Parker County Today April 2016 - Page 24

PA R K E R C O U N T Y T O D AY APRIL 2016 uncanny grasp of things that were and of things that could be, led his people as they struggled to swallow their pride and start down a path they never thought they would see stretched before them — the White Man’s Road. According to the Handbook of Texas Online: “While most Quahadas, indeed most Indians, found adjustment to the reservation life difficult or impossible, Quanah made the transition with such seeming ease that federal agents, seeking a way to unite the various Comanche bands, named him chief. While this action was recognized as lying outside the jurisdiction of the federal government and, perhaps more significantly, utterly without precedent in Comanche tradition, the tribe, essentially leaderless, acquiesced. It was a fortuitous choice, for over the next quarter century, Quanah provided his people with forceful, yet pragmatic, leadership.” Quanah’s agenda was simple — assimilate without forfeiting honor. He promoted self-sufficiency and selfreliance, supported construction of schools on reservation lands. In fact, he urged Indian youths to embrace the white man’s ways, something he had fought against his entire life. He saw this as the only way forward that did not end in more misery for his people. Other Comanche leaders vied for the position of principal chief of the Comanches. Quanah was simply a more attractive candidate to the white authorities: he’d seen the writing on the wall and spoken in favor of coming in to the reservation, displaying an acumen that caused the whites to see him as their best hope for a successful transition. And Quanah held a very desirable hole card — he was half white. Once he revealed this to his old enemy Gen. Ranald S. MacKenzie, the authorities saw him in an even more favorable light. Not surprisingly, his rivals immediately credited his white blood for his swift rise to preeminence. Historian Ernest Wallace disagreed, writing: “He [Quanah] cooperated intelligently as a free Comanche — not to be mistaken for a white man’s Indian.” Learning of his white side, MacKenzie immediately tried to contact Quanah’s mother, the famous Comanche captive Cynthia Ann Parker, only to learn she had died in 1870 in Anderson County, Texas. According to William T. Hagan, writing in American Indian Leaders: “Two years later MacKenzie wrote one of Cynthia Ann’s brothers in Texas, conveying Quanah’s desire to meet his Texas relatives and his request for a wagon to help him live like a white man. His letter apparently brought no response. It was not until Quanah became a celebrity that his white relatives were interested in acknowledging their relationship to a former Comanche raider.” Apparently, Quanah’s surrender sans obeisance and his sheer usefulness to the whites in controlling the Comanches and cleaning up the spotty resistance still sprinkled across the Llano Estacado softened MacKenzie somewhat; but relatively little is known of their posthostilities relationship. In a 2010 interview with historynet. com, author S.C. Gwynne (Empire of the Summer Moon), asked about MacKenzie’s meeting with Quanah and their subsequent relationship, said: “A historian would like to have seen into that room. Mackenzie gave [Quanah] 22 etiquette lessons, spent time with him, tried to find his family, and gave him jobs to do. There was clearly this relationship. Unfortunately, because of the nature of Mackenzie, he never said anything. Mackenzie would have been famous if he had only written the kinds of reports Custer did. Mackenzie’s reports were, ‘Went into field…killed Indians…end of report.’ Of course, from Quanah you get anecdotal accounts, but hardly anything. It’s just frustrating.” Quanah’s prodigious influence prevented the spread of the pan-Native American Ghost Dance among the Comanche, an outcome that served both U.S. and Comanche interests. Had the dance caught on the U.S. Army almost certainly would have taken action to squelch the unrest, as it did in other areas of the country. White/ Indian relations would have been set back. The Ghost Dance’s initiator, Wodziwob [Gray Hair], claimed while in a trance to have visited another world where he learned an Indian resistance movement soon would roll back the white tide, restore the Indian to his former life and return the all-important buffalo to the plains. The plains would become happy hunting grounds on Earth. All the Indians had to do was perform certain round dances at night. “Not all Indian tribes fell under the influence of the Ghost Dance. The Comanche Chief Quanah Parker did not believe Wovoka’s [another Ghost Dance proponent] promise of invincibility to the white man’s bullets because he had listened to a similar prophecy sixteen years [earlier] which was included in the incantations of Esa-tai, the Wolf Prophet. He had believed Esa-tai in 1874, but not now, because it was clear to him that the return of the buffalo and the former way of life was not going to occur no matter how desperately Wovoka and his disciples throughout the many tribes hoped for their vision. Quanah’s counseling against the Ghost Dance prevented the Comanche from experiencing a similar tragedy as those at Wounded Knee.” — The tragedy averted? On Dec. 29, 1890, the U.S. Cavalry killed 146 Sioux at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The prevalence of the Ghost Dance and its accompanying beliefs at the reservation led to what is commonly known as the Massacre at Wounded Knee. Sources: • Handbook of Texas Online • The Last Comanche Chief: The Life a nd Times of Quanah Parker, Bill Neely, 1995, John Wiley and Sons, Inc. • Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, S.C. Gwynne, Scribner, 2010 • • Ranald S. Mackenzie on the Texas Frontier, by Ernest Wallace, West Texas Museum and Association, 1964. • Other Internet sources