Tejan is a name commonly given by the Kiowas to captive Mexicans
and whites taken in Texas and there were a number of Kiowa prisoners
by that name. One of them, however, was more than a captive; he was
the foster son of Maman-ti, the great spiritual leader of the Kiowas,
and as such received respect and prestige, whatever his origins.
On the afternoon of Sept. 7, 1874, in the hills adjacent to the
headwaters of the Washita River, east of the present site of Miami,
Teas, a bizarre drama was enacted. Three men on horseback skulked
silently among the rocks and scrubs, peering intently at a miniature
city of teepees nestled in the sand hills beyond the river. A fourth
man crouched on a cliff above.
The encampment was that of Lone Wolf, the Kiowa chief who once had
sought peace with the encroaching white man, but since had become a
powerful war leader in his people's struggle for freedom. With his
advisor, Maman-ti, the embittered leader was laying plans for a last
stand against the overwhelming forces that had destroyed his way of
life and brought about the death of his beloved son. It was
Maman-ti's decision that their salvation lay to the west, in the
virgin fastness of the Texas Panhandle. The leader of the scouting
party was youthful Lt. Frank Baldwin, already a distinguished
campaigner and destined for still greater glory. He eventually would
become a general and the bearer of two Congressional Medals of
Honor. With him were three top army scouts: William F. Schmalsle, a
wiry little German; Lemuel T. Wilson and Ira G. Wing. Journeying to
Camp Supply, this group had already had two dangerous encounters
with hostiles. Their report on the size and location of Lone Wolf's
force would be an item of vital interest to their commander, Col.
Nelson Miles, whose forces were camped somewhere on the Canadian
The sound of leisurely approaching hoof beats sent the men into
hiding. Soon three colts ambled by, headed toward the village,
followed by a muscular young man, almost naked, leading a mule. His
long hair, braided Kiowa-style, glistened red-blond. His eyes
wereblue and his thick neck was that shade of red one associates
with the Irish. He appeared about eighteen years of age.
The astonished soldiers stepped into the open without raising their
guns. The youth brought into play an ancient muzzle-loader. Then his
manner changed; he lowered the rifle and spoke to them in English.
He was called Tejan and said he knew no other name. This seemed
dubious, as his knowledge of English suggests he was eight or more
at the time of his capture by the Kiowas. He had left the village to
bring back the strayed colts and stayed to hunt buffalo. Baldwin
took no chances; he confiscated the boy's gun, mule and moccasins
and had him ride double with one of the scouts. These precautions
were well taken, for Tejan had no love for his own race. Maman-ti
had seen to that. The rough life of the nomad appealed to the youth,
and he had gone on raids in Texas with the famed Big Bow and his
father, the most feared and loved member of the Kiowa aristocracy.
Shortly after the next dawn, Baldwin's party met a wagon train
carrying provisions to Gen. Miles command, which was moving in to
the Washita country. Baldwin delivered his prisoner to Lt. Wylys
Lyman, Fifth Infantry, who was in chare, then rode on to rejoin
Miles. Schmalsle remained with the wagon train.
Lyman was cordial to Tejan. He issued him a uniform, asked a few
friendly questions and treated him as a guest. Tejan went along with
this, pretending to be pleased to be among his own people but
actually looking for an opportunity to escape. On the morning of
September 9, Lyman's thirty six wagons were moving south toward the
Washita in a double column with some fifty infantrymen marching
guard on either side. Thirteen troopers under Lt. Frank West rode
ahead as skirmishers. At about 8 a.m. West's men drove back a war
party which opened fire at long range, and by 2 p.m. the train had
proceeded some twelve miles, to within a mile of the river. As the
wagons struggled across a ravine the Kiowas attacked at both flanks
in heavy force.
As the wagons were being corralled, Lt. Gaville Lewis, in charge of
rear defense, fell with a shattered knew. Sgt. DeArmond, hero of
several campaigns, was killed. After a furious battle the Indians
withdrew to carry on with long-range fire while the soldiers dug
pits and prepared bulwarks. Next day the hopelessly entrapped troops
were parched with thirst. Schmalsle volunteered to ride through the
enemy lines to seek help. He did just that: rode right through,
catching the Kiowas by surprise and emerging unscathed beyond. A
group of braves pursued and the scout's doom seemed certain as he
rode across a grassy plain. Ahead loomed an immensed herd of bison.
