Medicine Lodge Treaty

From the book, Satanta, by Charles M. Robinson, III:

Satanta pictured here wearing his Medicine Lodge peace medal and his bugle strap.

New York Herald correspondent DeB. Randolph Keim remembered Satanta as a very large-framed man “with a tendency toward obesity.” And the African explorer Henry Morton Stanley, who knew Satanta in the late 1860s, wrote that he was “large, and very muscular, showing great strength.…” He was also clean-shaven. Intelligent, with a forceful personality, he was arrogant and boastful. Anyone reading the contemporary accounts is struck by Satanta’s theatrics and oratory, but his posturing concealed a very real ability as a warrior and leader. At the height of his prestige in the late 1860s no one, white or red, questioned his bravery.

But he was even better known for his rascality. Lieutenant Pettis, Kit Carson’s artillery commander, noted:

    About 200 yards in the rear of their line, all through the fighting at the Adobe Walls, was stationed one of the enemy, who had a cavalry bugle, and during the entire day he would blow the opposite call that was used by the officer in our line of skirmishers; for instance, when our bugles sounded the “advance,” he would blow “retreat,” and when ours sounded the “retreat,” he would follow it with the “advance;” ours would signal “halt,” and he would follow suit. So he kept it up all day, blowing as shrill and clearly as our very best buglers. Carson insisted that it was a white man, but I have never received any information to corroborate this opinion.

Frank Wharton described the horsemanship of the orcha war-painted Satanta when he attacked his wagon train on the Blanco River in 1866:

    a splendid looking fellow… riding a small claybank stallion, often hanging on the opposite side of his horse and firing under the animal’s neck. When he sat upright he covered himself and crouched behind a rawhide shield which would ward off a bullet fired at long range…

    The dexterity with which the Yellow Chief could manage his high-spirited horse, cover himself with his shield and fire at full tilt would have put the most skillful modern circus performer in the amateur class.

Medicine Lodge Treaty

But it was Satanta’s oratory skills that made him most valuable to the Kiowa’s and their Comanche allies. The following are parts of the speech given at the Medicine Lodge Treaty Council in 1868. It was once required reading in American high schools.

    “All the land south of the Arkansas belongs to the Kiowas and Comanches, and I don’t want to give away any of it. I love the land and the buffalo, and will not part with it. I want you to understand well what I say.… I want you to understand, also, that the Kiowas and Comanches don’t want to fight, and have not been fighting since we made the [Little Arkansas] treaty. I hear a good deal of talk from these gentlemen [commissioners], but they never do what they say. I don’t want any of these Medicine lodges [ie., schools and churches] built in this country. I want the papooses brought up exactly as I am. When I make peace there is no end of it.…”

    “I have heard that you intend to set apart a reservation near the mountains. I don’t want to settle; I love to roam over the prairie; I feel free and happy; but when we settle down we get pale and die.… I have told you the truth. I have no little lies about me; but I don’t know how it is with the Commissioners. Are they as clear as I am? A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers; but when I go up to the [Arkansas} river I see camps of soldiers on its banks. These soldiers cut down my timber, they kill my buffalo; and when I see that my heart feels like bursting; I feel sorry.”

Satank was present for the entire council but he hadn’t spoke and was not impressive looking. Percival G. Lowe recalled:


    “He was a man about five feet ten, sparely made, muscular, cat-like in his movements-more Spanish than Indian in his appearance-sharp features, thin lips, keen, restless eyes, thin mustache and scattering chin whiskers that seemed to have stopped growing when one to three inches long.”

Captain Richard T. Jacob, described Satank as:

    “a small man and decidedly insignificant but he was generally regarded as a man of superior ability. In appearance, he might have been mixed-blood or of Mexican descent.”

What they didn’t realize was the black sash wrapped around the shoulder and waist indicated he was the senior member of the most honored warrior society called the Ten Bravest. The other nine wore red sashes but all were required to anchor the sash to the ground with an arrow when a particularly difficult battle ensued. He would neither defend himself nor would be leave but stand his ground until his warriors were victorious or one removed the arrow as they passed him in retreat. That day, he spoke after Satanta.

