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S04 E07 Comancheria Part 2 transcript

Updated: Jan 30

This is the transcript to go with our episode on Comancheria Part 2.


Part 2

Welcome to Countries That Don’t Exist Anymore. Last episode, we talked about the rise of Comancheria and their dominance not only over other native peoples, but their repulsion of the Spanish too. We also covered the generally hostile stance of the Republic of Texas and the creation of Indian hunters to fight the Comanche on their own terms.


But who will win? Millions of relentless Americans or a few thousand Comanche warriors? 


Phil:

It’s edge of your seat stuff.


If you think the relentless Americans text PROBABLY to 82022

If you think the few thousand Comanche warriors text UNLIKELY to 82023


THEME


Initially, raids against the Comanche were a bit of a disaster. With their Tonkawa or Apache guides, the Texans would go stumbling onto the high plains in search of the Comanche. Even if they could find them, it wouldn’t necessarily go well.


There were times when the Texans were outnumbered and could have been obliterated by the Comanche. One of the things that saved them is that the Comanche weren’t willing to throw everything and the kitchen sink at you. And if you want to win stuff, that's usually a good idea.


Blackadder quote right behind you


But that wasn't the Comanche. They weren’t willing to throw lots of lives away taking a fortified position that they could have taken.


This was very different from the Texan attitude. Unlike the Spanish that the Comanche had dealt with, the Texans were grizzled, tough, unstoppable and overly optimistic about their chances.


[SFX banjo music, CHARGE, yaa haw]

The Comanche couldn’t understand why the Texans couldn’t just draw a line and stay behind it. The Texans couldn’t understand why the Comanche lived in tipis, took hostages and raped and mutilated captives. 

They thought that the solution to the Comanche was their total extermination.


To put it mildly, this was a clash of cultures.


What really started the war happened on March 19th 1840, during an event known as the Council House Fight. 


Phil:

Council House fight? Or as we called it at school, BREAK TIME!


Ed: 

Bournside School and Sixth Form Centre


A Comanche group came to San Antonio to trade but brought with them a mutilated European captive. This enraged the Texans, who were not only enraged at a bunch of filthy pagans abusing a good Christian white person, but were also angry at Comanche raids in general – not understanding that the Comanche weren’t just one uniform people. They blamed this small group of Panahtookuh traders for attacks that they had nothing to do with.


And this rage surprised the Comanche visitors to town.


Edmund:

Am I then not popular?


From their point of view, these were hostages after all. They had been taken fair and square and were now Comanche property.


So, it was a great surprise to the Comanche when the Texans attacked them, killed several important head warrior types and took the rest hostage. The Texans released one Comanche woman to demand the release of all Texan prisoners from the Comanche.


The reaction from the Comanche that heard this was great grief at the loss of important headmen. As was tradition, the horses that these men owned were slaughtered. Later on, the US Army would kill Comanche horses en masse to cut off their source of wealth. All in all, it was a particularly bad time to be a horse. 


Phil:

But when has it been a good time to be a horse?


Ed:

Probably during the mega horse era of the Pleistocene. And during the reign of Caligula when his horse Incitatus achieved the highest ever political office achieved by a horse.


Phil:

I think a horse party leader would be a conservative.


Ed: 

Why’s that Phil?


Phil: 

Because his government would be strong and stables.


Anyway, the captives the Texans wanted weren’t sent back. They were instead barbecued till crispy golden.

The irony was that the Comanche who went to San Antonio actually advocated peace with the Texans. These were the Penatekas (Pen-ah-took-uh). 


The one Comanche band that already mixed with the Europeans. They didn’t see their trip as a declaration of war. They were just popping into town with their families for a spot of trade, maybe a bite to eat and just enough time to pop to the post office.


And the Pan-ah-took-uh headmen who were killed generally pushed for peace. Whereas the others back in Comancheria (like Pah-hah-yuco, Old Owl, Little Wolf and Buffalo Hump) were already less inclined to talk peace. They had been more hawkish among the Panuhtookuh and now their resolve had been strengthened.

