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Medicine Lodge Council

Black Kettle of the Cheyenne, Little Raven of the Arapaho, and Satanta of the Kiowa were waiting when members of the Indian Peace Commission arrived at Fort Larned on October 11, 1867. The tribal leaders hoped to relocate the important Plains Indian council to a traditional Indian ceremonial site near the Medicine Lodge River.

Council at Medicine lodgeThe commission, established earlier that summer by Congress, sought to end Plains Indian wars by removing the tribes to reservations far from the routes of westward expansion. Its report blamed the government for social and legal injustices, treaty violations, corruption of agents, and failing to meet legal obligations. Commissioners hoped that more honest negotiations with native peoples would lead to lasting peace. They agreed to the request of the tribal leaders.

At the fork of the Medicine Lodge and Elm creeks tribal representatives from the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa-Apache, gathered in numbers as great as 5,000 to 15,000. Located 70 miles south of Fort Larned, the treaty site was in a grove of elms and cottonwoods. The commission’s large entourage included 500 members of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry, an artillery battery with two Gatling guns, state officials, Indian agents, newspaper reporters, and 100 wagons filled with gifts for the tribes.

Margaret Adams, who was half Arapaho and fluent in English, Kiowa, and Arapaho, served as an interpreter for Little Raven. Reporters noted her “crimson gown, specially worn for this important occasion.”

At 10 a.m. October 19, 1867, tribal leaders and commissioners began to address the council. Reporters described and depicted the gathering of participants. Satanta gained the nickname “orator of the plains” for his eloquence.

“All the land south of the Arkansas belongs to the Kiowas and Comanches and I don’t want to give away any of it,” said Satanta of the Kiowa. “I love the land and the buffalo, and will not part with it.”

“We were once friends with the whites, but you nudged us out of the way by your intrigues and now when we are in council you keep nudging each other,” said Black Kettle, speaking for the Cheyenne. “Why don’t you talk, and go straight, and let all be well?”

“I want to live and die as I was brought up,” Ten Bears said, speaking for the Comanches. “I love the open prairie, and I wish you would not insist on putting us on a reservation.”

“We are glad to hear you express confidence in us and to be assured that you will follow the good road we shall give you,” said commissioner and U.S. Senator John B. Henderson of Missouri. “We will not abuse that confidence. What we say to you may at first be unpleasant, but if you follow our advice it will bring you good and you will soon be happy.”

Treaties with the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache tribes were signed on October 21. The Cheyenne and Arapahoe tribes signed a similar treaty a week later. The treaties cleared the way for railroad construction, relinquished land claims between the Platte and Arkansas rivers, and approved reservations in present-day Oklahoma where tribes would farm using equipment from the government. A last minute concession allowed the Kiowa and Comanche to hunt on their former lands in Kansas and Texas.

The council did not produce the lasting peace that participants had hoped. Years of conflict followed as the reservations were established, tribes relocated, and treaties were contested.

Entry: Medicine Lodge Council

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: February 2017

Date Modified: July 2017

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