Parker County Today August 2016 - Page 17

A chief refused to offer resistance or strike back at his assailant. Nothing Quanah would do would provoke Lone Wolf to fight. Consequently, the Comanches won their argument.” This only deepened the ranchers’ regard for the chief. “In return for Quanah’s loyalty, and out of friendship for him, the ranchers made every effort to make the Comanche chief comfortable,” wrote Neeley. “In the mid-1880s, Burk Burnett built him a house… .” The Star House, Quanah’s two-story, eight-bedroom home, having stood vacant for nearly 60 years, last year made the New York Times. Heavy rains caused damage to the already-dilapidated house with the big stars on the roof. The stars are said to have symbolized the chief’s status as an equal of generals. Quanah influenced his people Mary Couts Burnette and thereby history in many practical matters. “… 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. Along with his support for ranching, education, and agriculture, he served as a judge on the tribal court, an innovation J.R. Couts based on county tribunals; negotiated business agreements with white investors; and fought attempts to roll back the changes instituted under his direction. Here, his influence was most keenly felt in his successful attempt to prevent the spread of the ghost dance among his people. He also approved the establishment of a Comanche police force, which he believed would help the Indians to manage their own affairs.” — Handbook of Texas Online. Through shrewd investments and an innovative mindset, Quanah may well have been the wealthiest Native American in the country at the time, and certainly one of the better known. Magazine reporters queued up to interview the chief on everything from Comanche culture to political policy and current social issues. Celebrity suited him and he reportedly enjoyed his influence immensely. T hough Quanah urged his people to embrace white ways, he did not suggest his followers repudiate or abandon their cultural heritage. He never kowtowed to the whites. Finding himself in a strongly “Christian” environment, he often felt pressure to conform to an alien culture. However, he refused the concept of monogamy and ignored other conventions of the time. “[He] maintained a twenty-tworoom house for his seven wives and numerous children. He refused to cut his long braids. He rejected [traditional] Christianity, even though Continued on page 18 AUGUST 2016 PA R K E R C O U N T Y T O D AY s chief of the Comanches, Quanah entered into an agreement that allowed Burnett to lease 300,000 acres of Comanche and Kiowa land in Indian Territory for just six and a half cents an acre. (As an interesting aside, Burk Burnett in 1892 married Mary Couts of Weatherford, daughter of J.R. Couts, an influential banker with a penchant for law and order on the rough and tumble frontier of North Texas.) Burnett’s son T.L. “Tom” Burnett also became fast friends with Quanah and his family. Born in 1871 on the family ranch in Denton County, Texas, Tom was the chief’s junior by some 26 years. Like his father, he was a cattleman through and through. According to the Handbook of Texas Online: “His first love was the cattle business, and at age sixteen he was sent as a cowhand to help look after his father’s herds in the Big Pasture, the vast acreage in Indian Territory that the Burnetts, Waggoners, and other area ranchers had leased from the Fort Sill Indian Agency.” According to Neeley, writing in The Last Comanche Chief, Quanah’s friendship with the younger Burnett, “helped to bind the relationship between the cattlemen and the Indians.” These close relations with various ranchers constituted an odd alliance. In a perhaps unprecedented variation on the “Cowboys and Indians” theme, the land leases made allies of the Comanche and the ranchers who both despised the settlers flooding onto reservation/leased land. At times there arose bitter disagreements between Quanah and Kiowa chiefs who weren’t so keen on his land-lease strategy. An example of such trouble is a bit of reservation diplomacy between Quanah and Kiowa Chief Lone Wolf that reportedly occurred sometime between 1885 and 1890. The Oklahoma newspaper the Hobart Democrat-Chief published the following Aug. 4, 1925: “Quanah Parker started the fight by slapping Lone Wolf, but the latter did not move. Then Quanah hit Lone Wolf over the head with a six-shooter, but still the Kiowa 15