This is particularly true of Buffalo Hump – whose Nermenuh name [nermeh] was Po-cha-na-quar-hip or “erection that won’t go down.” 


He was always ready for action.


[Matrix - why oh why didn’t I take the BLUE pill]


See, Buffalo Hump had a plan. While the Texans wanted to extend Texas to the Pacific, he wanted to drive the Texans into the Gulf of Mexico. So, he gathered 1,000 Comanche to go campaigning, consisting of 400 warriors and 600 camp followers.


During 1840, Buffalo Hump, AKA, Chief Viagra, went on the rampage. Settlements were raided and horses were taken. 


But sort of achieving his aims, Buffalo Hump did get down to Linville, on the coast of Texas. And the occupants did indeed flee into the sea – many escaping by ship.


But Linville was a port full of warehouses loaded with great merch – and the Panuhtookuh band were so delighted with what they found that they dressed themselves in top hats, pantaloons and other finery. They also loaded up lots of stolen horses with all manner of merch as well as taking hostages.

Their gain was obviously the residents of Linville's loss.


Mrs Watts, the unlucky wife of the unluckier murdered customs inspector, was only saved from abuse when Comanche warriors couldn’t work out how to take off her whalebone corset, but was loaded up on a horse anyway. This same corset later also deflected an arrow, and she was eventually able to escape with minor sunburn.


Phil: [get some appropriate music]


You always hear about the drawbacks of whalebone corsets - long term health conditions, female suppression, whale murder but you never hear about the many benefits…


Maybe it’s time we had a fresh look at whalebone corsets.


The problem with armies weighed down with plunder is that they're easy targets.


A force of 125 Texans decided to ambush the loot heavy convoy, but made a bit of a mess of it when they decided to dismount from their horses to fight the Comanche. As we’ve learned by now, this was a terrible mistake against such a fearsome light cavalry. 


Luckily for the Texans, the Comanche seemed more interested in holding onto their loot than slaughtering white men that day – so the Texans escaped relatively unscathed.


The Texans had a better go when 200 of them tracked down the Comanche convoy just south of present day Austin. The Texans made the same blunder AGAIN by dismounting and forming up for battle. They seemed to be at the mercy of the Comanche cavalry until a lucky shot felled one of the Comanche chiefs who got too close. 


Predictably, this sent the Comanche into disarray which prompted an Indian hunter among them to order a mounted charge - scattering their enemy and killing 25 Comanche in the process.


The Battle of Plum Creek, as it became known, was lauded as a great victory for the Indian hunters. In reality the Comanche were probably more interested in securing their horses than staying to fight but it reinforced two important lessons:

  1. The Comanche were predictable. Kill their leader (often seen as imbued with magic) and they'd lose their will to fight.

  2. Always fight them on horseback. Can't state that enough.


But that said, most of the killed Comanche actually happened at the hands of the Tonkawa, who bitterly hated the Comanche and badly wanted their scalps. Generally speaking the Tonkawa were pretty scalp hungry and axe happy. And the policy of the Texans was:


Texan:

Hey, you shouldn’t do that. Why that aint civilised behaviour!


Axe dropped


Texan: (muttering)

I didn’t say stop.


And further Comanche blood was shed when Colonel John Moore took 90 Texans and 12 Apache 300 miles into Comancheria to surprise and slaughter 130 Comanche – mainly women and children. This was something the Spanish would have never done.


Phil:

Massacred women and children?

Ed:

No. Moved 300 miles in any particular direction.

Phil:

Um Ed. You know that the Spanish Empire conquered about 15% of the globe?

Ed:

This is true. But they haven't got the same get up and go attitude as us British.

Phil:

Fancy heading out?

Ed:

Na. It's raining. Stick the kettle on will you?

Phil:

Last week you didn’t want to go out either!

Ed:

Yes, but 25 degrees celsius. It was murder!


Between 1836-40, the Panahtookuh lost a quarter of their fighting force. But this wasn’t from the Texan threat, this was actually more of a result of small pox and syphilis picked up on their habitual raids into Mexico.


