Wild Horse, a Quahada Comanche was one of the Comanche warriors involved in the attack on Adobe Walls (June 27, 1874), out in the Texas panhandle. He and the Comanches, along with a good number of Cheyenne, were still quite “hostile,” the whites said. Patriots, we Indians call them. There were willing to fight to the last man, at least at that time.
Wild Horse had come under that strange spell of Ishatai (Eschiti), the “medicine” man who claimed he made the Indians invulnerable to the white man’s bullets, and that they must continue to fight. They could still win. (Of course, when they lost at Adobe Walls, Ishatai said his po-ha-cut failed because a taboo he had given was broken. Someone had killed an animal before the battle.)
Wild Horse, ca. 1880
As it turned out, Wild Horse was made a “chief” when the last of the Comanches finally ended their resistance and faced the white man at Fort Sill. Bull Elk, the Quahada Comanche leader at the transition period felt he could not deal with the whites, and ordained Wild Horse in his stead.
Wild Horse had himself cease warring in April, 1875. Colonel R. MacKenzie was quick to apeal to Wild Horse to help in rounding up the rest of the free Comanche (the Quahada) who were till out on the Llano Estacado (Staked Plains) of the Texas panhandle. MacKenzie picked Wild Horse and two other Comanches, one of whom was Tu-vi-ai, better known as Bad Eagle. The other was Ishatai. “Doctor” Jacob J. Sturm, who was serving as an interpretor for Col. MacKenzie, was sent out to find the last free Comanche and give to them the message that they all needed to come in to Fort Sill. It is said that Wild Horse made strong appeal to Quanah Parker, leader of the last free Quahada. However, Dr. Sturm considered Ishatai the greater influence (despite the defeat at Adobe Walls), and credited Ishatai with Parker’s decision to finally end the Comanche’s independence.
Wild Horse, Ishatai, and Bad Eagle well knew that the days of independence had become impossible. The buffalo had been reduced to nothing, the antelope had fled away, and survival off the land was simply impossible. The white man’s presence had multiplied beyond what most Indians could comprehend, or had any disposition to comprehend. Only Indians who had seen it first hand could understand the power of the white man’s world. There was no longer any hope of the old life, the free, independent life.
The transition had been gradual, of course, because the Comanche tribes were scattered all over the southwest. They had established the largest ‘empire’ ever created on the continent. No, they weren’t interested in ruling over other people, Indians, Mexicans, or Whites. The Comanche simply dominated what they considered hunting ground. The largest empire in North America had simply been a hunting empire. For the Comanche people, so grand, so spread out, yet in small individually autonomous bands, to eventually come to a united comprehension that their whole world was ending, was not a sudden revolution of awareness. The end of their empire was not an easily disseminated bit of information.
Naturally, when one portion of the empire ended, those Comanche were of the disposition that the other Comanches, still hunting, should also end their portion of the empire. Wild Horse, Ishatai, and Bad Eagle all went through this change of disposition. Bad Eagle, of course, had the advantage of already living in a civilized society earlier in his life, and he knew Indians could do it. Therefore, he was willing to encourage the end of the hunting empire.
Wild Horse, in warrior’s dress
In future generations, down to the present day, there remains a active tension among the descendents of the Comanche warriors–even among the same tribe. Wild Horse, Ishatai, Bad Eagle, Quanah Parker, and the great Ten Bears (peace chief), were all Quahada (Antelope) Comanche. Ironically, all but Ten Bears were involved in the final phasing out of the last free days for the Quahada. Yet, there is living resentment, if unconscious or unspoken, of Wild Horse, Ishatai, and Bad Eagle, particularly Bad Eagle. Bad Eagle had the irritating experience of having one of his wives stolen from him by Quanah Parker–for which Quanah paid a very high price. But, that’s a different story.
Indians don’t forget things quickly, or easily. Even today’s relationships with Washington are dominated by the sentiments of a past century. Indians are nations, with different languages, religions, and territories. All the tribes see Washington as the power with whom they have to do. Treaties with states or local governance, even it it preceded the national treaties, as it did in many cases with the warring Plains Indianis, were never considered the ultimate agreement. The umbilical cord of Indian Country is connect to Washington. It is, so far, an unbreakable tradition. Whatever frustration, obfuscation, and social retardation this arrengement engenders, American Indians seem willing to endure it.