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She Chose the War Path

from my post over at https://cowboykisses.blogspot.comdahteste

Sometimes when I do research, I discover fascinating individuals who led gloriously exciting lives and then retired in peace, children and grandchildren sitting at their feet. The happily ever after. The ending we’d all like. Truth is, though, sometimes a hero has her moment early on and from there it’s not a very pretty spiral downward.

This is my impression of the life of Apache warrior woman Dahteste (pronounced ta-DOT-say).

Born around 1860 she chose her path as a warrior. The Apache let you do that. A fairly open-minded society, you could be a warrior, a homemaker, a medicine man, whatever, as long as you worked at it and could deliver. Dahteste was known for her beauty, but she was also clearly respected for her fighting, riding, hunting, and shooting skills. She was fast and she was mean. No man challenged her light-heartedly. And she proved her worth repeatedly on raids with the Apache. In fact, she rode with Cochise (you might remember him. He led an uprising against the U.S. government that started in 1861 and didn’t end until ’72). Remarkably, Dahteste was barely a teenager! Her fighting didn’t end, however, with Cochise’s acceptance of a peace treaty. She continued it by riding with Geronimo. Who knows how many “white-eyes” lost their lives to her rifle?

Geronimo surrendered in 1886. Dahteste over the years had picked up quite a bit of English, had even served as a cavalry scout for a time, so she negotiated the great chief’s surrender. Her reward? She was arrested and shipped to a prison in Florida where she stayed for eight years. Then she was moved to the military prison at Fort Sill, OK where she was a guest for nineteen years. During her time as a resident of the US Army’s military prison system, she survived pneumonia and tuberculosis. I suspect she survived much more than that.

During this time she divorced her husband Ahnandia (one of Geronimo’s original warriors) and within a few years married fellow inmate and former Army scout Coonie. The couple was released in 1919 and moved to the Mescalero Apache Reservation in New Mexico.

Dahteste, reports say, never spoke English again and wore only beautiful beaded native clothing. She left her long black hair down and unbraided, but always brushed. She was a proud Apache woman who walked with her chin up.

Though she did, indeed, retire with children and grandchildren around her feet, none of them were hers by blood, and she was not generally known to smile much. I hope she spent her final years enjoying peace and happiness, but I don’t get that sense. I think Dahteste was a survivor and she did so with more grim determination than optimism.

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No, Not a Happy Ending for this Lady in Defiance…or Was it?

By Heather Frey Blanton
Copyright 2014 Heather Blanton

Follow me on https://www.facebook.com/heatherfreyblanton and
https://twitter.com/heatherfblanton

Cynthia and her daughter Topsannah after their capture in 1861. Cynthia, believing her husband Nocona was dead, had cut her hair per Comanche mourning rituals.

Cynthia and her daughter Topsannah after their capture in 1861. Cynthia, believing her husband Nocona was dead, had cut her hair per Comanche mourning rituals.

I tend to stay away from stories of women that don’t have happy endings. But is it a disservice to ignore the gals who slogged on through life’s hardships, bent but not broken, till God called them home? Honestly, yes. So allow me to introduce you to Cynthia Ann Parker.

At the age nine or ten, Cynthia moved from Illinois with her family to Central Texas. A year or so later, in 1836, she and four others, including her brother John, were kidnapped by Comanches. In the next few years, her fellow captives returned to the White Man’s World, but Cynthia didn’t. Though she had an opportunity to leave with John sometime in the 1840’s, she refused. Cynthia Parker had gone Native and was committed to her Comanche family.

In 1846 federal troops were surprised to discover a blue-eyed white woman living with Comanches along the Canadian River. Naturally, being magnanimous public servants, they sought to “bargain” for Cynthia’s release. The tribal elders refused. Cynthia was again spotted by government officials in the late 1840’s. By this time, though, she had married Chief Peta Nocona and given him three children. She had no intention of going anywhere. Agreeing, Nocona warned the government they wouldn’t take his family without a fight. The government backed off.

Cynthia lived in peace with her family for years after that, but the battles between Comanches and Whites escalated. In 1860, Texas Rangers attacked a hunting party at Mule Creek. Imagine the Rangers surprise when they discovered that pale skin and piercing blue eyes. Taken back to the white man’s world, Cynthia was later recognized by her uncle, Col. Isaac Parker. He relocated her and her baby daughter to Birdville, with a promise that if her sons Quanah and Pecos were found, they would be brought to her.

Cynthia made more than one attempt to “escape” from civilized society, but failed. Eventually, she settled at her sister’s farm, in the vicinity of Palestine, TX. Her daughter Topsana (Prairie Flower) died during this new captivity in 1863 or ‘64. Miserable with this new life and uncomfortable with the national attention, Cynthia faded away and died in 1871. She was only 45 or so. In those last years, she never saw her boys.

Cynthia’s legacy, of course, is her oldest son. Quanah raged against the machine, becoming a great warrior and leader. But we all know how the Indian Wars ended. With the handwriting on the wall, he surrendered in 1875 and helped settle his people on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation, where the US Government appointed him chief. He embraced certain aspects of white culture, learned English, made smart investments, and hunted with President Roosevelt.

Cynthia had given her son the tools for surviving in a white world and Quanah never forget his mother. In 1910, he had her body moved from TX to Oklahoma. A year later, he joined her in the Post Oak Mission Cemetery.

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