Phil:

And to this day, Mexico is still invaded by hordes of rowdy Americans, who often return with syphilis.

Crowd:

SPRING BREAK!


And it wasn’t just syphilis. In 1849, a cholera epidemic started in India, made its way through Europe and spread via the Gold Rush wagons deep into Comancheria – killing mere hours after first infection. 

But a new fighting force to be reckoned with was now squaring up against the Comanche. The Texas Rangers.


Who were the Texas Rangers?


The Texas Rangers were created in 1835 at the same time as the movement for independence was reaching boiling point. They were a force of men created to both fight Mexicans and Native Americans. 


600 were commissioned by the Texas Congress, but in reality only 50-100 initially existed – pretty much all in their 20s and having to furnish their own supplies. As rubbish a job prospect as this seems, the role of Texas Ranger promised adventure on the frontier.


And these tough, rugged, brave young men were…slaughtered. 

In 1839 there were 149 serving Rangers. The Comanche were said to have killed 100 of them.

The Rangers were only whipped into shape thanks to famous and fearless ranger Captain John Coffee Hayes. He assembled a bunch of tough desperados like Bigfoot Wallace, Old Paint Caldwell and Alligator Davis. Bigfoot was called that because of his size, Old Paint because of his rough skin and Alligator because he wrestled an alligator.


Phil:

And why did they call him Coffee? Because he drank loads of coffee?

Ed:

Nope because that was the surname of one of his relatives.

Phil:

Disappointing.


Hays taught his men to fight like Comanche. They all had to learn to fire with pinpoint accuracy on horseback as well as imitating Comanche tricks – like sliding down in their saddle and using their horses to shield their bodies during a fight.


Hays knew that the Rangers were at a shooting disadvantage, so attacks came from ambushes and at night. And night attacks were a Comanche favourite. 


In fact in Texas, a blood red full moon is still known as a Comanche moon.


The Comanche seemed particularly susceptible to surprise attacks and could scatter when panicked. And Hays was all about dat surprise attack.


He thought little of attacking a Comanche band of 200 warriors with 20 Texas Rangers. Hays was certainly brave and audacious but he knew that the Comanche were deeply religious and would react in predictable ways. So he saw himself as less ballsy and more about playing the percentages.


They also picked up tricks from their Native guides. Want to follow a Comanche war party? Just look for vultures trailing their moving camps.


Hays’ Rangers caught up with a war party in 1841. The Comanche warriors withdrew to a thicket – rendering their arrows useless. Hays then had the thicket surrounded and starved them out – shooting any Comanche that tried to escape and methodically butchering the rest.


“Their fate was inevitable” the still only 25-year-old Hays reported. “They saw it and met it like heroes.”

Ed:

25! That’s young! What we were doing at 25?

Phil:

I was just getting into the first season of Breaking Bad.

Ed:

I was writing TV listings in a horrible building in West London and dreaming big dreams.

Phil:

Of becoming a historical entertainment podcaster?

Ed:


Good god no.


Now although Hays was having success against the Comanche, it should be noted that he was one man who commanded a handful of Rangers. 


The Texas Rangers weren’t exactly taking it to the Comanche at this time. Even when mounted they were still at a firing disadvantage.


But technology changed all that.


In 1838, the first Colt revolving pistol was manufactured. And it was going to be a gamechanger. Except no one knew that yet. The first Colt revolvers were fragile, underpowered and were totally inaccurate unless you were at very close range.


And this excited precisely no one. The US Army didn’t want them. It was in fact the US Navy that brought some and these gathered dust until the Texas Rangers somehow got their hands on them in 1843. You know those Wild West movies with cowboys firing their pistols from horseback? As far as we know, the Texas Rangers invented all that.


Texas Ranger Samuel Hamilton Walker called the revolver “the most perfect weapon in the world for mounted troops.” Except he then went and found a nearly bankrupt Colt and had him redesign it as a more powerful six shooter. And maybe the most famous weapon in the West was born.


So the Rangers got the revolver and it was a game over Comancheria right?


Well, no. Coffee Hays showed the Rangers how to fight the Comanche but this didn’t mean everyone was paying attention. 


