For three centuries the Comanches ruled as “Lords of the Southern Plains.”  With the coming of white settlers and the might of the U.S. Army, the land was being wrested for its Indian masters.  The Comanches resented this appropriation of their ancestral home and say only one recourse - WAR.  The Comanches were the finest horsemen of the plains and they fought with the ferocity and desperation of any man who battles to save his home and his land.

In 1836, during a Comanche raid on Fort Parker, near the present city of Groesbeck, Texas, nine year old Cynthia Ann Parker was captured.  She grew up among the Comanches whom she learned to love dearly.  Ultimately, she married the famed chief Peta Noconi (Peautachnoconne) for whom she bore 3 children.  Quanah (the name means “fragrant”) was born to the couple in 1845 and was the only one of the 3 children to survive.

When Quanah was still a young boy, his mother was recaptured in 1860 by Texas Rangers who returned her and her baby Prairie Flower to her white relatives.  Cynthia Ann begged to be allowed to return to her Comanche family and made several attempts to escape; but to no avail.  Prairie Flower died during this time.  Broken hearted, Cynthia Ann sickened and died in 1864.  For the rest of his life, Quanah revered the memory of his mother.  He added her maiden name “Parker” to his own name.

Sharp of mind and an intrepid warrior, Quanah emerged as a vigorous and enlightened protector of Comanche interests.  The Quahada band of Comanches, fiercest of all bands, was under his leadership.  Quanah led Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Comanches, Kiowas and Apaches in their last great surge against white encroachment - known as Battle of Adobe Walls.  A military strategist of the first order, he became one of the most feared Indians on the Southern Plains.  But the white man was superior in weapons and numbers.  The day came when Quanah knew that further resistance would lead only to the annihilation of the Comanches.  He counseled his people to lay down their arms and “take the white man’s road.”  On June 2, 1875, Quanah and his followers surrendered at Fort Sill.  By an ironic twist of fate, it was Quanah who led the Comanches in their final struggle against white encroachment - his mother’s own people - and once again the fighting was over, it was he - as last Chief of the Comanches - who was to lead them up from the bitter ashes of defeat to walk “the white man’s road.”  Quanah dedicated himself to the strenuous task of guiding the Comanches into civilization.

Courageous and strong-willed, he was also a natural diplomat.  Traveling numerous times to Washington D.C. to represent the Comanches, he became a familiar figure in Congress.  He became a successful farmer and rancher and became a major stockholder in the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway.  His beautiful two story home, complete with veranda and star emblazoned roof, was built at the foothills of the Wichita Mountains.  He had vital interest in educating the young and became president of his local school board.  He was appointed presiding judge in the Court of Indian Offenses and numbered statesmen and ambassadors among his friends.  In 1905 Quanah rode in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade.  In a special report to the President, it was stated of Quanah “If ever Nature stamped a man with the seal of headship, she did it in his case.  Quanah would have been a leader and a governor in any circle where fate may have cast him.”

As a result of Quanah’s shrewd business negotiations the Comanches and affiliated tribes, by 1900, generated an aggregate annual income of $232,000 per year through grazing leases.  Comanche prosperity flourished during this period with investments in tribal herds, houses, schools, and other ranching activities.  Quanah proved himself as a great leader in peace as he had been in war.

Quanah initiated change whenever it promised to benefit the Comanches and fought unfavorable change as loyally and strenuously as he formerly practiced war.  He adamantly opposed the Jerome Agreement to open the reservation for settlement and through his persistent efforts the transaction failed to be ratified for nearly a decade.  An influential religious leader and medicine man, he adamantly fought for Indians’ right for freedom of worship and was instrumental in the establishment of the Native American Church.

On December 4, 1910, Quanah had his mother’s remains exhumed and reburied near his home where, as he said, “I might lie beside her.”  At Quanah’s request Congress erected a monument at her grave site.  Just 3 months after her reburial, Chief Quanah died on February 23, 1911.  Quanah, who was responsible for the Comanches’ transition into the “white man’s road” and who perhaps did more than any other man to reconcile these two great races was mourned by whites and Indians alike.  Approximately 1500 people formed a funeral possession over 2 miles long.  Although his remarkable adaptation to white ways brought him honor, wealth, and a show-place home for his family, he never did forsake his Comanche heritage - he loved his culture heritage, he was proud of it, and strove to preserve it.  When he was buried beside his white mother, it was in the full regalia of a Comanche chief.  An 18-foot red granite monument, fashioned after the Washington monument, was erected by Act of Congress to mark the Chief’s grave.

Quanah had 7 Comanche wives and begat 24 children.  Every year the descendants of Quanah and the Parker relatives of Texas gather to honor the memory of Cynthia Ann and her remarkable son.








