Download Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History PDF

TitleEmpire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History
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Page 245

vision. We do not know exactly what the result of Quanah’s vision quest
was. Later he told of dreaming of a bear. His medicine as an adult was
bear medicine, which meant that the bear was the source of his power,
his puha. Comanche adolescents also sought spirit power in the ritual
of the Eagle Dance, in which the warrior-dancers proceeded to a
nearby camp to “capture” a girl, usually an actual captive. After they
returned, there was singing and drumming and the young men danced,
imitating the cry of eagles. The idea was that they were young eagles
attempting to leave the nest.11

After the Battle of Pease River, Quanah’s life underwent a profound
and unpleasant change. The comfort and status of being a chief’s son
vanished immediately. He was an orphan in a culture that did not easily
accommodate orphans. At first he was cared for by his father’s Indian
wife. But she died within the year, leaving him and his brother with no
near relatives to care for them. “We were often treated very cruelly,” he
said later, “as orphans only of Indians are treated.” Then Peanuts died,
too (of unknown causes). Quanah was left alone. “It then seemed to me
that I was left friendless,” he recalled. “I often had to beg for my food
and clothes, and could scarcely get anyone to make or mend my
clothes. I at last learned that I was more cruelly treated than the other
orphans on account of my white blood.”12

In spite of this hardship, Quanah became a full warrior when he was
fifteen years old.13 He was a large, long-limbed boy, much taller and
stronger than the average Comanche. As an adult he was a strapping
six-footer, nearly a head taller than many of his peers. In later photos
the sheer mass of his biceps and forearms is apparent. If he was
treated cruelly for a time, that treatment must surely have stopped as
he grew into young manhood. Quanah was no one to tangle with. He
was also strikingly handsome: fully dark-skinned Comanche but with a
classical, straight northern European nose, high cheekbones, and
piercing light gray eyes that were as luminous and transparent as his
mother’s. He somehow looked completely Indian without looking
Asiatic, and could have served as a model of how white people
thought a noble savage ought to look, not the least because he looked

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Quanah and family, ca. 1908

Quanah in his bedroom, ca. 1897

Page 491

Quanah entertaining dinner guests, ca. 1900

Quanah at fifty-eight

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