, and the Arikata in particular, were well known to European-Americans. Dohäsan was known to traders as early as the late 1820s. He gained a reputation as a fierce, but tricky, warrior and successful war chief. Dohäsan was a member of the elite warrior society, the Koitsenko.
Although his position as Chief of the Arikara band was hereditary, the Principal Chief of the entire Kiowa people was not a hereditary position. The elders of all the bands met together and elected the Principal Chief, and he generally held that position the rest of his life. Dohäsan became principal chief of the Kiowas in the spring of 1833, after the tribe elders and sub-chiefs deposed then-Principal Chief A’date. This followed the massacre of A’date’s village by Osages at Cutthroat Gap, near the head of Otter Creek in what became the Indian Territory of the Oklahomas. Dohäsan was the last undisputed Principal Chief of the Kiowa Tribe while they were a free people.
After A’date was deposed, and Dohäsan arose to become principal Chief of the entire Kiowa people, the United States Army became acquainted with Dohäsan. The slaughter of an entire village of the Kiowa prompted the dragoon expedition of Colonel Henry Dodge to Western Oklahoma in the summer of 1834. Dohäsan was among those on hand to greet the colonel and his expedition. Artist George Catlin, who accompanied the expedition, sketched and painted Dohäsan ‘s portrait. The purpose of the expedition was to end the ferocious fighting between the various Plains Tribes, and in May 1837 Dohäsan was one of the principals who signed the Fort Gibson Treaty, by which the United States government sought to end intertribal warfare in Indian Territory.
Treaties did little to end the Kiowas’ frequent raids for horses and other plunder, and it is arguable whether they even slowed the fighting between the tribes. Texas was basically wide open to joint Kiowa-Comanche raids, and the annual raids into Mexico became a dreaded part of life in both Mexico proper and its northern states. In his raids, Dohäsan and his tribesmen and allied Comanche came to live in the winter in the Staked Plains, especially along the Canadian River valley and Palo Duro Canyon, which served as a base for both wintering and the ever increasing annual raids.
At Palo Duro Canyon, on September 17, 1845, he was sketched by Lt. James W. Abert in his watercolor portfolio. In the summer of 1851 Dohäsan led a war party of the various Kiowa bands, and allied Comanches against the Pawnees near the head of Medicine Lodge Creek in Kansas, slaughtering them.
His name again rises in Army records in 1857 when he successfully led his warriors out of an ambush by Mexican soldiers at Hueco Tanks near El Paso Norte in Texas. The Mexicans had pursued the raiders north out of Mexico, and hoped to eliminate them. Instead, most of the Mexican troops were killed or wounded.
The American Government was anxious to keep the Kiowa friendly as the Civil War beckoned, and in late 1859, as a goodwill gesture, Major John Sedgwick’s troops gave Dohäsan an old army ambulance wagon along with the usual presents. When he was unable to master the art of driving a team, Dohäsan had a couple of Kiowa boys ride the harnessed horses as he sat in the driver’s seat.
In 1861, when federal authorities threatened to withhold annuity goods and send troops against the Kiowas if they did not cease their raiding, Dohäsan angrily and contemptuously called the “white chief” a fool with the “heart of a woman.”