Quanah Parker ~ and the “Waterworks of Father Peyote”

          My Great-grandmother, Lula Christian, was a full-blooded indian. Either Comanche, or Mescalero Apache, or most likely; a bit of both. The official records are a little vague on this point. Lula grew up in the Oklahoma Indian Territory of the 1880′s near the community of Walters, OK., and was a participant in the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889. The land run started at high noon on April 22, 1889, with an estimated 50,000 people lined up for their piece of the available two million acres.

Oklahoma Land Rush ~ April 22, 1889

          Lula passed away in 1959 when I was three-years old, so I don’t have many memories of her. I do remember she had a good sense of humor. She was blind in one eye…but more than that, she didn’t wear an eye-patch or a glass eye. It was just a big scary looking black hole! All us kids were terrified of her. Lula used to have great fun chasing us around the yard yelling, “Come here and give Granny a kiss!” Of course, we all ran around screaming our heads off!

          My early interest in the real lives of  Cowboys and Indians was supported and encouraged by my family. I was born in Lubbock, Texas. Known as the “Hub of the Plains”, Lubbock was a relatively new city located in the geographical center of the Texas Panhandle. The largest city within 300-square miles, it became the cultural, technological, and business center of West Texas. And to this day there is a huge Native American and old-time cowboy presence in this area. It wasn’t long before I discovered Quanah Parker, the last great War Chief of the Comanche Indians.

Chief Quanah Parker ~ 1885

          Quanah Parker (ca. 1845 or 1852 – February 23, 1911) was a Comanche chief, a leader in the Native American Church, and the last leader of the powerful Quahadi band before they surrendered their battle of the Great Plains and went to a reservation in Indian Territory. He was the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, a European American, who had been kidnapped at the age of nine and assimilated into the tribe. Quanah Parker also led his people on the reservation, where he became a wealthy rancher and influential in Comanche and European American society. With seven wives and 25 children, Quanah had numerous descendants. Many people in Texas and Oklahoma claim him as an ancestor.

          Quanah was introduced into the Destanyuka band, where Chief Wild Horse took him under his wing only after his father’s death, several years after Pease River. Until Nocona died, he took care of his son and raised him. Chief Wild Horse taught Quanah the ways of the Comanche Warrior and he grew to considerable standing as a warrior. He never felt comfortable with the Destanyuka because he was half white. He left and joined the Quahadi (Antelope Eaters) band with warriors from another tribe. The Quahadi grew in number, becoming the largest of the Comanche bands, and also the most notorious. Quanah Parker became a leader of the Quahadi, and led them successfully for a number of years. In October 1867, Quanah was a young man and just an observer, along with all the important Comanche chiefs during the treaty negotiations held at Medicine Lodge. Chief Wild Horse made a statement about his refusal to sign the Medicine Lodge Treaty.

          In the early 1870s, the Plains Indians were losing the battle for their land with the United States government. Following the capture of the Kiowa chiefs Satank, Adoeet (Big Tree), and Santana, the Kiowa, Comanche, and Southern Cheyenne tribes joined forces in several battles. Colonel Ranald Mackenzie led US Army forces to round up or kill the remaining Indians who had not settled on reservations.

          In June 1874, a Comanche prophet named Isa-tai summoned the tribes in the Texas Panhandle to the Second Battle of Adobe Walls, where several American buffalo hunters were active. With Kiowa Chief Big Bow, Quanah was in charge of one group of warriors. The Indians were repelled by long-range Sharps rifles and, as they retreated, Quanah’s horse was shot out from under him at five hundred yards. He was then hit by a ricocheting bullet that lodged in his shoulder. The attack on Adobe Walls caused a reversal of policy in Washington and led to the Red River War which culminated in a decisive Army victory in the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon. On September 28, 1874, Mackenzie and his Tonkawa scouts razed the Comanche village at Palo Duro Canyon and killed nearly 1,500 Comanche horses, a source of the Comanche wealth and power.

          Quanah took two wives in 1872 according to Baldwin Parker, one of Quanah’s sons. His first wife was Ta-ho-yea (or Tohayea), the daughter of Mescalero Apache chief Old Wolf. He had met her while visiting his Mescalero Apache allies and had to produce five mules for her hand in marriage. After a year of marriage and a visit of Mescalero Apache in the Quohada camps, Ta-ho-yea asked to return home citing as her reason her inability to learn the Comanche language. Quanah sent her back to her people. Quanah’s other wife in 1872 was Wec-Keah or Weakeah, daughter of Penateka Comanche subchief Yellow Bear (sometimes Old Bear). Although first espoused to another warrior, she and Quanah eloped, and took several other warriors with them. It was from this small group that the large Quahadi band would form. Yellow Bear pursued the band and eventually Quanah made peace with him. The two bands united, forming the largest force of Comanche Indians.

          Over the years, Quanah married six more wives: Chony, Mah-Chetta-Wookey, Ah-Uh-Wuth-Takum, Coby, Toe-Pay, and Tonarcy. A c. 1890 photograph by William B. Ellis of Quanah and two of his wives identified them as Topay and Chonie. Quanah had twenty-five children with his wives. After moving to the reservation, Quanah got in touch with his white relatives from his mother’s family. He stayed for a few weeks with them, where he studied English and Western culture, and learned white farming techniques. 