And then in 1849, he retired from the Rangers and  moved to California. Hearing the news about this, we're told that Buffalo Hump met Hays to wish him well and Hays named his first son John “Buffalo Hump Jr” Hays in the chief’s honour. 


Now whether that's exactly what happened, who knows. People sure love those stories of mutual respect of great warriors.


Red Baron quote from Blackadder?


In fact, with Hays gone the Texas Rangers seemed to get less effective. They were famously drunk and disorganised and as likely to kill each other in Wild West style brawls as by the Comanche. 


They've got the power to drink and whore

that you've never seen before.

They love to play blackjack and draw a 2

And  kill each other when they lose.

They've forgotten how to fight Comanche

And are hungover all the tiiiiime....


Go Go Texas Rangers

Go Go Texas Rangers

Go Go Texas Rangers

Like their morphine Texas Rangers




When the Rangers were sober enough to enter Comancheria, they invariably had their horses stolen from them by the Comanche and had to walk home. Or the Comanche would burn areas of foliage so the Rangers had nothing to feed their horses and would need to go home.


And if there was a time when the Texas Rangers really needed to get their acts together it was during the 1850s and 60s where the attacks by the Comanche were increasing more frequently. And these attacks were more targeted and brutal. On one occasion a pregnant women was raped, beaten and scalped while still alive.


So, what was going on?


The context of this was the spread of Texan frontiers into Comancheria.


In 1836, the population  of Texas was 15,000. By 1860, that had increased forty times to 604,215. And these weren’t people who lived in small, overpriced city centre flats. These were people who expected to have land to farm. And this meant moving into Comancheria.


In 1836, Texas had a few dirt roads for wagons. By 1860, this had extended into thousands of miles of road and 272 miles of railroad.


Texas went from having 3 newspapers in 1836 to 71 in the 1860s and you can bet that the headlines were all “red skins strike again.” [a la pathe / batman]


Now contrast this with the Comanche population. By 1860, it’s said that there were only 4,000 Comanche left in the world, from a peak of maybe 20,000 one hundred years before. Because of these small numbers, the band system was starting to fragment and the formerly snooty Comanche were even working with other Plains Indians to make the numbers up.


During this time, Texas had become part of the US and rather than having a clear anti-Indian policy, Texas’ policies were formulated in Washington where the attitude to Native Americans was… contradictory at best.

For one thing, the Office of Indian Affairs in Washington DC decided that the reports of Indian attacks on Whites were probably exaggerated and most likely the fault of white settlers in the first place.

And if you’re thinking “classic white-hating elitist liberals”... think again.


Or maybe not entirely. I mean... they were definitely elitist. 


But their attitude came from the fact that they definitely thought whites superior. It's just that Native Americans were either viewed as noble prelapsarian savages or as basically good-natured children who needed the loving guidance of the Great White Father in Washington.


Phil:

Great White Father?

Trump quote from youtube - nobody is ____ better than me

I am god (casette boy)


Of course, the Comanche were none of the above. They were brutal, violent but sophisticated human beings and were fully aware that their homeland was being taken away from them – bite by bite.


But while no white settlers deserved to get brutalised just for setting up a house somewhere, this was all really a failure of government. They had signed countless treaties with Native Americans that the government either broke, were ignored by local government or were just incredibly disadvantageous to Native Americans. 


One thing that seemed strange to the Plains tribes is why they signed treaties that kept them from entering territory yet white settlers seemed to stream relentlessly onto their hunting grounds.


Seinfeld bassline:

What is the deal with us signing treaties that kept us from entering territory yet white settlers seem to stream relentlessly onto our hunting grounds.


Does quill and parchment mean nothing to these people?

[laughter]

And for Native Americans (including Comanche) that did sign treaties, this often meant going onto reservations – which often meant poor quality limited land. 


For food, reservation Indians often relied on rancid rations provided by the Office of Indian Affairs, which was highly corrupt and a huge embezzler of funds made available for Native Americans. 


Surprise surprise.


