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Kiowa - Southern Alliance with the Comanche

After the Southern Kiowa left the Black Hills, they had to forge an alliance with their former enemies, the Comanche. The Sioux expansions had also pushed the Comanche south. When the Southern Kiowa arrived at a Spanish settlement in present-day New Mexico around 1790, they discovered that the Comanche were camped nearby and prepared for a fight. The Spanish intervened and pushed for peace, hoping that peace between the two tribes would create a buffer of friendly tribes between the Spanish settlements and the French traders who were making ventures towards them. The two tribes agreed to negotiate for peace.

The Kiowa delegation was represented by Guikate (Wolf Lying-Down). The Comanche leader, Pareiyi (Afraid-of-Water), could not agree to peace before consulting with all the Comanche leaders, but he invited Guikate to be a guest of the Comanche. Guikate agreed but warned that, if he were killed, it would provoke a war. He traveled with the Comanche for one year and was treated with respect. When he returned to the Kiowa, he testified that the Comanche were honorable and trustworthy to the Kiowa chief, Poliakya. By the end of 1790, the two tribes formed a lasting alliance for mutual benefit.

The Kiowa and Comanche alliance swiftly made them the dominant tribes of the southern plains. The combined territory spanned from the Texas panhandle to the Arkansas River in present-day Kansas. The Kiowa usually occupied the territory between the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers in present-day Kansas and Oklahoma. Together the Kiowa and Comanche pushed the Mescalero and Lipan Apache south and west into Mexico and New Mexico, the Tonkawa out of the southern plains and into central Texas, and the Wichita east of the Wichita Mountains in present-day Oklahoma. The Kiowa successfully traded with the Spanish and orchestrated raids on other tribes or European settlers to obtain guns and horses.

Reunion of the Kiowa

The Spanish feared that tribes might attack their settlements in present-day New Mexico, and they banned the trade of firearms and ammunition to any Native Americans as a safeguard. The French and British had not banned the trade of firearms to Native Americans, which created a problem on the plains. Tribes like the Kiowa, who did not have easy access to French or British traders, had difficulty obtaining guns and ammunition. The Sioux had obtained many guns from the French in Canada, and as they aggressively expanded west across the Northern Plains, there was a great imbalance. The Northern Kiowa and other tribes were desperate to reach the Missouri River to trade for the firearms they needed to combat the Sioux, but the Sioux had already blockaded trade to the east.

The Northern Kiowa finally evacuated their home in the Black Hills by 1804. They briefly lived in present-day western Nebraska en route to find the Southern Kiowa. The French trader, Baptiste Lalande, reported that the Sioux blocked the Kiowa from moving south to reunite with their kin in 1805. The Northern Kiowa were finally reunited with the Southern Kiowa in 1806 after 20 years of separation. The Northern Kiowa helped to strengthen the Kiowa and Comanche alliance, which had been weakened by a smallpox epidemic in 1801. Without an acquired immunity to the European illness, Native Americans had extremely high transmission rates. Nearly half of the Southern Kiowa died from the epidemic.

The Kiowa attempted to make peace with the Sioux in 1815. They agreed to meet a Sioux delegation in present-day Colorado Springs, Colorado. The negotiations failed, and a Kiowa was killed by the Sioux delegation. Another smallpox epidemic decimated the Kiowa in 1816. Every tribe between the Rio Grande and Red River also suffered heavy losses that year; thus, the Kiowa managed to hold their territory in the southern plains.

The Cut-Throat Massacre

Food was scarce during the summer of 1833 and so the principle chief of the Kiowa, A’date (Island Man), split the tribe into smaller bands. These bands were spread out over a large distance to increase the chances of finding enough food. Many of the warriors had left to participate in raids of the Ute and to hunt bison herds, leaving the camps highly vulnerable to attacks. A’date took his band to the Wichita Mountains in present-day Oklahoma. They made camp near their western border with the Osage, who posed the largest threat to the Kiowa and Comanche alliance.

The Little Osage chief, Chetopa, led a war party to attack  A’date’s camp. The Osage warriors killed every man, woman, and child in four Kiowa lodges. They also killed the wife of the tai-me keeper and stole the tai-me. The Osage cut the heads off of the dead and placed them into kettles for the rest of the Kiowa to find as a warning. A’date escaped the attack but was removed from his position as principal chief. A’date was replaced by Dohasan (Little Bluff).

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Entry: Kiowa - Southern Alliance with the Comanche

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: September 2015

Date Modified: December 2017

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.