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Quotes from the Old West - May 11, 2018

This carte-de-visite is a composite of Native American images believed to have been made in the late 1860s and early 1870s by William S. Soule. At least some of the images were likely made in Indian Territory; some may have been made in Kansas. The featured photo in the center of this composite is Satanta, the Kiowa chief. (Photo Courtesy of Kansas Historical Society/kansasmemory.org)

Q: Who said the following: "I don't want to settle. I love to roam all over the prairies. There I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die."?
(Hint: There's a town in southwest Kansas named after this famous Native American.)

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A: Satanta (Kiowa Chief) / suh-TAN-tuh

Satanta, also known as Set'tainte or White Bear, was a Kiowa war chief who used both warfare and diplomacy to resist the encroachment of white Europeans on his ancestral lands. Likely born in present day Kansas or Oklahoma (circa 1820), Satanta became a fierce warrior as well as a skilled negotiator. As the U.S. Government began its policy of Indian Removal, Satanta resisted. He argued against plans to relocate his people to reservations. In 1867, just six years after Kansas became a state, Satanta spoke on behalf of his people at the Medicine Lodge Treaty negotiations.

Excerpts from a speech given by Kiowa Chief Satanta at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, 1867 (as quoted by a newspaper reporter from St. Louis).

  • "I don't want to settle. I love to roam all over the prairies. There I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die.”
  • “A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers; but when I go up to the 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."
  • "This building of homes for us is all nonsense. We don’t want you to build any for us; we would all die. Look at the Penatekas! Formerly they were powerful, now they are weak and poor. I want all my land, even from the Arkansas south to the Red River. My country is small enough already. If you build us houses the land will be smaller. Why do you insist on this? What good will come of it? I don’t understand your reason. This trusting of agents for food I don’t believe in."

After delivering this speech, Satanta became known as the "Orator of the Plains." But a little more than a decade later, he committed suicide. Satanta threw himself from the second story of a prison hospital in Huntsville, Texas. During his imprisonment, he had been forced to work as part of a chain gang, which helped build the M.K. & T. Railway. According to guards, Satanta became sullen and broken in spirit and seemed to wither away. He would be "seen for hours gazing through his prison bars toward the north, the hunting grounds of his people."  

Learn more here. 

And check out our Kansas Trivia Trove, an archive of things that every Kansan should know... or at least think about!

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