Also these reservations were surrounded by white settlements. Reservation peoples were commonly ripped off by merchants and con men, who sold then poor quality tat and gut rot whisky at a terrible exchange rate.


And when a free tribe raided elsewhere, reservation Indians were the easy target for revenge attacks.

So, you probably couldn’t blame the largest portion of Comanche that wanted to stay free and wild.


But what were the US authorities doing to curtail the Comanche threat? Well, fortunately for the Comanche, sort of bugger all. 


On the plus side for settlers, they had built a line of forts to disrupt Comanche raiding parties - at least in theory . On the minus side, the US sent some of the dragoons – who knew rather more about sword polishing and moustache maintenance than they did about fighting Comanche. They were basically just very foppish-looking infantry on horses.


One Texas Ranger commented that “the only way one of these fellas would be useful is if the Indians saw them and laughed themselves to death.” 


But the Texas Rangers had a second wind under John Salmon “Rip” Ford.


Phil:

Did they call him Rip because he liked transferring files from CD to mp3 on his desktop?


No, it’s said that Ford was in charge of sending postcards announcing the death of soldiers to their families. Originally, he wrote Rest in Peace, but after a while it hurt his hand and so he just wrote Rip.


Sounds lazy? During the Mexican-American War, the Americans lost 13,200 soldiers – or 17% of their armed forces. So you can see why Rip started using shorthand.


Mail’s here!

Ag: Oh look paw, we got a postcard from the war office!

Pa: What does it say Agatha?

Ag: It just says little Jimmy rip

Pa: Huh, I thought he was gonna be promoted to lieutenant. I say, I say, I had no idea Jimmy was keen on transferring files from CD to mp3 on his desktop. Shoulda just emailed us!

What year is this Paw??


But the thing about Rip Ford was that he was by no means an “Injun hater.” In fact, there were even instances of him intervening when white lynch mobs went to do “justice” to reservation peoples. He didn’t hate the Comanche, he was just tired of the raids and the Federal government’s inaction.


So in 1858, with funding from the Texan congress, Rip Ford assembled 100 Rangers and 113 Tonkawa and Shawnee – generally recruited from reservations. He moved into Comancheria – posting scouts in a 20 mile radius and sleeping at night without campfires. He met a Comanche force at the Battle of Antelope Hills. The Comanche were led by a medicine man called Iron Jacket – who wore an ancient piece of Spanish armour that he had magicked into being immune to bullets.


This worked until he died from.. too many bullets. In classic Comanche style, the war party scattered at the felling of their leader. 


And it seemed that the lessons learned by Coffee Hays had been relearnt by the new Texas Rangers.

Sam Houston stood on the floor of the US Senate and said: “Give us 1,000 Rangers and we will be responsible for the defence of our frontier.”


The US Army followed this by sending a force of 3,000 against Buffalo Hump’s band in 1860. They weren’t hard to find, since Buffalo Hump had just concluded a treaty with another part of the US Army and thought he had no reason to hide. 


They were also attacked at dawn while still asleep. Although marked down as a great victory, the Battle of Pease River was really more of a slaughter. One soldier, H.B. Rogers, late said:


“I am not very proud of it. That was not a battle at all, but just a killing of squaws.”


One of the captives released after Pease River was Cynthia Anne Parker with her daughter Prairie Flower – when her husband Peta Ninoca was killed and her young sons fled.


The recapturing of the “white squaw” caused quite the sensation – though Cynthia despised her new life and tried to escape whenever the opportunity presented itself. 


She was such a draw for slack jawed yokels that she was briefly put on display – with a rope tied around her ankle to stop her from escaping.


A relative of hers described “the tears streaming down her face and she was muttering in the Indian language.”

She refused to embrace her new life and was subsequently shipped around between family members. In 1864, her one reason for submitting to her new life, her daughter Prairie Flower died of influenza and pneumonia. Her relative Tom Champion, who spoke the Shoshone language said:


“To hear her tell of the happy days of the Indian dances and see the excitement and pure joy shown on her face, the memory of it, I am convinced that the white people did more harm by keeping her away from them than the Indians did by taking her first.”


