Published on February 15, 2011 by Alice
During his youth, Stumbling Bear became an influential war chief noted for leading raids against the Sac and Fox, Pawnees, and Navajos as well as against white settlers. A cousin of Kicking Bird, he would become well known among the Kiowas as a warrior, chief, and advocat of peace. The name by which he is widely known is a mistranslation of his Kiowa name, Setimkia, which really means “Charging Bear” or “An Animal Pressing Down.”
In 1854, he sought to avenge his brother’s death by leading a raid against the Pawnee. Failing to engage the Pawnee, his men met up with some Sac and Fox warriors who defeated him with better firearms. As a result of this incident, the Kiowas decided that they needed superior firepower to continue their role as one of the predominant raiders on the Southern Plains, so they began to raid white wagon trains to gain better arms.
In 1856, Stumbling Bear raided the Navajos and secured a large booty. By the early 1860′s, he was the scourge of the Southern Plains when U.S. forces there were weakened by the advent of the Civil War in the East.
In the winter of 1864-1865 the Kiowa, Apache and a part of the Comanche were camped on the South Canadian at Guadaldoha (Red Bluff) between Adobe Walls and Mustang Creek in Texas. They were attacked by Kit Carson, a detachment of troops and a number of Ute and Jicarillo Apache. In the fighting 5 people were killed, including 2 women, then they had to abandon the camp, which was then burned. Stumbling Bear was one of the leading warriors in the camp, killing one soldier and a Ute and killing or wounding another soldier who fell from his horse. He and the warriors kept the attacking party off so the camp could escape.
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Stumbling Bear was present at the signing of the Medicine Lodge Treaty in 1867. Soon after the signing of the Treaty of Medicine Lodge, however, both Stumbling Bear and Kicking Bird became ardent advocates of peace with the whites. In 1872, he journeyed to Washington D.C., with a delegation of Kiowa chiefs who sought peace. When the Comanches under Quanah Parker started the Red River War in 1874, Stumbling Bear advocated peace with whites and was a rival of the more militant Lone Wolf.
As a result of his actions for peace, the federal government built a home for Stumbling Bear in 1878 on the Kiowa Reservation in Indian Terretory. These were the first Indian houses built. They were reasonablely good frame houses, three rooms, doors, glass windows, and double fireplaces, built at a cost of about $600.00 each. He lived there until his death in 1903. At the time of his death at Fort Sill, Stumbling Bear was the last surviving Kiowa chief from the old raiding days on the Southern Plains
Information from “The Ten Grandmothers” by Alice Marriott, published by University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1945; and “Calender History of the Kiowa Indians” by James Mooney, published by Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. from reports, 1895-1896.