Beasts of Ephesus

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Profile: Quanah Parker

Posted by jase on July 19, 2009

Quanah Parker (c. late 1840s – February 23, 1911) was a Native American Indian leader, the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and European American woman Cynthia Ann Parker, and the last chief of the Quahadi Comanche Indians.

Quanah Parker’s mother, Cynthia Ann Parker {b.ca 1827}, was a member of the large Parker frontier family that settled in east Texas in the 1830s. She was captured in 1836 by Comanches during the raid of Fort Parker near present-day Groesbeck, Texas. She was given the Indian name Nadua (“Someone Found”), and adopted into the Nocona band of Comanches. Cynthia Ann eventually married the Comanche warrior Noconie, (aka Tah-con-ne-ah-pe-ah) (called Peta Nocona by the whites), who was a Mexican captive. Quanah was her firstborn son. She also had another son, Pecos (“Pecan”) and a daughter, Topsana (“Prairie Flower)” In 1860, Cynthia Ann Parker was recaptured in the battle of Pease River by Texas Rangers under Lawrence Sullivan Ross. Peta Nocona, Quanah, and most of the other men were out hunting when Ross’ men attacked. Returning to find the aftermath, they found it difficult to get any information as only a few people were still alive. Meanwhile, Cynthia Ann was reunited with her white family, but years with the Comanches had made her a different person. She frequently demanded to return to her husband, but was never permitted to do so. After Topsana died of an illness in 1863, Cynthia Ann starved herself to death in 1870.

In October, 1867, Quanah was among the Comanche chiefs at Medicine Lodge. Though he did not give a speech – his place was as an observer – he did make a statement about not signing 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. Following the capture of the Kiowa chiefs Satank, Adoeet (Big Tree), and Satanta, the Kiowa, Comanche, and Cheyenne tribes joined forces in several battles. Colonel Ranald Mackenzie was sent to eradicate all remaining Indians who had not settled on reservations.

In 1874, while in the Texas panhandle, a Comanche prophet named Isatai summoned the tribes to Second Battle of Adobe Walls, where several buffalo hunters were active. With Kiowa Chief Big Bow, Quanah was in charge of one group of warriors. The incident was his closest brush with death; he was shot twice.

With their food source depleted, and under constant pressure from the army, the Quahadi Comanches finally surrendered and in 1875 moved to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma. His home in Cache, Oklahoma was called the Star House. Parker’s was the last tribe of the Staked Plains or Llano Estacado to come to the reservation. Quanah was named chief over all the Comanches on the reservation, and proved to be a forceful, resourceful and able leader. Through wise investments, he became perhaps the wealthiest American Indian of his day in the United States. Quanah embraced much of white culture, and was well respected by the whites. He went on hunting trips with President Theodore Roosevelt. Nevertheless, he rejected both monogamy and traditional Protestant Christianity in favor of the Native American Church Movement. He had five wives and twenty five children and founded the Native American Church. One of his sons, White Parker, later became a Methodist minister.

Author Bill Neeley writes:

“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.”

Quanah died on February 23, 1911. He is buried at the Fort Sill Cemetery, beside his mother and sister. The inscription on his tombstone reads:

Resting Here Until Day Breaks
And Shadows Fall and Darkness
Disappears is
Quanah Parker Last Chief of the Comanches
Born 1852
Died Feb. 23, 1911 Quanah Parker is credited as one of the first big leaders of the Native American Church Movement. Parker adopted the peyote religion after being gored in southern Texas by a bull. Parker was visiting his mother’s brother, John Parker, in Texas where he was attacked, giving him severe wounds. To fight an onset of blood burning fever, a Mexican curandera was summoned and she prepared a strong peyote tea from fresh peyote to heal him. It was from this incident on that Quanah Parker became involved with peyote . Peyote is reported to contain hordenine and tyramine, phenylethylamine alkaloids which act as potent natural antibiotics when taken in a combined form.

Parker taught that the sacred peyote medicine was the sacrament given to the Indian Peoples , and was to be used with water when taking communion in a traditional Native American Church medicine ceremony. Parker was a proponent of the “half-moon” style of the peyote ceremony. The “cross” ceremony later evolved in Oklahoma due to Caddo influences introduced by John Wilson, a Caddo-Delaware Indian who traveled extensively around the same time as Parker during the early days of the Native American Church movement. The Native American Church was the first truly “American” religion based on Christianity outside of the Latter Day Saints.

Parker’s most famous teaching regarding the Spirituality of the Native American Church:

The White Man goes into his church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his Tipi and talks with Jesus.

The modern reservation era in Native American History began with the universal adoption of the Native American Church and Christianity by virtually every Native American Tribe and Culture within North American and Canada as a result of Parker and Wilson’s efforts. The Peyote religion and the Native American Church, however, was never the traditional religious practice of North American Indian Cultures. This religion was driven by Parker’s leadership and was driven by influences from Mexico and other Southern Tribes who have used peyote since ancient times. Under Parker’s leadership, peyote became an important item of trade, and this, combined with his Church movement and political and financial contacts, garnered Parker enormous wealth during his lifetime.

Criticism

Although praised by many in his tribe as a preserver of their culture, Quanah had critics within the Comanche community. Many claimed that he “sold out to the white man” with his rancher persona in later life, dressing and living in a more American than Comanche style. Quanah did adopt more white ways than most other Comanche of his time, but he always wore his hair long and in braids. He also refused to follow white American marriage customs, which would have required him to cast aside four of his five wives.

Another point of controversy among the Comanche was that Quanah was never elected chief of the entire tribe by the people themselves. Traditionally, the Comanche had no single chief. The various bands of the Comanche had their own chiefs, with no single figure standing for the entire people. But that, as many other things, changed with the reservation times.

Family

Quanah’s grandfather was the Chief Iron Jacket, famous among the Comanches as a powerful chief who wore a Spanish coat of mail and was said to have the power to blow bullets away with his breath.

Quanah’s first wife was Weakeah, daughter of Comanche chief Yellow Bear. Originally, she was espoused to another warrior. Quanah and Weakeah eloped, and took several other warriors with them. It was from this small group that the large Quahadi band would form. Yellow Bear pursued the band and eventually Quanah made peace with him, and the two bands united, forming the largest force of Comanche Indians.

Over the years, Quanah accumulated four more wives. He had twenty-five children. Many north Texans and south Oklahomans claim descent from Quanah. It had been said that more Comanches are related to Quanah than any other chief. One grandson became Comanche chairman, the modern “Chief” of the tribe.

After moving to the reservation, Quanah first got in touch with his white relatives. He stayed for a few weeks with them, where he studied English and western culture, and learned white farming techniques.

In his later years, Quanah carried on a correspondence by letter with Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight. Though Goodnight was illiterate, he dictated the letters to his wife, who in turn sent them to Quanah.

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2 Responses to “Profile: Quanah Parker”

  1. RB said

    Thank you.

    Some parargraphs have been duplicated above.

  2. John Bray said

    Fascinating life story of this warrior. Thanks

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