Sunday, April 23, 2017

Lake Quanah Parker and the Wichita Mountains

Chief Quanah Parker, Last Chief of the Comanche
Leaving Lake Frederick, we were back on the road by 0900.  Because Baseline Road was closed to the east for road construction, we had to backtrack through Manitou.  Going back north on Rt. 183, we turned east on Rt. 62 just south of Snyder.  At Cache, we went north on Rt. 115 through the Wichita Federal Wildlife area.  After the bison were hunted to near extinction, this is where they were reintroduced to the plains. (See post for Jan 12, 2016, Wichita Wildlife Refuge)  This is an interesting area to visit, and Doris Campground is right in the refuge on the north side of Lake Quanah Parker.
Quanah Parker was the last chief of the Comanche, and this area was home to him for most of his life.  He was born between 1842 and 1852 (he estimated in 1850) to Comanche Chief Peta Nokona and Cynthia Ann Parker.  His mother had been taken at the age of nine in a raid on Fort Parker in 1836 near present Groesbeck, Texas, and was assimilated into the Comanche life.  It was from Fort Parker that he adopted the last name of Parker later in life.  His mother was recovered by Texas Rangers after 24 years with the Comanche and returned to her family, but she refused to return to white culture.  She died in 1870 from influenza.

Chief Parker became a very successful farmer and
business man.  In these meetings he would most
likely be seen in his white man's dress.
Quanah was recognized as the natural leader of the Comanche, but had never been elected chief by the tribe.  He was a tribal representative at Medicine Lodge, but refused to sign the treaty and led the Comanche on an 8-year battle against the whites and the Army.  He is recognized as the only warrior leader to have never lost a battle to the whites.  The Army tried to starve out the Native Americans by killing off all the bison, and then in 1874, they killed 1,500 Comanche horses, the tribe’s most valuable resource.  Quanah finally gathered the Comanche and led them to the reservation in 1875.  Because of his leadership with the tribe, the rank of Chief was granted to him by the U.S. Government for their own convenience.  The Comanche had never had a central chief, as each tribal band had its own chief.  Designating a sole chief gave the government one person to negotiate with.  Chief Parker, through wise investment and shrewd operation as a rancher near Cache, became recognized as the wealthiest Native American in the U.S.  He built Star House at Fort Sill to finally move his five wives and children out of tipis.  Star House still stands, but was moved to a property at Cache where efforts are still being negotiated to save it.  He was visited a number of times by Theodore Roosevelt, and he led the President on hunting trips in the area.  He died in 1911, at the age of about 66, and is buried on Chief’s Knoll at Fort Sill. 

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