Anyway, back to the frontier.


The Civil War interrupted a pattern of relentless western migration and a tougher and tougher time for the Comanche. 


Rangers and fort defenders alike went off to fight for the Confederacy or the Union. It might be expected that the Comanche would have gone into full revenge mode against white settlements. But in actual fact they did what they had done for hundreds of years, i.e. give other native people a hard time.


Crammed into “Indian country” in Oklahoma, the farms and houses of the Chicaksaws, Choctaws and Creeks were targets of Comanche raids. And the Tonkawas, who had been scouts for the despised Texans, also got particular attention.


 In 1864, Comanche war parties finally went to war against the white world – attacking settlements and pretty much closing down the Santa Fe trail.


 In fact across America, the frontier was rolling back by up to 200 miles as other groups (such as the Cheyene) took advantage of war conditions to send the White man packing.


In October 1864, 700 Comanche and Kiowa warriors sacked a town of 60 houses and when a local militia group was sent against them, they spotted 300 mounted warriors and thought better of it. 


For the first time in many generations, the Comanche had something like a numerical advantage in battle. And this scenario played out a number of times where horses and livestock were taken, people killed and captives carried off.


But none of this was just about settlements anymore.


Texas had since become cattle country. In 1850, there were 10,000 cattle in Texas. Ten years later, that number was 4-5 million. 


And those heads of cattle were often being grazed in the pastures of Comancheria. This presented the Comanche that was too good to pass up – they became expert cattle rustlers. 


In one year, the Comanche stole over 300,000 cattle, generally selling them to the Comancheros, who would generally sell them to US government contractors in New Mexico who would then sell them tothe US Army – who would often have these cattle stolen by the Comanche.


Music:

It’s the circle. The circle of life!t


This mass cattle theft was so profitable, it actually had American citizens investing money in the trade. 

In exchange for the cattle the Comanche got their hands on revolvers and carbines – as well as goods such as kettles, cooking tools, sugar, coffee, whiskey, cotton shirts and blankets. As much as the Comanche hated the invasion of the relentless white settlers, they too were slowly being Americanised.


But in 1867, the US government realised it had to do something about the “wild Indians” of the Plains and so called a meeting of tribal representatives from the Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapho, Kiowa and Kiowa Apache at Medicine Lodge, Kansas. It was said to be the last meeting of free Indians in the American west. After gift giving and displays of horsemanship the gathered Native Americans were told that they had disappointed the Great White Father with their actions and that they would be taught to live on farms, be civilised and read.

In an epic moment, Comanche Chief Ten Bears (who was portrayed opposite Clint Eastwood in The Outlaw Josey Wales) stood up and responded:


“You have said that you want to put us on a reservation, to build us houses and put us in medicine lodges. I do not want them. I was born under the Prairie, where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and everything drew a free breath. I want to die there and not within walls.”


“When I was in Washington, the Great Father told me that all the Comanche land was ours and that no one should hinder us in living upon it. If the Texans had kept out of my country, there might have been peace. But it is too late. The whites have the country that we loved, and we wish only to wander on the Prairie until we die.”

To this, one General William Sherman simply said: “you can know more stop this than you can stop the sun or the moon. You must submit and do the best you can.”


So most of those assembled relented and signed it.


For those Comanche that went onto a reservation, they found that they had been supplied with no food even though winter was setting in. 


Their solution? They went and raided neighbouring reservations for food. When supplies finally arrived, the food was rotten. Unimpressed with this, the Comanche on reservations decided on a new course of action. 


During the winter they would stay on their reservations and claim their government subsistence. But as soon as Spring came around, they would go back to tracking buffalo and raiding. 


And this wasn’t a bad compromise for them. Since if they were caught raiding, a new treaty would be made with them - invariably supplying them with food supplies and weapons.


In the words of Laurie Tatum, a Quaker government agent who replaced representatives of the Office of Indian Affairs:


“The easiest route for the Comanche to get anything was to go on the warpath awhile, kill a few white people, steal a good many horses and mules, and then make a treaty, and they would get a large amount of presents and a liberal supply of goods.”