Without hesitation, Schmalsle plunged his mount headlong onto the
rolling mass and the Indians, thinking him insane, turned back.
Some of Lyman's men wanted to run to a nearby creek for water, but
they were forbidden to go. On the third night several of them
decided to defy orders and try for the creek. Tejan joined their
suicidal race through the darkness. The Indians opened fire and one
of the men fell wounded. An instant later Tejan collapsed as well
and and rolled down a slope into some bushed. The other men managed
to get back to the wagons. Hidden by grass and darkness, the
unscathed Tejan crawled and rolled to the Indian lines, then sprang
up with a joyous Kiowa greeting. He was received with joy and
amazement by his comrades, his foster parents and foster brothers
and sisters. There were expressions of admiration from the directors
of the war party, the great men of the tribe. A celebration dance
was held in his honor. It was the greatest triumph in the life of a
In the morning Tejan joined his father in the attack on the wagon
train. A heavy rain was falling, lending an eerie aspect to the
scene. The leaden skies seemed, to the beleaguered troopers, a
gloomy forecast of their fate. The day's fighting had hardly begun
when the Indians began to tire of the siege and their forces started
to disseminate. That afternoon, Schmalsle brought help from Camp
Supply. He had ridden through the bison herd until his horse became
too exhausted to continue, then traveled on foot until he reached
When Maman-ti and Lone Wolf led a large group of fleeing Kiowas
toward the mysterious Texas plains, Tejan wanted to go with them.
Reluctantly, he decided instead to take his foster mother and her
children back to the comparative safety of Indian Territory. Once he
had seen to their safety, he bade them farewell and headed back
toward the west, disappearing into the rain. He finally found
Maman0ti in the northern part of Palo Duro Canyon, the long gorge in
the Texas Panhandle where the Kiowas sought refuge.
When the troops of Col. Ronald Mackenzie found the hideaway and took
the Indians by surprise on the morning of September 28, it was a
crushing blow for Kiowa dreams of freedom. Most of the Indian horses
were captured and taken back south to Tule Canyon, where they were
destroyed. Mackenzie knew that 1,400 mounted Kiowas were dangerous
enemy, but 1,400 Indians set on foot in the inhospitable plains
after a terrible defeat would be at his mercy. He killed few Indians
in the battle and made little attempt to take prisoners.
Tejan was one of those who escaped. Occasional reports of his
activities cam to light in ensuing months. For a time he roamed the
Texas plains with a party of Comanches, participating in a number of
raids. Once his family in Indian Territory heard a rumor that he had
been murdered by Big Bow because of his white skin. This proved a
false report, however, for it later was learned that he had parted
from Big Bow's band and headed west into the New Mexico country.
At Fort Sill, Maman-ti and seventy-three other war leaders form the
Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne tribes were deemed incorrigible and
were sent to Fort Marion, Florida, to be imprisoned. About three
months later, on July 29, Maman-ti died. The commandant, in his
report, suggested that the deceased appeared to be of minor
importance, little suspecting that he was speaking of the man who
planned much of the late campaign for the massed tribes.
It was several months later that Tejan learned of his foster
father's death. He was living among the Mescalero Apaches in
southern New Mexico, far away from any of his tribe. After much
soul-searching, he decided it was his duty to return to Indian
Territory, to the hated rule of the U.S. Army, and see to the
widowed mother and her children. He set out alone across the
Tejan never reached his destination. His fate, like his true
identity, remains an unsolved mystery of the Southwest.
In the years following the settlement of the war, several Tejans
were repatriated. None, however, was the brave son of Maman-ti. One
of them bought a bookstore in Amarillo, Texas, and supplied
historians with valuable information about the battles of Tule
Canyon and Palo Duron Canyon, in which he was a youthful
participant. This man, who later was known as Reverend Griffis, had
been apprenticed to Lone Wolf and trained as a bugler. His father
was a trader and his mother an Indian.
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