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Bad Eagle Journal

Comanche Medicine Man: Eschiti

by David Yeagley · February 12, 2009 · 3 Comments ·

Comanche people were once known as the agnostics of the plains. Our people were like solipsists, the ultimate pragmatists. “Religion” was simply superfluous to actual reality. About the only ‘intervension’ that caught our eye was something called “luck” (in today’s English). The only thing beyond that was po-ha-cut, personal power, or “medicine.” It wasn’t about healing, per se, but about unique, personal validation and influence. Maybe supernatural, maybe not.

Last Comanche Medicine Man: Eschiti, ca. 1880.

The last Comanche who claimed to have supernatural power, and the authority that comes with it, was a young warrior named Eschiti–Comanche for “coyote droppings.” ( has used the spelling “Ishatai.”) Eschiti was also known as White Eagle. It is a fact that examining the droppings of the top carnivore in the fauna gives great insight into weather, water, and the general conditions. It was important knowledge to have for hunters. One could make decisions based on such “readings.” It wasn’t exactly prophecy, but the verdicts long experience.

Eschiti is best known for his role in the infamous encounter of Adobe Walls. He was young in 1874 (around 26), and full of power. He ascended above the clouds and communed with the Great Spirit, it was said. He had brought back the dead. But, most impressively, he predicted that the comet of 1873 (Tempel’s II) would disappear in five days, and a summer drought would follow. There were other unbelievable things he did in front of other Comanches, like swallowing a handful of bullets and then throwing them all back up. He won their confidence, in a terribly depressing time. He was like a last messiah, among a people without faith, who knew only luck.

But most famously, in white history, was Eschiti’s role in the Adobe Walls. He first got braves of all the different Comanche bands together in a way unprecedented. He brought together some other plains Indians. Then he threw together some superficial semblence of a “sun dance,” (pretty much a one time affair among Comanche), and preached a final war. June 27, 1874, Eschiti lead a large group of Indians raided the old trading post, Adobe Walls. (The Indians didn’t know that nearly thirty white men in the house had the new long-range buffalo rifles.)

Eschiti had claimed to be bullet-proof. He had painted his whole body yellow (as the sun, as for victory), and sat on his white horse on a hill and watched the unsuccessful attempt to take Adobe Walls. It was the last of Apocalyptic hopes among the Comanche. Eschiti had promised to annihilate all the whites, then the buffalo would all return, and the old days would come back in glory. It just didn’t happen. No such “luck.” (The Penatuka Comanche didn’t follow Eschitai, but instead took up the Ghost Dance.)

Eschiti, (back, right), and relatives.

Eschiti, interestingly, retained his social influence among Comanche, and was a key figure in treaty negotiations. He was even instrumental in bringing in remaining free bands and runaways into Fort Sill. He has descendents today among Comanche people, some very prominent. Though Bad Eagle was kin (cousin) to Eschiti, our family knowledge of the Eschitis is limited. I know my mother and her generation, as young people, were familiar with “Cripple” Jimmy Eschiti, the second son. He was born with severe physical handicap, and was chauffeured in a long black Cadillac, as my mother remembers. He married a woman named Lena. (Interestingly, Mumsekai, another cousin of Bad Eagle, married the widow of Eschiti.)

How does po-ha-cut fare today among the Comanche? Who knows? I know that our current Chairman, Wallace Coffee, recently urged upon our adult population the necessity of Christian teaching and values among our young Indian population. He said, publicly, “I don’t see these values being taught effectively. They’re not being passed on to our young people.”

Eschiti (Ishatai) in old age, ca. 1910

I wouldn’t call Wallace a medicine man, but, I have learned one thing from him: being a good Comanche is being a good Christian. This is a very deep thing, and hard to believe, I’m sure. But it’s true. Being a better Comanche means being a better Christian. It has to do with getting along with the world’s most relentless egos. To lead abject solipsists–this takes a fully Christian person. That’s our messiah, for now–the idea of working together. I see Wallace as that kind of person, who thinks that way. As a Comanche, I find this a profound thing.

Comanche Chairman,
Wallace Coffey

Posted by David Yeagley · February 12, 2009 · 7:42 pm CT · ·

Tags: American Indians · Bad Eagle Journal · Christianity · Race · Religion

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3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 wtf // Feb 13, 2009 at 11:27 pm   

    “The last Comanche who claimed to have supernatural power, and the authority that comes with it, was a young warrior named Eschiti”

    If you had any actual contact your tribe you wouldn’t have to take your history from a book and embarrass your people with your misinformation. FYI, there are actual comanche medicine people in this day and time.

    “It is a fact that examining the droppings of the top carnivore in the fauna gives great insight into weather, water, and the general conditions”

    At last you reveal how you collect your information which is pretty e-schiti if you ask me!


  • 2 Billy Reynolds // Feb 14, 2009 at 9:35 am   

    I have observed a trend. None of these “experts” that post personal attacks against you or dispute your articles… use real names. I think that says a lot about them.
    I’m not sure that pagans count as medicine men. I think medicine men have to know a lot about herb and mineral lore, as well as old-time Indian spiritualism.

  • 3 David Yeagley // Feb 15, 2009 at 9:29 am   

    They also tend to take advantage of the fact that I’m not around on Sabbath!

    There are many low-life people among Indians, as among any people. They don’t know how to communicate, but instead act like angry children who need to have their mouths washed out with soap.

    I’ve never heard anything about Ishatai healing anyone. Healing arts were never big among Comanche. Nothing that required “faith,” anyway. That herbology has made inroads (through other tribes, basically) is not to be denied. But, this isn’t the kind of po-ha-cut we’re talking about when we’re talking about Ishatai, or original “power” concepts among Comanche.

    But, I’ll leave the rather ignorant post above, since you responded to it, Billy. Usually, the best thing to do is not respond to this kind of thing, because I generally remove it as soon as I see it.

    The poster is just very ignorant. I say this not as a criticism, but as a description of his experience. It is a crippling thing, of course, in communication. Many of these vulgar types know so very little, and especially know little about objective history. Of course, there is the element of subjectivity, of solipsism, which figures in here. They figure their experience is all there is, and that it is therefore true and final.

    There has to be some slack here. This person is an exmaple of what I’m talking about!

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