So everything's going the Comanche's way right?


Not really. If the repeating revolver finally put US soldiers on par with Comanche infantry, a new breed of repeating rifles gave them a huge advantage. 


In a famous fight of 1874, Comanche warriors (who were meeting to plan a strategy away from the fight) were being picked off from up to three quarters of a mile away by sharp shooters.


And it wasn’t just Comanche either. These long range, quick loading weapons allowed a new breed of Buffalo men to start clearing the prairie of these once numerous beasts. 


The problem with buffalo is that they don’t stampede unless they can see the danger. So even as other buffalos were dropping dead around them from long range bullets – they’d carry on grazing – making them ridiculously easy to kill and sell their hides as high-grade leather. One buffalo man shot 120 buffalo in 40 minutes.

Between 1868 - 81 – the Buffalo Men killed 31 million buffalo – using the new railroad to export the carcasses to urban markets.


But there was no moral uproar about this. Even among people who weren’t hostile to the Plains Indians, the general consensus was “remove the buffalo and you get the Indians off the plains.”


But there was one last main Comanche holdout – Quanah of the Quahadi people. In later years he became known as Quanah Parker. He was the son of Peta Nocona (Comanche headman) and Cynthia Anne Parker, Texan captive.


He hated the white man. In fact, it was partly his white blood that made it difficult for him to gain acceptance even among the Comanche. But he was tall and strong and an incredible fighter. 


He partnered with Isa Tai – a medicine man who not only claimed to be immune to bullets (they generally did) but someone who could use his magic to send bad weather against his enemies. 


Isa Tai

I summon the elements against thee. Take this! Freezing hailstones driving from the north.

Cowboy:

Look pretty swell to me, medicine man.

Isa Tai

Pass me that newspaper…let’s see… classifieds, agony aunt, now where’s the weather forecast. Ah, here we go… due to manifest by next Wednesday.

Cowboy:

Next wednesday? Run boys! We need to reschedule that picnic!


With these powers, he preached the word of restoring Comancheria and expelling the white man – especially the accursed Buffalo hunters. It was a message that those who didn’t want to go to the reservation wanted to hear.


And even with a force of about 250 warriors, the two of them proved surprisingly effective – operating in those post war years where the United States was struggling to put itself back together.


But as we heard from Medicine Lodge, the US policy had pretty much now become “either you’re a good Indian that lives on a reservation or a dead one. ”


The weapon that the US sent after Quanah Parker was Ronald “Three Fingers Jack” MacKenzie. 

Say what you will about American officers, but they also have cool names.


Phil:

Did they call him Three fingers because he drank three fingers of gulpin’ whisky for breakfast?

No, it’s because three of his fingers had been damaged during his years at war. 

Plus, just about every other bit of him. He was known as extremely brave and fair.


Phil:

That sounds like the sort of thing you’d say about someone when you’re struggling to find something nice to say about them. 


He was also really not liked by his men. He had a violent temper – probably caused by living with severe and constant pain.


Three fingers Jack was also a constant pain for the Quahadi since he pursued them relentlessly no matter where they went. He made a study of Comancheria and the Quahadi homeland in particular – he learned their habits, their watering holes and their safe routes through the harsh prairie.


He had done something similar against the Kotsoteka Comanche – completely surprising them and killing 52 of them in a surprise attack while taking 124 prisoners. It should probably be noted that their chief Shaking Hand was meanwhile on a train to Washington to talk peace with The Great Father.


And with MacKenzie relentlessly pursuing Quanah and his band, Quanah returned to the old ways of the Nermenuh. Hunting buffalo when possible but otherwise eating nuts, grubs and rodents – and trying to stay out of harm.


So there's going to be one last glorious showdown between Quanah and Mackenzie right?


Nah. In the end even Quanah Parker and his band of holdouts surrendered. There were just not enough of them to make a difference.


When convincing Herman Lehman, a captive turned Comanche warrior to turn himself in, Lehman explained how Quanah had convinced him:


"Quanah told us it was useless for us to fight any longer, for the white people would kill us if we all kept fighting. If we went on the reservation the Great White Father at Washington would feed us, and give us homes, and we would in time become like the white man, with lots of good horses and cattle and pretty things to wear."


