By: Victoria Yates
Quanah Parker, born 1850, was the son of the Comanche Chief Puhtocnocony (Peta Nocona) and Cynthia Ann Parker who was captured in 1836 after a raid on Parker's Fort, Texas. His parents had several children together and remained living with the Comanche until his mother was recaptured in 1860. His mother couldn't readjust to life back home and frequently demanded to return to her husband. Her request was never granted and after her daughter died of illness Cynthia starved herself to death.
The loss of Cynthia embittered Peta Nocona who was injured not too long afterwards in another raid. Before his death he told his son of his mother's recapture, for which Quanah was taunted and called a half-breed. Upon the death of his father, the band split and Quanah joined the Destanyuka band where though he gained standing as a warrior, he never truly felt comfortable. He went off to form the Quahadi who grew in notoriety and numbers, becoming one of the largest Comanche tribes.
Quanah and the Quahada Comanche (who his father had led) refused to accept the 1867 treaty which offered to clothe and feed the Indians and turn them into imitations of the white farmers on the Southern Plains reservation. Instead Quanah decided on a path of aggression, given the past inconsistencies between word and deed amongst the "White Men". He raided in Texas and Mexico, almost dying at Adobe walls in the Texas panhandle in 1874 when he was shot twice.
In the year of 1874-75 the US Army was relentless in pressuring the tribes and, hungry and tired, the tribe moved to the reservation in 1875 Oklahoma. Quanah's tribe was the last in the Staked plains to move to the reservation. On the reservation he was named chief of all the Comanche, proving more than able for the job and with a resourceful and forceful nature. He amassed perhaps the greatest wealth for an American Indian of his day through wise investments, and soon acclimatised to the white culture.
He was respected by all and even went on hunting trips with Theodore Roosevelt. Even whilst adhering to new ways, he refused to give up some of his beliefs, refusing monogamy and raising alarm with the reservation agents. On learning English he became a reservation judge and a politician, lobbying with the government on behalf of "his people."
Bill Neeley, a biographer, wrote of him: "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 accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the whole Comanche tribe on the difficult road toward their new existence."
Part of this process involved the formation of the Native American Church, based on an experience of Jesus when under the influence of peyote. He believed peyote to be Jesus' sacrament to the American Indians, partaking in some at each gathering. The most famous of his lessons given in Church was that "the White Man goes into his Church to talk about Jesus. The Indian goes into his Tipi to talk to Jesus." He eventually died in 1911, at which time he was buried next to his mother and sister, his tombstone stating "Quanah Parker last Chief of the Comanche."
Quanah led his people through a time of immense change, adopting culture whilst maintaining his own values in a way that earned the respect of those on both sides of the culture conflict.