Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee

by Dee Brown

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Summary and Analysis Chapter 11: The War to Save the Buffalo

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Satanta/White Bear: Kiowa chief who led struggle against the Army and was repeatedly jailed. He killed himself in Texas.

Kicking Bird: Kiowa chief who led expedition against the Army.

Lone Wolf: Kiowa chief who led delegation to Washington, D.C., and won release of Satanta and Big Tree.

In December 1868, after the Battle of Washita in which Black Kettle’s village was destroyed by Custer’s troops, General Sheridan orders the Cheyennes, Arapahos, Kiowas, and Comanches to surrender at Fort Cobb. The Kiowas do not surrender, and Custer arrests the Kiowa chiefs, violating a truce in order to do so. Two thousand Kiowas and 2500 Comanches are put on the reservation at Fort Cobb. Then, at a sun dance on the Red River in summer 1870, the Comanches, Southern Cheyennes, and Kiowas consider the possibility of fighting the whites. In mid-May 1871, the Kiowas and Comanches decide to attack Texas, and they kill seven teamsters leading a train of ten freight wagons. Satanta takes responsibility for this raid, and he and other chiefs are arrested for it. As a result, Satanta and Big Tree are sentenced to life in prison in July 1871. But Lone Wolf’s diplomacy wins the release of the two chiefs on the grounds that they are needed to make treaty negotiations for the Kiowas. Lone Wolf and the chiefs decide in St. Louis that Lone Wolf would request their release upon arriving in Washington, D.C., for talks. In Washington, D.C, the Kiowas and Comanches are told to assemble at Fort Sill by December 15, 1873. Lone Wolf, though, wins a promise for another release of Satanta and Big Tree, and they are transferred to Fort Sill, then released on parole. The Kiowas and Comanches decide in the spring of 1874 to attack the whites to preserve the buffalo hordes. An attack on white hunters at Adobe Walls fails, and the Indians flee to Palo Duro and thus defy Indian Bureau orders to stay on their reservations. The Army sends out troops to conduct reprisal attacks, and they slaughter 1000 horses at Palo Duro and continue to kill many Indians throughout the fall and winter. After Lone Wolf and 252 Kiowas surrender at Fort Sill on February 25, 1875, 26 Kiowa warriors are exiled to Florida.

In the Kiowas, Brown offers another example of the warrior ethic that drove many Indian tribes. Upon seeing the herds of buffalo become depleted, the tribe disputed “following the white man’s way” and his allegedly effeminate, agrarian lifestyle but decided that hunting buffalo was essential to Kiowa existence. It may have been the warrior ethic that inspired Satanta to take responsibility for the May 17 raid on the freight wagons. Satana is described as a bold, rough, vigorous chief, which may have prompted the Army to keep imprisoning him; he was too great a threat to leave alone. It was Lone Wolf’s deft diplomacy that won Satanta and Big Tree their freedom to lead the Kiowas, and it seems that the Kiowas relied on more than just brute strength to resist the U.S. It is ironic, then, to read of the failure of Quanah’s medicine to protect the tribe’s warriors from white bullets. The Kiowas’ faith in their traditional resources of physical strength and courage, magical medicine, and their Palo Duro stronghold were simply not enough to effectively defend themselves against the whites.

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