Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Satanta (1830-1878)

October 11, 1874: Satanta has become despondent about his life-term in the Huntsville, Texas, prison. He has slashed his wrists trying to kill himself, but he is unsuccessful. He will be admitted to the prison hospital. Today, Satanta will jump from a second floor balcony. He will land head first, and die.

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Background From

Satanta (Set-T'ainte), 1830-1878

Born on the Northern Plains, Satanta ("White Bear Person") was the son of Red Tepee, who was the keeper of the Tai-me, the Kiowa medicine bundles. During his boyhood, he was known as Guaton-bain or "Big Ribs". He was a young man when a prominent warrior, Black Horse, presented him with a war shield that he used while raiding in Texas and Mexico. During the early days of the Civil War, he conducted many raids along the Santa Fe Trail. He would later become a principal chief in the Kiowa Wars of the 1860s-1870s and was known as "The Orator of the Plains."

When Little Mountain died in 1866, Satanta became the leader of the war faction of the Kiowas. His rival was Kicking Bird of the peace faction. As a result of his rivalry, Lone Wolf became the compromise choice for the position of principal chief. Meanwhile, Satanta and his warriors continued raiding in Texas.

Famed for his eloquence, Satanta spoke at the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867 where the Kiowas ceded their lands in the valleys of the Canadian and Arkansas Rivers and agreed to settle on a reservation within Indian Territory. However, some of the Kiowas were slow to move onto their lands in Indian Territory. When Satanta came under a flag of truce to tell the U.S. Army that he had not been with Black Kettle at the Battle of the Washita, General Philip H. Sheridan held him and several other leaders as hostages until their bands had relocated to Indian Territory. In May 1871, Satanta was in a war party that attacked the Warren wagon train with Satank, Big Tree and Mamanti.

Later Big Tree, Satank and Satanta were seized for trial after bragging openly about their exploits. Satank tried to escape on the road to Texas; he was fatally shot. Big Tree and Satanta went to trial and were sentenced to death. Indian rights groups objected to the harsh penalties, however. The Bureau of Indian Affairs even contended that they should be released because their actions were associated with war and not murder. In 1873, they were paroled on a pledge of good behavior for themselves and the entire Kiowa tribe. However, Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, and Arapaho war parties renewed their raids on white settlers under the Comanche leader Quanah Parker. These actions started the Red River War of 1874-1875. Satanta tried to prove to army officials that he was not a party to the raids. In September 1874, Big Tree appeared at the Cheyenne Agency at Darlington to state that Satanta wished to surrender peacefully.

True to his word, Satanta surrendered the next month. Although it appears that he had not violated the terms of his parole, Satanta was taken into custody and then imprisoned at Huntsville, Texas. On October 11, 1878, sick, tired, and despairing that he would ever be released, Satanta jumped off the upper floor of the prison hospital and committed suicide. The proud and dignified warrior was buried in Texas. His grandson, James Auchiah, received permission in 1963 to bring Satanta's remains to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, so that he could be interred with other Kiowa chiefs.



SET-T'AINTE (Satanta, White Bear)

In April, 1864, a government physician was sent out among the tribes to vaccinate them as a protection from small pox which had recently decimated them. He found them all apparently friendly and spent some time in the camp of Set-T'ainte (Satanta).

At this time, the civil war was going on and Texas was fighting the general govenrment, which confirmed the Indians in their belief that Texans and Americans were two distinct and hostile Nations.

In 1871, a large raiding party killed seven white men in Texas and captured a number of mules. Upon their return, the leaders bragged about their deeds in the presence of the agent and General Sherman, who promptly arrested the the 3 most prominent, Set-angya (Santank, Setting Bear), Set-t'ainte, (Satanta, White Bear) and Ado-eette (Big Tree). They were to be taken to Texas for trial and punishment. Set-angya resisted and was killed. The other two were sent to Texas, tried and sent to prison.

Satanta and Big Tree were finally released by the governor of Texas in October 1873. In 1874, reports of raids started coming in and by Novemeber, Satanta was captured and sent back to prison in Texas. In 1878, 4 years after his caprure, Satanta committed suicide by jumping from the upper story of the prison. His death removed one of the most prominent chiefs in Kiowa history, the most daring and succesful Warrior. While in authority, he was second only to Lone Wolf. His eloquence and expression in his native language earned him the title "Orator of the Plains."

Information from "The Ten Grandmothers" by Alice Marriott, published by University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1945; and "Calender History of the Kiowa Indians" by James Mooney, published by Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. from reports, 1895-1896. Copyright, 1998-2001

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