By 1874, there were perhaps 3,000 Comanche. And how were they ever to face off against over 40 million Americans?


So the 407 Quahadis walked to nearby Fort Sill to surrender – racing horses and feasting as the children played with prairie chickens. All determined to enjoy their last breaths of free air. Except the women who worked constantly, packing meat.


On hearing this MacKenzie said:

“I think better of this band than any other in the reserve. I shall let them down as easily as I can.”

So, Quanah’s Comanche were allowed to keep their horses and (although pretty awful) reservation life was made a little more tolerable by the work of the now remodelled Quanah Parker, who used his popularity and influence to advocate for his people. 


In fact, he was given the title “Principal Chief of the Comanche Nation” and became quite the celebrity in his lifetime – forming an unlikely friendship with Teddy Roosevelt and even attending his inauguration. 

Roosevelt described Quanah as: "a good citizen. In his youth a bitter foe of the whites, now painfully teaching his people to travel the white man's stony road."


In 1878, he successfully lobbied for his people to go on one last buffalo hunt. The government had let them hunt the cows they were rationed to eat anyway – but it wasn’t the same.


"TRex doesn't want to be fed, he wants to hunt…" quote.


So when Quanah led his band out to hunt, they were shocked to find that there literally weren’t any buffalo left – just a mass of decaying corpses and sun bleached bones. Returning to their former home – the canyon of Palo Duro – they found that they were trespassing on someone’s cattle ranch.


You can see why Quanah Parker understood what had to be done for his people to survive. There was now no alternative.


Quanah Parker died in 1911, having at first done well for leasing reservation land to cattle grazers, but in the meantime opening up his wallet to whoever was in need. He built a big house called Star House which was generally full of visitors and tipis. His last act was to successfully have the bones of his mother Cynthia Anne Parker moved to his home in Oklahoma. He was buried next to her 3 months after the relocation ceremony on February 3rd 1911.


A huge procession of whites in their Sunday best and Native Americans in buckskins attended his funeral.


Conclusion

There's an old idea that Spanish Conquistadors beat the Inca Empire with technology, and while it's not completely wrong, it's mainly not right.


But this time there's a much stronger case for the demise of Comancheria. After all, the Comanche built their territory on a technological marvel, the horse, becoming perhaps the best light cavalry of their time.

And European civilisation had no answer to them. The Spanish were ground down. The Texans had limited success, and it was only the demographic brute force, repeating rifles and even howitzers of the United States that finally made the Comanche no match for their adversaries.


When I first read about Quanah Parker, I imagined his seething resentment against white people would likely have him join Crazy Horse and the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho at the Battle of Little Bighorn. But Quanah was too savvy for that. Although his early life had been wild and free on the Prairie he knew that the Comanche were on borrowed time.


For this episode, I've been reading a lot of Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne. Here's a quote:

"In the year 1872, the once glorious comanches were really nothing more than a tiny population of overmatched and outgunned aboriginals who happened to occupy an absurdly large chunk of the nation's midsection. That they were able to do so in an era of steam engines, transcontinental railroads, nation spanning telegraph lines and armies capable of greater destruction than the world had ever witnessed was nearly inconceivable."


During his time at Star House, Quanah Parker was regularly visited by a nearby family, the Millers. Over dinner, Parker told Miller that white people had forced the Comanche off their land. When Miller asked how, Parker told Miller to sit on a log. Parker sat next to him and said "move up" which Miller did. And then move up and move up until Miller fell off the log.

"Like that" said Quanah. 

Such was the fate of Comancheria.


Either….

Plains loving in your eyes all the way

You were the son of a war chief and a slave

You rose the ranks with your conviction

You wanted nothing of the whites ways

But then you moved to the reservations

You come and go, you come and go

Quanah, Quanah, Quanah, Quanah, Quanah chameleon

You come and go, you come and go

Living would be easy if they'd stuck to the treaties

But that's not history. That's not history.



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