          Quanah Parker is credited as one of the first important leaders of the Native American Church movement. Parker adopted the peyote religion after having been gored in southern Texas by a bull. Parker was visiting his mother’s brother, John Parker, in Texas where he was attacked, giving him severe wounds. To fight an onset of blood burning fever, a Mexican curandera was summoned and she prepared a strong peyote tea from fresh peyote to heal him. Thereafter, Quanah Parker became involved with peyote, which contains hordenine, mescaline or phenylethylamine alkaloids, and tyramine, which act as natural antibiotics when taken in a combined form. Clinical studies indicate that peyocactin, a water-soluble crystalline substance separated from an ethanol extract of the plant, proved an effective antibiotic against 18 strains of penicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, several other bacteria, and a fungus.

"Peyote Ceremony" by Fred Cleveland

          Parker taught that the sacred peyote medicine was the sacrament given to the Indian peoples and was to be used with water when taking communion in a traditional Native American Church medicine ceremony. Parker was a proponent of the “half-moon” style of the peyote ceremony. The “cross” ceremony later evolved in Oklahoma because of Caddo influences introduced by John Wilson, a Caddo-Delaware religious leader who traveled extensively around the same time as Parker during the early days of the Native American Church movement.

Parker’s most famous teaching regarding the spirituality of the Native American Church:

“The White Man goes into his church and talks about Jesus. The Indian goes into his tipi and talks with Jesus.”
The modern reservation era in Native American history began with the adoption of the Native American Church and Christianity by nearly every Native American tribe and culture within North American and Canada as a result of Parker and Wilson’s efforts. The peyote religion and the Native American Church were never the traditional religious practice of North American Indian cultures. This religion developed in the nineteenth century, inspired by events of the time being east and west of the Mississippi River, Parker’s leadership, and influences from Native Americans of Mexico and other southern tribe’s. They had used peyote in spiritual practices since ancient times. Parker became wealthy as peyote became an important item of trade, combined with his ranching revenues.    

          At the age of fifty-nine, Quanah died on February 23, 1911, at Star House.

Quanah Parker's Star House ~ 2012


          In 1911, Quanah was interred at Post Oak Mission Cemetery near Cache, Olkahoma. In 1957, he was moved to Fort Sill Post Cemetery at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, along with his mother Cynthia Ann Parker and sister Topsannah (“Prairie Flower”). The inscription on his tombstone reads:

Resting Here Until Day Breaks
And Shadows Fall and Darkness
Disappears is
Quanah Parker Last Chief of the Comanches
Born 1852
Died Feb. 23, 1911

          Biographer Bill Neeley wrote: “Not only did Quanah pass within the span of a single lifetime from a Stone Age warrior to a statesman in the age of the Industrial Revolution, but he never lost a battle to the white man and he also accepted the challenge and responsibility of leading the whole Comanche tribe on the difficult road toward their new existence.”

          Which leads to this…

           “The Waterworks of Father Peyote” (first encounter) ~ April 7, 1974

~ samwell

About sidestreetsam

Sam Hallmark ~ Graphic Designer ● Conceptual Design ● Animation ● Multi-Media ● Music ● Desert Wind Graphics was established in 1994 as an affordable graphic design solution for a wide range of clients. From conceptual media, storyboards, print collaterals, logo design, multi-media presentations, animation, engineering, technical, marketing , advertising and corporate image packages, Desert Wind Graphics will fulfill your design needs for projects both big and small. With over twenty-five years of design experience I can provide you with access to a unique skill set that will deliver your project on time, within budget and on target! Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have regarding your graphic design needs.
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8 comments on “Quanah Parker ~ and the “Waterworks of Father Peyote”

  1. Wow! What an incredible story of great-grandmother, Texas, Indians, Christianity, Medicine, and culture. You brought it all to life and I had no idea about any of that part of history being connected.

    • Thanks, Jeff! I’m glad you enjoyed my latest post. It deals with a fundamental concept of our human existence that no rational person can refute. That is, the underlying unified plan of creation, that reveals connections never imagined in our wildest fantasies. Truth, and the search for the real back-story in history, is always more unreal and remarkable than the most outrageous fiction! ~ samwell

  2. Great information I wish we knew more about our relatives I kinda remember Lula she seamed to be tall but I was only 5 years old. Quanah Parker was a great man in history I’ve read books about him very striking

    • ~ Happy New Year, Trina! I’m glad you liked the post about our ancestors! Mema provided most of the details… I had no idea…amazing stuff…more on that later. Keep warm out there! Love you guys, sam

  3. I am a distant relative of Quanah and really enjoyed your article! My grandmother was Myrtle Fay Tarkington, 1/4 Comanche thru this lineage. Her sister-in-law has made a big book with all the info in it. Not sure how it was all done but do know it is traced back to Cynthia Ann Parker, his mother. Thanks for the info.

    • Hi, DeAnna! Thanks so much for sharing your family history with me. There is a real good chance we were related back in the day!(ha-ah) Your Grandmother’s Sister-in-Law should be commended for compiling a big book detailing your Comanche geneology. I would love to take a peak at that book as reliable info from that period is pretty hard to find. Blessing Way…sss

  4. This is such a great story! I just located the U.S. Indian Census Rolls 1885-1940 with my grandmother Vera Parker’s (age 15) name is listed along with a Quanah Parker (age 16).
    It states that they are both 1/4 Comanche. My great grandfather was Andrew Logan Parker. The family has never mentioned a Quanah Parker. The Census is dated April 1,1931. Could Quanah Parker be related to my grandmother and how would I go about finding this information?

    • Sorry for the late response, Debbie! I’m glad you enjoyed the story of my Great-Grandmother. It’s difficult finding solid information regarding American Indian birth/death records. Most of the information I collected was from word of mouth within my own family, especially my Grandmother, Helen B. Williams. Good luck with your search…it sounds like you could be related to Quanah Parker. Search out the extensive on-line history of his family. That might be a good start.

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