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 Satantas 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 Carsons 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
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 animals 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 Satantas
oratory skills that made him most valuable to the Kiowas 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 dont
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 dont
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 dont 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 dont
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.
told you the truth. I have no little lies about me; but I dont
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 hadnt 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 didnt 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
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
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
childrens children. And now the time has come that I must
You may never see
me more, but remember Satank as the white mans 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.