Quanah Parker

Quanah Parker (1845 – 1911) was the last chief of the Quahada Comanche Indians. He was a major figure both in Comanche resistance to white settlement and in the tribe’s adjustment to reservation life. Parker had many roles, including nomadic hunter, leader of the Quahada assault on Adobe Walls in 1874, cattle rancher, entrepreneur, and friend of American presidents. Quanah was an accomplished horseman and proved himself to be an able leader.

By the 1860s, the Quahadas were known as the most distant and warlike of the various Comanche bands. They roamed the Texas plains. Attempts of the Fourth U.S. Cavalry to track and control Parker’s Quahadas in 1871 and 1872 failed. Not only was the army unable to find the Indians, but the troopers lost several horses when Quanah and his followers raided the cavalry campsite. Afterward, the Indians disappeared onto the plains, only to reappear and attack again.

Then white buffalo hunters began to pour onto the plains, destroying the Indians’ main source of existence. Determined to maintain their independence, the Quahadas, led by Quanah and a medicine man named Isa-tai, formed a multitribal alliance. On the morning of June 27, 1874, this alliance of some 700 warriors—Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Kiowas, and Comanches—attacked the twenty-eight hunters and one woman housed at Adobe Walls. From the Indians’ point of view, the raid was a disaster. Their planned surprise was foiled, and the hunters’ had superior weapons that enabled them to fend off repeated attacks. Defeated and disorganized, the Indians retreated and the alliance crumbled. Within a year Parker and the Quahadas were forced to surrender their independence and move to the Kiowa-Comanche reservation in southwestern Oklahoma.

Most Quahadas, indeed most Indians, found adjustment to the reservation life difficult. Quanah, however, easily made the transition. Federal agents, seeking a way to unite the various Comanche bands, named him chief. Over the next quarter century, Quanah provided his people with leadership. As chief, Quanah Parker worked to promote self-sufficiency and self-reliance. He supported the construction of schools on reservation lands and encouraged Indian youths to learn the white man’s ways. Parker promoted the creation of a ranching industry and led the way by becoming a successful and quite wealthy stock raiser himself. He also supported agreements with white ranchers allowing them to lease grazing lands within the Comanche reservation. In addition, he called on his followers to construct houses of the white man's design and to plant crops. In general, then, Parker was an assimilationist, an advocate of cooperation with whites and, in many cases, of cultural transformation.

Parker invested in the railways and became a very wealthy man. Yet, Quanah did not completely reject his past or try to force his followers to abandon their traditions altogether. He refused to cut his long braids. He rejected Christianity, even though his son, White Parker, was a Methodist minister.

Despite his efforts to protect his people and their land base, by 1901 the federal government voted to break up the Kiowa-Comanche reservation into individual holdings and open it to settlement by outsiders. The Comanche were dispersed. Parker died in 1911.

Source: Quanah Parker
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