Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of Ethnology
One of the most well known of the Comanche is Quanah Parker. There are numerous
books and movies featuring this man, which have built on his legend. He is
as well known to European fans as he is to the United States. He seems, in
his legend, to personify the freedom, ferociousness and intelligence of the
Comanche in his time. He rose to leadership of his people in both war and
peace. What is known about Quanah is his public life, his private life remaining
Quanah was the son of a white captive, Cynthia Parker, taken in a raid in
1836 by the Comanche at age 9. She was adopted by a Comanche family and grew
up as a Comanche. His father was a young brave named Peta Nacona. He was born
on the plains of Texas, about 1842.
Early in the marriage, she gave birth to Quanah, who appeared full except
for his grey blue eyes. He grew tall and strong. Cynthia also had another
son, Pecos, and a daughter Prairie Flower. Three children were a better than
average family, so Nocona honored his wife by remaining monogamous, even though
Comanche chiefs often took several wives as their right.
History states she was just as pleased with him. In the 1850's, some whites
offered to ransom her back. She politely refused, saying she had children
to raise and that she loved her husband.
1860 brought disaster to Quanah's band. The Noconas were camped on the Pease
River. The women were readying buffalo for the winter, The men were out hunting.
Forty Texas Rangers, 21 U.S.Calvary men, under the command of Ranger Captain
Sul Ross struck. After the battle it was noticed that one of the women looked
white, with blue eyes. She could not speak English, but they thought she might
be Cynthia, as it was know she was living with the Comanche. Her uncle, Isaac
Parker, came and identified her as his niece lost some 24 years earlier, and
took her and Prairie Flower to East Texas to live among relatives.
Quanah spent years trying to find out what happened to his mother. It was
during the Medicine Lodge Treaty
talks talks that he found out that she had been taken to relatives after the
raid by the Rangers. She had attempted to go back to the Comanche many times
and when her daughter died of a disease, Cynthia starved herself to death
After 1878, Quanah went to find his mother. Armed with a note that said "This
is the son of Cynthia Ann Parker. He is going to visit his mother's people.
Please show him the road and help him if you can." He made it to east Texas,
located his Uncle Silas, and was made welcome by them. He even slept in his
mother's bed. It was during this trip, he took the name Parker.
Quanah Parker had 8 wives and 25 children. Two of his daughters married white
men. He lived in a 12 room house near Cache, OK, called the Comanche White
House. He had his mother moved and buried there, in 1909. When he died in
1911 at the age of 65, he was buried in full Comanche Chief's attire, next
to her. He did not embrace the "Jesus Road" of his mother, but respected it,
out of love for her. He kept the "bleeding heart of Jesus" painting in his
home in her honor.
Cynthia Ann Parker and daughter Prairie Flower
Taken shortly after she was taken back to the Parkers in early 1860's.
Parker Family Graves
Fort Sill Cemetery, Lawton OK
Quanah Parker Grave
Cynthia Parker Grave
Prairie Flower Grave
Information about Quanah obtained
from "Calender History of the Kiowa Indians," by James Mooney, 1898, reprinted
1979, Smithsonian Institution press, Washington, D.C., "Carbine and Lance"
by Wilber S. Nye, 1896, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., "Quanah
Parker, Comanche Chief, by William T. Hagan, University of Oklahoma Press.
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