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Satanta (chief)

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Satanta (chief)

This article is about the Kiowa chief Satanta. For the Irish hero Sétanta, please see Cú Chulainn.

Native name Set'tainte (White Bear)
Born ca 1820
Died October 11, 1878(1878-10-11) (aged 57–58)
Huntsville Unit in Huntsville, Texas
Cause of death Suicide
Resting place Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Nationality Kiowa
Known for A chief of the Kiowa Nation, warrior, orator
Parent(s) Chief Red Tipi (Father)

Satanta (ca. 1820 – October 11, 1878) was a [1]

Satanta (Set'tainte) was born the son of Chief Red Tipi and a Spanish captive and spent his youth south of the Arkansas River enjoying the peaceful alliance between the Kiowa and Comanche tribes.[2]


  • Orator and warrior 1
  • At the First Battle of Adobe Walls 2
  • Medicine Lodge Treaty 3
  • Fort Zarah 4
  • Warren Wagon Train Raid 5
  • Trial of Satanta and Big Tree - First Indian Leaders Tried In State Court 6
  • Release, recapture, and death at Huntsville 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10

Orator and warrior

One of best known leaders of his tribe in the 1860s–1870s, Satanta was well known for both his prowess as a warrior, and his soaring oratorical powers. George Custer and held as a hostage until the forced migration took place.

At the First Battle of Adobe Walls

Satanta is primarily remembered in military history as the sub-chief to Dohäsan at the First Battle of Adobe Walls. While Dohäsan, helped by Satank and Guipago, was in command of the combined Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache, and Comanche forces which opposed Kit Carson and his New Mexico forces in November 1864, Satanta is remembered for ably assisting him in repeated charges which drove the New Mexico volunteers from the field, and for his repeated blowing of an army bugle, which confused the troops under Carson. Satanta would counter Carson's bugler with trumpeted commands of his own, on a day where the Plains Tribes managed to drive a US Army detachment from the field.[4] The Indian forces assembled from their nearby winter encampments vastly outnumbered the Army detachment, which retreated in good order.

Medicine Lodge Treaty

At Medicine Lodge, Satanta, a tall, muscular man, came to be known as the "Orator of the Plains," (although that title may have been a humorous reference to his long-winded speeches rather than honest praise for his speaking abilities; this is disputed however by the references papers of the day made to his speeches). Like most treaties of the time, these agreements failed utterly to bring peace on the frontier. The treaty assured rule over the vast lands given by treaty to the Kiowa, but white settlers continued to pour across Kiowa lands, and tribesmen, unhappy with the provision that reduced their domain to a small reservation, continued to raid settlements and harass immigrants. This situation, unstable in and of itself, worsened significantly with the death of Dohäsan, the last Kiowa Chief, (over the entire Kiowa People) in 1866. Without his binding personal leadership, Kiowa unity dissolved as a number of subchiefs, [1]It is alleged that at Fort Dodge that Satanta, begging for liquor, accidentally drank animal medicine and was given pills that only made him even more sick. In revenge Satanta burned Hay belonging to Mr. Coryell opposite the fort and killed three woodchoppers as well.[5]

Fort Zarah

Satanta’s fame grew after the Box incident, and his ability to defuse a confrontation between the Kiowa and the US Cavalry near Fort Zarah, Kansas in 1867. A young Kiowa warrior was killed at the civilian camp near the army Fort, and the Kiowa massed to avenge his death. The cavalry, in turn, massed to protect the civilians. Satanta managed to defuse the confrontation, but nonetheless, later in the day, the Cavalry attacked the Kiowa encampment. Satanta then led the defense of the camp by the warriors while the women and children retreated. Several children were killed during the brief fight.

Warren Wagon Train Raid

Main article Warren Wagon Train Raid.

In 1871 Satanta led several attacks on wagon trains in Texas. His undoing came with the Warren Wagon Train Raid on May 18, 1871. Immediately prior to that attack, the Indians had allowed an Army Ambulance with a small guard to pass unharmed; in it was General William Tecumseh Sherman, but Mamanti, the medicine man, had advised the other chiefs to wait for an other, richer, loot.

The wagon train had attempted to fight the war party by shifting into a ring formation, and all the mules were put into the center of the ring. Despite this, the warriors captured all of the supplies in the train, killing and mutilating seven of the wagoneer's bodies. Five men however, managed to escape. As soon as Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie learned of the incident, he informed Sherman. Sherman and Mackenzie searched for the warriors responsible for the raid. Satanta foolishly bragged of his, Satank (Sitting Bear), and Ado-ete (Big Tree)’s involvement of the raid, and, in spite of Guipago's intervention (the head chief came in well equipped with loaded rifles and revolvers, fit to fight for his friend's liberty, but had to surrender in front of the massive presence of military troops) Sherman personally arrested him.[6]

