PARRA-WA-SA-MEN (Ten Bears)
Ten Bears of the Yamparika band of Comanches spent an uneventful
childhood on the Southern Plains. Although he was never considered a great warrior,
Ten Bears became noted among whites and Indians for his compelling speeches,
adroit leadership, and poetic language. Although he visited Washington, D.C.,
in 1863 as a Comanche leader, he failed to get any major concessions for his
people from the U.S. government.
Two years later, Ten Bears signed the 1865 treaty at the Little
Arkansas River in Kansas, which created a reservation for the Comanches in the
southwestern area of Oklahoma. Although he advocated peace, Ten Bears was always
suspicious of the whites and resented their intrusions. At the 1867 Medicine
Lodge Conference, Ten Bears gave an eloquent speech during which he asserted
that he disliked being put on a reservation. I was born upon the prairie where
the wind blew free, and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was
born where there were no enclosures, and where everything drew free breath.
I want to die there, and not within walls. The whites were in no mood for negotiation,
however, and dictated that the Comanches give up most of their lands and freedom
for their small reservation.
In 1872, Ten Bears revisited Washington along with Tosawi of
the Peneteka Comanche band and leaders from other tribes, but the hope that
promises would be kept was futile. Despairing and spurned by his own people
for his part in negotiating unpopular treaties, Ten Bears died in 1873 at Fort
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