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Satank

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A principal chief of the Kiowas for many years was Satank, the hard visage warrior of countless battles. He was born in the Black Hills of the Dakotas about 1810 and survived years of savage warfare against the Arapahos, Comanches, Cheyennes, Tonkawas, Pawnees, Creeks, Apaches, Osages and Dakotas. Satank-the name means Sitting Bear-distinguished himself early as an outstanding fighting man. He was a member of the Ko-eet-senko, of which only the ten bravest members of the tribe could be included. When initiated into this elite group, each man too an oath to return from each warlike encounter with honor or not return at all. Satank lived by this code to the last.

Satank was instrumental in arranging the lasting peace with the Arapahos and Cheyennes in 1840, and was the first man to sign the Treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867. The latter document provided for the Kiowas and their principal ally, the Comanches, to live on a reservation in Oklahoma (then Indian Territory) and cease their raids upon the white settlers. Satank's loose interpretation of the terms-he was a true product of the Stone Age and never would learn to live the rules of the white men-permitted the Indians to continue raiding under certain circumstances and to take their time in settling down on the reservation. As a close friend of the head chief, Lone Wolf, and other leaders of the tribes, Satank had a great deal of influence upon the behavior of the Indians during the crucial years following the enactment of the treaty.

In 1870, a son of Satank was killed while on a revenge raid in Texas. The sorrowing chief went to Texas and gathered the bones of the young warrior, thereafter carrying them with him in a bundle on a special horse. Although he was at least 60 years old at this time, Satank rode with the young braves in their attacks upon the hated Texans.

Satank was with Satanta in the infamous Warren wagon train massacre (an account of which is given in the chapter on Satanta), the incident which ended the tolerant period of U.S.-Kiowa relations. Shortly afterward, under orders from General Sherman, Satanta, Satank and Bit Tree were arrested, piled into wagons and put on the road to Texas to stand trial. Satank, who refused to go willingly, had to be bound and bodily thrown by four men into the lead wagon, which was partially loaded with corn.

As the wagon jogged along, Satank sat erectly upon a pile of corn and began a strange chant. It was the death song of the Ko-eet-senko, the chant that promised death before dishonor. One of the troopers recognized the song of death and alerted the corporal of the guard, but nobody was afraid of the tired old man in the wagon. Satank interrupted his chant long enough to talk to a Caddo scout asking him to tell the Kiowas to make restitution and cease their raiding. He then pointed to a tree on the road ahead, saying, "When I reach the tree I will be dead." Satank resumed his death chant, meantime working his hands free. As the wagon reached the tree Satank had indicated, the old chief leapt up and lunged at the guard riding with him. Satank wretched the rifle from the man's grasp and sent him toppling into the road. An officer riding nearby saw the guard fall and gave the order to the men near the wagon to fire. Just as Satank was levering a shell into the chamber of the carbine, he was struck by a volley of bullets. The old man fell to the wagon bed, bleeding from several wounds. A moment later tottered again to his feet and tried to aim the rifle at the officer. Before he could press the trigger he again was brought down by a blast of rifle-fire.

Old Satank still lived, but it was obvious that he soon would die. He told his captors that he wanted to die alone, and accordingly he was lifted from the wagon and place beside the road. When last seen by the members of the caravan he was sitting against a tree and covered with blood and dust. Later, his body was brought to Fort Sill and buried in the Military Cemetery.

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Collection of books and papers, 1922-1925

Indian Warriors

 

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