No one from the pages of Indian history carries more clout or mystique than the name of Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanches.  In war, his equal was never seen, but when the inevitable “taming of the west” ensued in the late 1870s, he transferred that war chief ability into a positive force that would shape his Comanche people and the entire future of Indian law and religion.

Quanah (meaning “fragrant”) came from humble beginnings, a half-blood born on the high plains of Texas around 1845 to a Comanche war chief of the Quohada band, Peta Nocona, and the white captive, Cynthia Ann Parker, who had been stolen as a child by Indians on the Texas frontier.  Later as a young mother of three, Cynthia Ann was recaptured by whites at the Battle of Pease River in 1860, and after four years in the captivity of her former relatives, she “died from a broken heart” following the death of her other two children and repeatedly trying to escape back to her Comanche family.  Her oldest son Quanah never saw her again, but would carry the love and memory of his mother, whose blue eyes he inherited, to his grave.  It is this link between white and Indian worlds that would place him in a unique position in history to move the Comanche people and their long history as “Lords of the Plains” onto the white man’s road in the modern age.

In the final days of the Indian wars, Captain Ranald McKenzie and his Raiders relentlessly chased the Comanches but never could catch Quanah, even at Adobe Walls or the bleakest period in their history, the mid-winter massacre of 1874 at Paloduro Canyon, where the white soldiers burned their tipis and killed all of their horses.  The Comanche Indians escaped with only their lives, but they somehow managed to survive the winter, although their way of life would not.  In the ensuing spring of 1875 with no buffalo left to hunt for food and white soldiers relentlessly rounding up the final bands of Indian tribes onto reservations, Quanah led his people to surrender with honor, not in chains, at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.  Thus began his toughest battle:  to lead the Comanches from the ashes of Manifest Destiny to a new way of life in the modern world of the white man.

Quanah quickly learned to read and write, meet dignitaries and understand the business of money and politics.  He staunchly clung to the old Indian ways but encouraged his Comanche people to become educated and self-sufficient.  Quanah was the brains behind the “grass money” (charging $1 per cow) that flowed into the tribal coffers when cattle barons wanted to fatten and drive their Texas herds over the Indian reservations in Oklahoma on the way to central and northern US markets.  Soon the tribes had money for schools, services and homes, all because Quanah understood the concept of business, led the way and looked out for his people, honoring the role of chief he had held since he was a young man and war chief in his 20s.

Quanah’s astute understanding of the white man’s world and his stand for Indian sovereignty would last into the 20th century and beyond, manifesting into the systems used today where tribes govern themselves with their own money.  Because of Quanah’s opposition and lobbying efforts, the final appropriation of the Indian Territory lands, designated by the Jerome Agreement, was delayed for over 10 years, but the inevitable last land grab in American expansion occurred with statehood of Oklahoma in 1907.

Quanah became a successful farmer, rancher and diplomat who was a familiar figure to Congress, U.S. presidents and dignitaries from all walks of life, and he became a major stockholder in the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway.  His two-story home, “The Star House,” located at the foot of the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, hosted a ”Who’s Who” of Indian and American luminaries and leaders such as Geronimo, Teddy Roosevelt, and Burk Burnett.  With 7 wives and 24 children, Quanah carried the responsibility of chief beyond his family to include not only his tribe, but anyone in need, and the stars located on his roof were the visual manifestation to far and wide that proclaimed, “The general lives here.”

During these years “on the white road”, Quanah was instrumental in the establishment of the Native American Church and argued successfully that the sacrament of peyote, central to the Native American Church’s beliefs for healing, was protected by the US Constitution.  Today, his role as founder of this religious institution carries as much weight as the service he gave to his people as benefactor and protector of the Comanches and their life way.

Quanah never forgot his white mother Cynthia Ann Parker and added her name to his, reburying her and his baby sister Prairie Flower near him in Oklahoma in 1910.  Only three months later, he died from complications of Diptheria on Feb. 23, 1911 at the age of 66.  At his funeral, thousands of Comanches and whites mourned together for the passing of “The Eagle of the Comanches.

Quanah was one of the greatest war chiefs in the history of the U.S. Indian Wars, he was a medicine man who founded the Native American Church, and he was a humanitarian who led his Indian people from the days of the buffalo on the Plains into the modern world of business and commerce.  It was decided that Quanah Parker would be “The Last Chief of the Comanches,” and to give him the honor such a historic figure deserves, an act of Congress erected a monument at his grave on Chief’s Knoll in Ft. Sill, Oklahoma.  Even 100 years after his death, Quanah’s influence is still felt and colors both worlds in which he lived, but above all, he revered his Comanche culture and Indian heritage.  His daughter Neda wrote the following inscription for the monument at his grave, which distills this larger-than-life figure into these lyrical words that echo the Indian way of life:

“Quanah Parker, last chief of the Comanches,

resting here till the day breaks, the shadows fall and

the darkness disappears.”