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October 11, 1874: Satanta has become despondent about hislife-term in the Huntsville, Texas, prison. He has slashed his wrists trying to kill himself, but he is unsuccessful. He will be admitted to the prison hospital. Today, Satanta will jump from a second floor balcony. He will land head first, and die.
Born on the Northern Plains, Satanta (“White Bear Person”) was the son of Red Tepee, who was the keeper of the Tai-me, the Kiowa medicine bundles.During his boyhood, he was known as Guaton-bain or “Big Ribs”. He was a young man when a prominent warrior, Black Horse, presented him with a war shield that he used while raiding in Texas and Mexico. During the early days of the Civil War, he conducted many raids along the Santa Fe Trail. He would later become a principal chief in the Kiowa Wars of the 1860s-1870s and was known as “The Orator of thePlains.”
When Little Mountain died in 1866, Satanta became the leader of the war faction of the Kiowas. His rival was Kicking Bird of the peace faction. As a result of his rivalry, Lone Wolf became the compromise choice for the position of principal chief. Meanwhile, Satanta and his warriors continued raiding in Texas.
Famed for his eloquence, Satanta spoke at the Medicine Lodge Treaty of1867 where the Kiowas ceded their lands in the valleys of the Canadian and Arkansas Rivers and agreed to settle on a reservation within Indian Territory. However, some of the Kiowas were slow to move onto their lands in Indian Territory. When Satanta came under a flag of truce to tell the U.S. Army that he had not been with Black Kettle at the Battle of the Washita, General Philip H. Sheridan heldhim and several other leaders as hostages until their bands had relocated to Indian Territory. In May 1871, Satanta was in a war party that attacked the Warren wagon train with Satank, Big Tree and Mamanti.
Later Big Tree, Satank and Satanta were seized for trial after bragging openly about their exploits. Satank tried to escape on the road to Texas; he was fatally shot. Big Tree and Satantawent to trial and were sentenced to death. Indian rights groups objected to the harsh penalties, however. The Bureau of Indian Affairs even contended that they should be released because their actions were associated with war and not murder. In 1873, they were paroled on a pledge of good behavior for themselves and the entire Kiowa tribe. However, Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, and Arapaho war partiesrenewed their raids on white settlers under the Comanche leader Quanah Parker. These actions started the Red River War of 1874-1875. Satanta tried to prove to army officials that he was not a party to the raids. In September 1874, Big Tree appeared at the Cheyenne Agency at Darlington to state that Satanta wished to surrender peacefully.
True to his word, Satanta surrendered the next month.Although it appears that he had not violated the terms of his parole, Satanta was taken into custody and then imprisoned at Huntsville, Texas. On October 11, 1878, sick, tired, and despairing that he would ever be released, Satanta jumped off the upper floor of the prison hospital and committed suicide. The proud and dignified warrior was buried in Texas. His grandson, James Auchiah, received…