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Voices from the past: Chief Ten Bears


Last updated 12/14/2022 at 9:44am | View PDF

Chief Ten Bears' Fort Sill, Oklahoma, gravesite.

In 1867 Comanche Chief Ten Bears (Pawʉʉrasʉmʉnurʉ) signed the Medicine Lodge Treaty with the U.S. Government. At that treaty signing, William Tecumseh Sherman told Ten Bears that his people were being evicted from the lands they'd been roaming for millennia. Sherman stoutly declared; "You can no more stop this than you can stop the sun or the moon. You must submit, and do the best you can."

In response, Chief Ten Bears made the following speech:

"My heart is filled with joy when I see you here, as the brooks fill with water when the snow melts in the spring; and I feel glad, as the ponies do when the fresh grass starts in the beginning of the year. I heard of your coming when I was many sleeps away, and I made but a few camps when I met you. I know that you had come to do good to me and my people. I looked for benefits which would last forever and so my face shines with joy as I look upon you.

My people have never first drawn a bow or fired a gun against the Whites. There has been trouble on the line between us and my young men have danced the war dance, but it was not begun by us. It was you to send the first soldier and we who sent out the second.

Two years ago I came upon this road following the buffalo, that my wives and children might have their cheeks plump and their bodies warm. But the soldiers fired on us, and since that time there has been a noise like that of a thunderstorm and we have not known which way to go. So it was upon the Canadian. Nor have we been made to cry alone.

The blue dressed soldiers and the Utes came from out of the night when it was dark and still, and for camp fires they lit our lodges. Instead of hunting game they killed my braves, and the warriors of the tribe cut short their hair for the dead. So it was in Texas. They made sorrow come in our camps, and we went out like the buffalo bulls when the cows are attacked.

When we found them, we killed them and their scalps hang in our lodges. The Comanches are not weak and blind, like the pups of a dog when seven sleeps old. They are strong and farsighted, like grown horses. We took their road and we went on it, the white women cried and our women laughed.

But there are things which you have said which I do not like. They were not sweet like sugar but bitter like gourds. You said that you wanted to put us upon reservation, to build our houses and make us medicine lodges. I do not want them.

I was born on the prairie where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and where everything drew a free breath. I want to die there and not within walls.

I know every stream and every wood between the Rio Grande and the Arkansas. I have hunted and lived over the country. I lived like my fathers before me, and like them, I lived happily. When I was at Washington the Great Father told me that all the Comanche land was ours and that no one should hinder us in living upon it. So why do you ask us to leave the rivers and the sun and the wind and live in houses?

Do not ask us to give up the buffalo for the sheep. The young men have heard talk of this and it has made them sad and angry. Do not speak of it more. I love to carry out the talk I got from the Great Father. When I get goods and presents I and my people feel glad, since it shows that he holds us in his eye.


Chief Ten Bears portrait.

If the Texans had kept out of my country there might have been peace. But that which you now say we must live on is too small. The Texans have taken away the places where the grass grew the thickest and the timber was the best. Had we kept that we might have done the things you ask. But it is too late. The white man has the country which we loved, and we only wish to wander on the prairie until we die.

Any good thing you say to me shall not be forgotten. I shall carry it as near to my heart as my children, and it shall be as often on my tongue as the name of the Great Father. I want no blood upon my land to stain the grass. I want it all clear and pure and I wish it so that all who go through among my people may find peace when they come in and leave it when they go out."

[Source: Wikipedia]

Editor's note: This article is special submission by author Larry Obermesik, separate from the usual monthly excerpt from his book "The Lost Gold Rush Journals." Learn more online at:


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