Quanah Parker - Last Chief to the Comanche
Quanah Parker wearing headdress ~
Eagle of the Comanche ~
Quanah Parker was the last chief of the Comanche. He was known by his people as "The Eagle Of The Comanches". He earned this title from his early show of prowess and the powerful Eagle Dance for young warriors. Through the Eagle Dance came the source of a young boy's power by vision. Although the Eagle Dance was significant to Quanah's spiritual power and vision, his true power and medicine came from the Bear.
By the age of fifteen, Quanah was already a recognized and respected warrior. During his years as a Chief he never lost a battle to white men. In full war dress he wore a necklace of bear claws. Quanah said, "Sometimes a Comanche man dreams and a big bear comes and tells him you do this - you paint your face this way. I help you, if he sees bear in his dreams then he makes medicine that way." ("Medicine" means that which one's source of power comes from.)
Quanah was not only a fearsome, undefeated warrior chief, but, a man of great intelligence. When he realized that to continue fighting the white man meant certain starvation and death for all his people, he became a bridge to the new world and helped his people adjust to a new way of life.
I have seen him shrinking from civilized approach, which came with all its vices, like the dead of night upon him. I have seen him gaze and then retreat like the frightened deer ... seen him shrinking from the soil and haunts of his boyhood, bursting the strongest ties which bound him to the earth and its pleasures.— George Catlin, 1796 - 1872
Quanah Parker, 1845 - 1911 ~
Warrior of fierce passion and prowess ~
Quanah was born sometime around 1850 to Peta Nocona, Quahada Comanche Chief, and Cynthia Ann Parker. Cynthia Ann, a white woman, was captured by the Comanches from Parker's Fort in 1836. She was only nine years old at the time. The Comanche family who adopted and raised her truly learned to love her and treated her kindly, as their own daughter. She eventually became, in her own heart, a Comanche.
Peta and Cynthia Ann had three children, Quanah was the first, one other son and a girl, Prairie Flower (Topsanna). Despite numerous attempts to rescue her by her family and soldiers over the years, Cynthia Ann refused to leave her Comanche family. The Comanche would accept no bribe or payment for her, regardless of how much.
In December of 1860, when Quanah was about ten years old, Cynthia Ann was recaptured during an attack by the army on a camp of mostly women and children who were keeping supplies of food and other needs for their warriors who were out hunting. She was allowed to keep her baby daughter with her, but never saw her beloved husband, Peta, or her sons again. Numerous attempts on her part to escape and return to her Comanche family failed and she died at the age of forty-nine, with a broken heart and spirit, just a short while after she lost her daughter to smallpox. Peta and Cynthia Ann died within a few months of each other, not knowing what had happened to the other.
Cynthia Ann Parker ~
Fiercest warrior ~
Cynthia Ann may not have even known that her eldest son had become the fiercest warrior and strong leader of the Comanche.
Quanah grew to become a warrior that led his people with fierce passion and prowess. His daring bravery was well known to the Europeans and especially to the soldiers who tried in vain to capture him and his people. It was imperative to Quanah that his horses were as brave and fierce as he was. It would do no good to have a timid or untrained horse in battle. Quanah chose his horses with care and trained them well.
The Quahada band of Comanche were fierce and cunning warriors. Their manner of dress during battle and their war cries struck terror and awe in anyone who had the chance to see them and live to remember. Even their highly trained horses were painted and decorated for battle in majestic and awe-inspiring manner. The Quahada were well trained and expert horsemen and warriors. Under the leadership of Quanah, they never lost a battle. Only when it came down to certain death for his people and possible annihilation of the Comanche, did Quanah stop and reconsider the warrior's path.
Survival in a new culture ~
Quanah was able to bridge the barrier between his people's culture and way of life and lead them across the bridge to survival in the white man's culture and world. He could have stayed on the warpath and fought to his death, but, he knew his people would not survive the onslaught of a force that grew more powerful every day. He chose to lead his people to a new way of life rather than see them die from starvation and a losing battle that would leave them all dead or helpless.
Since Quanah's death, there have been no Comanche chiefs. Tribal leaders carry the title of Chairman. Quanah, truly the Last Chief of the Comanches, through his intelligence and will to keep his people alive, saved the Comanche from certain annihilation. Throughout his life, Quanah never lost touch with his Comanche birthright and remained Comanche to the last.
The Comanche were a beautiful and imposing race, able to strike fear and awe in everyone. Pictures of the Comanche people in Quanah's time show the strength, beauty and pride of these proud and noble people. It is not surprising that Cynthia Ann fell in love with them and held them dear in her heart.
They were an uncommon fine looking men and women, some of them exhibiting the most perfect symmetry united with a muscular and athletic frame; the countenances strongly marked, indicative of intelligence and generosity; while that of others bespeak the wily knave, and cunning lurks in every feature.— Colonel Edward Stiff, ca. 1830s
Quanah, 1890 ~
Return of Mother and Death of Quanah ~
On October 24, 1910, Quanah gave a speech to a vast Texas crowd at the State Fair who had come from all over the nation to pay homage to "The Last Comanche Chief". He was a guest of honor and appeared in full war dress in a parade. He struck such an imposing and impressive image that people respected and honored him for who he was.
Quanah never forgot his Mother. In his speech at the Texas State Fair, he told of how he was trying to get permission from the government to have his Mother's remains moved to the cemetery on his own land, where his son was buried and where he himself would one day rest. In December of the same year, Quanah was able to have his Mother returned to him forty years after her death and had her reburied near his home.
At her funeral service, he spoke of how she was captured by the Comanche and how she grew to love the people and never wanted to return to her white family. "All same people anyway, God say. I love my mother," Quanah said. This brave warrior, who never lost a battle, who had been fierce and feared by all in the past, stood in front of thousands with tears rolling down his cheeks.
Just two months later, Quanah was laid to rest beside his beloved mother, the inscription on Quanah's tombstone reads:
Resting Here Until Day Breaks
And Shadows Fall and Darkness Disappears
is Quanah Parker
Last Chief of the Comanches
Died Feb. 23, 1911
Quanah Parker's grave site ~
Last Comanche Chief ~
A fascinating book to read and gather more information about Quanah Parker and the Comanche tribe was written by Bill Neeley. In The Last Comanche Chief: The Life And Times Of Quanah Parker, Neeley portrays the life and times of Quanah beautifully.
Neeley's book covers a span of over a century of the culture and way of life of the Comanche, their relationship with the Apache, Utes, Kiowas, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Pawnees, the early Spanish invaders, the U.S. Calvary, the Texas Rangers and the ever increasing encroachment of white settlers. Neeley's book has an abundance of facts and stories that will thrill the serious historian as well as those interested in Native American culture and history.
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Note from author ~
For the story of Quahah's mother, you may enjoy reading Cynthia Ann Parker - Comanche Heart and Broken Spirit.
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Phyllis Doyle Burns
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© 2013 Phyllis Doyle Burns