Satanta (1830-1878) was a leader of the Kiowa tribe who fought an endless war to protect his tribe's land from being taken away from the U.S. government.
In the 1860s and 1870s, the Kiowa Indians waged an ongoing battle to protect their land and way of life from U.S. encroachment. Satanta (1830-1878), also known as White Bear, was a major Kiowa leader in favor of resistance. Besides his prowess as a warrior, Satanta was also a famed orator—a fact attested by his American-given nickname "The Orator of the Plains."
Satanta was born on the northern Plains, but later migrated to the southern Plains with his people. His father, Red Tipi, was keeper of the tribal medicine bundles or Tai-me. Much of Satanta's adult life was spent fighting U.S. settlers and military. He participated in raids along the Santa Fe Trail in the early 1860s, and in 1866 became the leader of the Kiowa who favored military resistance against U.S. military forces. In 1867, he spoke at the Kiowa Medicine Lodge Council, an annual ceremonial gathering, where, because of his eloquent speech, U.S. observers gave him his nickname. At the council, Satanta signed a peace treaty that obligated the Kiowa to resettle on a reservation in present-day Oklahoma. Shortly thereafter, however, he was taken hostage by U.S. officials who used his imprisonment to coerce more Kiowa into resettling on their assigned reservation.
For the next couple of years, Satanta participated in a number of raids in Texas where cattle ranchers and buffalo hunters were steadily pushing Kiowa and Comanche Indians onto reservations. It was one of these raids that eventually led to Satanta's capture. In May 1871, Satanta planned an ambush along the Butterfield Stage Route on the Salt Creek Prairie. After allowing a smaller medical wagon train to pass, Satanta and his warriors attacked and confiscated the contents of a larger train of ten army freight wagons. Unfortunately for Satanta, the train he had allowed to pass was carrying General William Tecumseh Sherman, the famous Civil War general, then commander of the U.S. Army. Sherman took the attack as a sign that a more militant and coordinated offense was needed to subdue the Kiowa and Comanche, who were unwilling to settle permanently onto reservations. A short time later Satanta was lured into a peace council and then arrested and was sentenced to death. Humanitarian groups and Indian leaders protested the harsh sentence. In 1873, Satanta was paroled on the condition he remain on the Kiowa Reservation.
In 1874, during the Comanche and United States conflict called the Red River War, Satanta presented himself to U.S. officials to prove that he was not taking part in the hostilities. His demonstration of loyalty was rewarded with imprisonment. Four years later, an ill Satanta was informed that he would never be released. He jumped to his death from the second story of a prison hospital. □