Wild West History Association Dedicated to the history and lore of the American West
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Satanta

 

(1830 - October 11, 1878)

 

His name was Set-tainte which means White Bear Person. During the year 1868 after the Battle of Washita, the southern Arapaho and a few of the Comanche bands moved onto the Reservation at Fort Cobb. The nomadic Kiowa resisted the sedentary life.

 

Custer was sent by Sheridan to force the Kiowa to surrender or destroy them. Satanta and Lone Wolf met with Custer in a parley. Satanta enjoyed people even his enemies. As he approached Custer he was smiling ear to ear and extended his hand. Custer did not return the greeting.

 

Bad interpreters on both sides led to misunderstandings and in violation of the truce, Custer arrested Satanta, Lone Wolf and others at the meeting. They were jailed at Fort Cobb and placed under close watch. Sheridan stated they would only be released if the other Kiowa came onto the Reservation. Satanta sent his brother to tell his people to run to the land of the buffalo. One-by-one the Kiowa left the reservation until only Satanta and Lone Wolf remained. An angry Sheridan threatened to hang Satanta and Lone Wolf if the Kiowa did not surrender.

 

Living on the reservation was difficult. The nomadic hunters were now trying to be farmers growing corn for subsistence and eating stringy Longhorn Beef. Satanta told the agent "I don't like corn. It hurts my teeth." When one harvest did not supply the entire tribe, the Kiowa were given permission to hunt buffalo.

 

In the spring of 1871, Sky Walker, the Kiowa Medicine Man, told the group it was time to punish the Texans for taking their land and driving off the buffalo. Sky Walker, Satanta and other Kiowa leaders sat on a high ridge between Fort Richardson and Fort Belknap. About noon an Army ambulance with an escort of 17 mounted soldiers rode past. Some of the Kiowa wanted to attack, but Sky Walker wanted to wait. The passenger in the covered transport was General William T. Sherman.

 

The next day a supply wagon outfit passed the waiting raiders. The Kiowas launched an attack killing most of the party. When they returned to Fort Sill, the agent asked what they knew about the attack. Satanta stated he led the raid because their constant request for guns and ammunition had not been delivered. The agent told General Sherman who called all the Kiowa headmen together. Sherman told them Satanta, Big Tree and Satank would be arrested for murder and taken to Texas for trial. Satanta threw back his blanket and reach for his pistol. At the same time, shutters from the building flew open with 12 rifles pointed at the Kiowas.

 

Only Satanta and Big Tree reached Texas for the trial and where the verdict was guilty. The punishment was hanging. The governor, fearful of a Kiowa uprising if Satanta and Big Tree were hanged, changed the sentence to life in prison. Through some careful negotiations Lone Wolf was able to obtain a release for Satanta and Big Tree after two years of imprisonment.

 

One of the conditions of Satanta's release was he remain on the reservation. There are rumors he was a participant at the Battle of Adobe Walls. However, he moved his group to the Cheyenne Reservation where he lived for a period of time.

 

This violation placed Satanta back in a Texas prison. Entering the Huntsville prison in a depressed state, the burly Kiowa warrior who rode hard and fought hard jumped head first from a second story balcony.

 

Satanta is buried on Chief's Knoll in the Fort Sill Cemetery in Fort Sill, OK.

 

Information compiled by Steve Grimm

Drawing by Richard Florence

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© Wild West History Association - a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation

http://www.WildWestHistory.org