Quanah Parker (late 1840’s-1911) was a Native American leader and the last chief of the Quahadi Comanche Indians. His name means “fragrant”. While most Comanche warriors chose different names upon entering adulthood, Quanah kept his childhood name.
Quanah’s mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, was captured by Indians in 1836 and adopted into the Nocona Comanche band. Her name became Nadua (Someone Found”). She fell in love with and married a Comanche warrior. She bore two sons and one daughter before being re-captured by Texas Rangers who reunited her with her family. She demanded to be taken back to her husband, but was repeatedly refused. After her daughter died of illness, Nadua starved herself to death. Quanah may have kept his childhood name since that was what his mother had called him before she was recaptured.
Her husband, Peta Nacona, died shortly after his wife’s capture. He was already in ill health, and plagued by a wound which hastened his demise. Before he died, he told his son, Quanah, about the capture of Nadua by the whites. Other tribesmen began to taunt Quanah about being a half-breed. Quanah subsequently left to join the Destanyuka tribe, led by Chief Wild Horse. In time, Quanah joined the Quahadi band – soon to become the largest and most infamous band – and became their leader.
In the 1860s, many Indian tribes, Comanche and otherwise, signed treaties with the whites. However, Quanah refused to sign. It wasn’t until 1874 that Quanah buckled under increasing pressure from the Army. Food was hard to find, as buffalo hunters were decimating their herds. In 1875, the Quahadi Comanches surrendered and moved to a reservation in Cache, Oklahoma.
Many Comanche bands lived on this reservation. Quanah was named chief of all the Comanches. He was a resourceful and capable leader. By investing wisely, he became one of the wealthiest Indians in the USA at that time. He embraced white culture, and whites embraced him back – he even hunted with Theodore Roosevelt, President of the USA.
Despite his respect for white culture, he rejected traditional Christian values of monogamy. Instead, he helped to found the Native American Church Movement. He had five wives who blessed him with 25 children.
Quanah’s religious beliefs included the use of peyote to induce visions. He was first given peyote by a medicine man – peyote is a powerful natural antibiotic which cured Quanah’s near-fatal infection. During this experience, Quanah believed he heard the voice of Jesus Christ ordering him to atone for his sins by bringing peyote religion to the Indian peoples. Quanah taught that the sacred peyote was an integral part of the Native American Church.
When Quanah died in 1911, he was interred next to his mother at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.