The Red River War of 1874

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  • Topic: Comanche, Kiowa, Quanah Parker
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The Red River War of 1874

During the summer of 1874, the U. S. Army launched a campaign to remove the Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indian tribes from the Southern Plains and enforce their relocation to reservations in Indian Territory. The actions of 1874 were unlike any prior attempts by the Army to pacify this area of the western frontier. The Red River War led to the end of an entire way of life for the Southern Plains tribes and brought about a new chapter in Texas history.

A number of factors led to the military's campaign against the Indians. Westward-bound settlers came into conflict with the nomadic tribes that claimed the buffalo plains as their homeland during the nineteenth century. To provide a measure of protection for these settlers, the Army established a series of frontier forts. The outbreak of the Civil War resulted in a withdrawal of the military from the western frontier. The Indians took advantage of the situation and aggressively exerted control over the Southern Plains. There was an outcry for the government to take action.

The Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867 called for two reservations to be set aside in Indian Territory—one for the Comanche and Kiowa and another for the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho. According to the treaty, the government would provide the tribes with a variety of basic services and training, housing, food and supplies, including guns and ammunition for hunting. The goods would be allotted to the tribes each year for a thirty-year period and the Indian tribes would be allowed to continue to "hunt on any lands south of the Arkansas River so long as the buffalo may range thereon." In exchange, the Indians agreed to stop their attacks and raids. Ten chiefs endorsed the treaty and many tribal members moved voluntarily to the reservations.

But the treaty was destined for failure. Commercial buffalo hunters essentially ignored the terms of the treaty as they moved into the area promised to the...
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