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Tejan

Native American Nations | Indian Warriors
 

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 River.

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 young warrior.

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 the fort.
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 forbidding desert.

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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Collection of books and papers, 1922-1925

Indian Warriors

 

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