    “It has made me very glad to meet you, who are the commissioners sent by the Great Father to see us. You have heard much talk by our chiefs, and no doubt are tired of it. Many of them have put themselves forward and filled you with their sayings. I have kept back and said nothing-not that I did not consider myself the principal chief of the Kiowa Nation, but others younger than I desired to talk, and I left it to them.

    “Before leaving, however, as I now intend to go, I come to say that the Kiowas and Camaches [sic] have made with you a peace, and they intend to keep it. If it brings prosperity to us, we of course will like it the better. If it brings prosperity or adversity, we will not abandon it. It is our contract, and it shall stand.”

In 1865, Satank had been promised the Texas Panhandle and given a silver medal. Apparently the Union army was a little concerned about their former enemies in Texas and now they wanted the Kiowas to promise to stop raiding Texas and Mexico.

    “Our people once carried war against Texas. We thought the Great Father would not be offended for the Texans had gone out from among his people, and became his enemies. You now tell us that they have made peace and returned to the great family. The Kiowas and Camanches [sic] will seek no bloody trail in their land. They have pledged their word and that word shall last, unless the whites break their contract and invite the horrors of war. We do not break treaties. We make but few contracts, and them we remember well. The whites make so many that they are liable to forget them. The white chief seems not able to govern his braves. The Great Father seems powerless in the face of his children. He sometimes becomes angry when he sees the wrongs of his people committed on the red man, and his voice becomes loud as the roaring winds. But like the wind it soon dies away and leaves the sullen calm of unheeded oppression. We hope now that a better time has come. If all would talk and then do as you have done the sun of peace would shine forever. We have warred against the white man, but never because it gave us pleasure. Before the day of oppression came, no white man came to our villages and went away hungry. It gave us more joy to share with them than it gave him to partake of our hospitality. In the far-distant past there was no suspicion among us. The world seemed large enough for both the red and the white man. Its broad plains seem now to contract, and the white man grows jealous of his red brother.

    “The white man once came to trade; he now comes as a soldier. He once put his trust in our friendship and wanted no shield but our fidelity. But now he builds forts and plants big guns on their walls. He once gave us arms and powder and ball, and bade us to hunt the game. We then loved him for his confidence; he now suspects our plighted faith and drives us to be his enemies; he now covers his face with the cloud of jealousy and anger, and tells us to begone, as an offended master speaks to his dog.

    “Look at this medal I wear. By wearing this I have been made poor. Formerly, I was rich in horses and lodges-to-day I am the poorest of all. When you put this silver medal on my neck you made me poor.

    “We thank the Great Spirit that all these wrongs are now to cease and the old day of peace and friendship [is] to come again.

    “You came as friends. You talked as friend. You have partially heard our many complaints. To you they may have seemed trifling. To us they are everything.

    “You have not tried, as many have done, to make a new bargain merely to get the advantage.

    “You have not asked to make our annuities smaller, but unasked you have made them larger.

    “You have not withdrawn a single gift, but you have voluntarily provided more guarantees for our education and comfort.

    “When we saw these things done, we then said among ourselves, these are the men of the past. We at once gave you our hearts. You now have them. You know what is best for us. Do for us what is best. Teach us the road to travel, and we will not depart from it forever.

    “For your sakes the green grass shall no more be stained with the red blood of the pale-faces. Your people shall again be our people, and peace shall be between us forever. If wrong comes, we shall look to you for right and justice.

    “We know you will not forsake us, and tell your people also to act as you have done, to be as you have been.

    “I am old, but still am chief. I shall have soon to go the way of my fathers, but those who come after me will remember this day. It is now treasured up by the old, and will be carried by them to the grave, and then handed down to be kept as a sacred tradition by their children and their children’s children. And now the time has come that I must go. Good-bye!

    “You may never see me more, but remember Satank as the white man’s friend.”

    The old man moved down the line of whites shaking hands with each. The he mounted his pony and rode away.

The audience was impressed. Stanley called it a “gem” of a speech saying, “There is a good deal of truth in it which strikes home.” Actually there was very little truth on either side. The Kiowas and certainly the Comanches had no intentions of discontinuing the raids into the land of their enemies. Too much blood had been spilt to make peace and there was too much profit to be made in the raiding.

All indented paragraphs are from the book, Satanta, by Charles M. Robinson, III.

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