Red River Indian War

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RED RIVER INDIAN WAR (1874–1875). In 1867 the Treaty of Medicine Lodge placed the Comanche, Kiowa, Arapaho, and Cheyenne tribes on reservations in western Oklahoma. The federal government systematically failed to meet the terms of the treaty by not providing supplies and by allowing white outlaws, cattle rustlers, and liquor merchants entry into tribal areas. The decline of the buffalo herds, particularly following the completion of the Union Pacific Railroad in 1819, and the neglect of the Indian Office and military officials produced widespread suffering among the tribes. The efforts of two Quaker federal agents, James M. Haworth and John D. Miles, to provide education and farming instruction were unsuccessful.

Encouraged by religious dances and leaders such as Quanah Parker, the tribes responded to white incursions by attacking military and civilian facilities. Fourteen battles took place from the Texas Panhandle to western Oklahoma and north Texas. Troops under the command of General Phil Sheridan and Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie, with the advantage of superior weapons and favorable weather, subdued the Indian resistance by 1876. Following their surrender, some tribal leaders were sent to Fort Madison, Florida, under the supervision of Captain Richard Pratt. They were released in 1878. In the aftermath of the war, Indian and white ranchers came to dominate the southern Plains.


Haley, James L. The Buffalo War: The History of the Red River Indian Uprising of 1874. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1976. The best account of the conflict.

Hutton, Paul Andrew. Phil Sheridan and His Army. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985.

Nye, W. S. Carbine and Lance: The Story of Old Fort Sill. 3d ed., revised. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969. A colorful account.

Utley, Robert M. Frontier Regulars: The United States Army and the Indian, 1866–1891. New York: Macmillian, 1974. A first-rate account of the overall conflict between the military and the Plains Indians.

Donald K.Pickens
Carl CokeRister

See alsoBuffalo (Bison) ; Indian Reservations .

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Red River Indian War

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