Known as “Lords of the Plains,” the Comanche Indians earned their reputation as fierce warriors and highly skilled horsemen. Quanah Parker is known as the last chief of the Quahada branch of the tribe.
Parker was the son of Comanche Chief Peta Nocona and Cynthia Ann Parker, a white woman who was captured as a child and who adopted the Comanche way of life. Schoolchildren in the state will get a chance to learn more about the chief’s Lone Star legacy since Gov. Greg Abbott recently made Quanah Parker Day an official day to be celebrated on the second Saturday of September.
“During one of the greatest social and cultural shifts in American history, Quanah Parker served the Comanche people first as a warrior and then as a statesman, helping them retain their identity while adapting to a different way of life,” reads the bill written by Texas Sen. Kel Seliger. “And he stands as a pivotal figure in the history of the Lone Star State.”
The bill, signed by Abbott on June 10, was sponsored by Justin Holland, a Texas representative from Rockwall.
“This will mean that it’ll be ... promoted with schoolchildren,” says Ron Parker, Quanah’s great grandson. “Children will know about that day.”
Dennis Kulvicki, president of the STAR foundation, which helps maintain Texas’ official bison herd, supported having an official day to honor Parker.
“(Parker) had been noted historically as a founder of the official state bison herd of Texas at Caprock Canyons State Park,” he says. “It has a free-ranging bison herd of 200 this year. They are the very last bison of the great Texas southern plains bison herd.”
Parker had some help saving the herd, Kulvicki says, explaining that, by fencing off land, early Texas ranchers Mary Ann “Molly” Goodnight and her husband, Charles Goodnight, were also instrumental in preserving the species of bison. At the time, during the late 1800s, hide hunters were slaughtering buffalo, and bison were also being killed by Indians for food, and by the military in order to starve Indian tribes and force them onto reservations, Kulvicki says. Before that, millions of buffalo had roamed freely.
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Parker and Charles Goodnight made a peace treaty in 1878, with Parker agreeing that the Comanche, who’d come from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to hunt buffalo, wouldn’t raid the JA Ranch in exchange for two head of cattle every other day, Kulvicki says.
“By not raiding the ranch … (Parker) indirectly actually saved the (state’s official) bison,” he says. “In 1997, the JA Ranch rounded up the last of the buffalo (only about 35 still remained there) and moved them to Caprock Canyons State Park.
“It’s a great treasure,” he says of the herd, adding that children studying Texas and U.S. history across the state can learn more about Parker and the Goodnight family through a special story bookmark made available in digital format.
”We’re glad that (Parker’s) being recognized for what he stood for, what he did in life and how he’s changed lives,” said Ron Parker by phone from his home in Cache, Oklahoma. “I’m glad that he was recognized in the state of Texas that really thinks a lot of Quanah Parker. It’s a big thing for us.”