Trial of Satanta and Big Tree - First Indian Leaders Tried In State Court

General Sherman ordered the [1] Sherman ordered the three Kiowa sub-chiefs taken to Jacksboro, Texas, to stand trial for murder. Satank had no intention of allowing himself to be humiliated by being tried by the white man's court, and told the Tonkawa scouts before the three were to be transported to Fort Richardson that they should tell his family they would be able to find his body along the trail. Satank refused to get in the wagon, and after the soldiers threw him in, he hid his head under his red blanket, (worn as a sign of his membership in the Koitsenko ). The soldiers apparently believed the old Chief was hiding his face because of humiliation, but in reality, he was gnawing his wrists to the bone so that he could get out of the chains they had put on him. He began singing his death song, and when his hands were free, stabbed one of his guards with a knife he had secreted in his clothes, and managed to wrestle the man's rifle from him. Satank was shot to death before he could manage to fire. His body lay unburied in the road, with his people afraid to claim it, for fear of the Army, though Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie assured the family they could safely claim Satank’s remains. Nonetheless, they were never claimed, and he lies now at Fort Sill.

At his trial Satanta warned what might happen if he was hanged: " I am a great chief among my people. If you kill me, it will be like a spark on the prairie. It will make a big fire - a terrible fire!" Satanta was found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. Judge Soward ordered that Satanta "be taken by the Sheriff of Jack County and hanged until he is dead, dead, dead and God have mercy on his soul." However, the same judge also wrote to Texas Governor [1]

Release, recapture, and death at Huntsville

Huntsville Unit, where Satanta was incarcerated

After a long and hard dealing with the U.S. Government officers, in 1872 Guipago was allowed to meet his friend Satanta and the young war chief Ado-ete in St. Louis, and only after this he accepted to go to Washington with some other Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Wichita and Delaware chiefs and talk about peace with President Ulysses S. Grant; after Satanta and Ado-ete were temporarily paroled, Guipago led the Kiowa delgation to Washington in September 1872, and got Indian Commissioner E.P. Smith's promise to release the two captives. Satanta and his companion were definitively released only in September 1873, Guipago having made clear to Indian agent James M. Haworth that his patience was now at its end. Soon after their release, Satanta and Ado-ete, along with Guipago and Tsen-tainte (White Horse) were involved in attacking buffalo hunters and were present at the raid on Adobe Walls. But the Kiowa People deny Satanta was involved in that battle, other than being present. He yielded up his war lance and other symbols of leadership to younger, more aggressive men. But his very presence at the Battle violated his parole, and the government called for his arrest. He surrendered in October, 1874, and was returned to the state penitentiary at Huntsville, Texas. Guards reported that Satanta, forced to work on the road, would stare for hours at the traditional hunting grounds of his people, and seemed to wither away. In his book, the History of Texas, Clarance Wharton reports of Satanta in prison:

"After he was returned to the penitentiary in 1874, he saw no hope of escape. For a while he was worked on a chain gang which helped to build the M.K. & T. Railway. He became sullen and broken in spirit, and would be seen for hours gazing through his prison bars toward the north, the hunting grounds of his people."
Satanta was buried in the prison cemetery, now known as the Captain Joe Byrd Cemetery in Huntsville, until 1963

In the end, deciding not to spend the rest of his life in prison, Satanta killed himself on October 11, 1878, by diving headlong from a high window of the prison hospital.[7] Satanta was originally buried in the prison cemetery in Huntsville. In 1963 his grandson, an artist named James Auchiah, received permission to transfer Satanta's remains to Fort Sill, Oklahoma.[8] In October 2000, Satanta's shield, bow and bow case, and arrows and quiver were returned to Fort Sill and dedicated by a ceremony that included the Fort Sill commander and Kiowan armed services veterans.[9]

The character of Blue Duck in Larry McMurtry's Pulitzer Prize winning novel Lonesome Dove was partially based on the life and death of Satanta.[10]

The actor Rodolfo Acosta played Satanta in 1959 in the third episode of the ABC western television series, The Rebel, starring Nick Adams.[11]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d 
  2. ^ "The Long Journey Home Dedication Ceremonies for the Return of Set'tainte's Shield and Weapons"
  3. ^ 
  4. ^ 
  5. ^ The Globe-republican., January 07, 1897, Image 1
  6. ^ a b Kroger, Bill (March 2012). Hunter, Michelle, ed. "The Trial of Satanta and Big Tree". Texas Bar Journal (Austin, TX: State Bar of Texas) 75 (9): 200. 
  7. ^ 
  8. ^ "Santanta." Handbook of Texas. Retrieved on October 26, 2010.
  9. ^ The Long Journey Home Dedication Ceremonies for the Return of Set'tainte's Shield and Weapons
  10. ^ "The Salt Creek Massacre". Indian Relations In Texas. Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission. November 2, 2005. Retrieved August 28, 2010. 
  11. ^ , October 18, 1959"The RebelYellow Hair", "".  

External links

  • Satanta page at Texas State Library & Archives Commission
  • Univ. of Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
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