Published on March 3, 2011 by Carol
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Quanah Parker (ca. 1845–February 23, 1911) was an important Comanche chief, a leader in the Native American Church, and the last leader of the powerful Quahadi band before they surrendered their battle of the Great Plains and went to a reservation in Indian Territory. He was the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, a European American, who had been captured at the age of nine and adopted into the tribe. Quanah Parker also led his people on the reservation, where he became a wealthy rancher and influential in Comanche and European American society. With five wives and 25 children, Quanah had numerous descendants. Many people in Texas and Oklahoma claim him as an ancestor.
Quanah Parker’s mother, Cynthia Ann Parker (born ca. 1827), was a member of the large Parker frontier family that settled in east Texas in the 1830s. She was captured in 1836 (at age nine) by Comanches during the raid of Fort Parker near present-day Groesbeck, Texas. Given the Indian name Nadua (Someone Found), she was adopted into the Nocona band of Comanches.
Assimilated into the Comanche, Cynthia Ann later married the warrior Peta Nocona, (also known as Noconie, Tah-con-ne-ah-pe-ah, or Nocona). His father was the renowned chief Iron Jacket, famous among the Comanche for wearing a Spanish coat of mail. He was said to have the power to blow bullets away with his breath.
Nadua and Nocona’s first child was Quanah (Fragrance) born in the Wichita Mountains. The exact birthplace is debated, but Quanah visited what he understood to be his birthplace at Laguna Sabinas (Cedar Lake) in Gaines County, Texas in his later years. They also had another son, Peanuts, and a daughter, Topsana (Prairie Flower). In December 1860, Nadua (Cynthia Ann) and Topsana were captured in the battle of Pease River by Texas Rangers under Lawrence Sullivan Ross. Quanah and his brother Peanuts escaped on a horse together, but their father, Peta Nocona was killed by Sul Ross who would later become the governor of Texas.
Meanwhile, Nadua (Cynthia Ann) and her mixed-race daughter were reunited with her white family, but after having made her life 24 years with the Comanche, she wanted to return to them and her sons. She was never permitted to do so. Her daughter Topsana died of an illness in 1863. Cynthia Ann lost her will to live and starved to death in 1870.
Quanah joined the Destanyuka band, where Chief Wild Horse took him under his wing. Though he grew to considerable standing as a warrior, he never felt comfortable with the Destanyuka. He left and formed the Quahadi (Antelope Eaters) band with warriors from another tribe. The Quahadi grew in number, becoming the largest of the Comanche bands, and also the most notorious. Quanah Parker became a leader of the Quahadi, and led them successfully for a number of years. In October 1867, Quanah was among the Comanche chiefs as an observer at treaty negotiations at Medicine Lodge. He made a statement about his refusal to sign the Medicine Lodge Treaty. His band remained free while other Comanches signed.
In the early 1870s, the Plains Indians were losing the battle for their land with the United States government. Following the capture of the Kiowa chiefs Satank, Adoeet (Big Tree), and Satanta, the Kiowa, Comanche, and Southern Cheyenne tribes joined forces in several battles. Colonel Ranald Mackenzie led US Army forces to round up or kill the remaining Indians who had not settled on reservations.
In June 1874, a Comanche prophet named Isa-tai summoned the tribes in the Texas Panhandle to the Second Battle of Adobe Walls, where several American buffalo hunters were active. With Kiowa Chief Big Bow, Quanah was in charge of one group of warriors. The Indians were repelled by long range Sharps rifles and, as they retreated, Quanah’s horse was shot out from under him at five hundred yards. He was then hit by a ricocheting bullet that lodged in his shoulder. The attack on Adobe Walls caused a reversal of policy in Washington and led to the Red River War which culminated in a decisive Army victory in the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon. On September 28, 1874, Mackenzie and his Tonkawa scouts razed the Comanche village at Palo Duro Canyon and killed nearly 1,500 Comanche horses, a source of the Comanche wealth and power.
Quanah died on February 23, 1911, at Star House. He was buried at the Fort Sill Cemetery, beside his mother and sister. The inscription on his tombstone reads:
Biographer Bill Neeley wrote: “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 never lost a battle to the white man and he also accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the whole Comanche tribe on the difficult road toward their new existence.”