October 16, 2017

Dohasan, last Principal chief of the Kiowa


Dohasan is the hereditary name of a line of chiefs of the Kiowa for nearly a century. It has been borne by at least four members of the family.

The first of whom there is remembrance was originally called Pá-do‛gâ′-i or Padó‛gå, ‘White-faced-buffalo-bull’, and this name was afterward changed to Dohá, or Doháte. He was a prominent chief.

His son was originally called Ä′anoñ′te (a word of doubtful etymology), and afterward took his father’s name of Doháte, which was changed to

Dohasan, Little Doháte, or Little-bluff, for distinction.

He became a great chief, ruling over the whole tribe from 1833 until his death on Cimarron River in 1866.

Kiowa chief DohasanHis portrait was painted in 1834 by George Catlin, who calls him Teh-toot-sah, and his name appears in the treaty of 1837 as ” To-ho-sa, the Top of the Mountain.”

Catlin said he was “…. a very gentlemanly and high minded man, who treated the dragoons and officers with great kindness while in his country. His long hair, which was put up in several large clubs, and ornamented with a great many silver broaches, extended quite down to his knees.”

His son, whose widow is Ankímä, inherited his father’s name, Dohásän. He was also a distinguished warrior, and died about 1894. His scalp shirt and war-bonnet case are in the National Museum.

The nephew of the great Dohásän II and cousin of the last mentioned was also called Dohásän, and always wore a silver cross with the name “Tohasan” engraved upon it. He was the author of the Scott calendar and died in 1892.

Shortly before his death he changed his name to Dánpä′ , meaning Shoulder Blade, leaving only Ankímä’s husband to bear the hereditary name, which is now extinct.

Dohasan II, the greatest chief in the history of the Kiowa tribe, in 1833 succeeded A‛dáte, who had been deposed for having allowed his people to be surprised and massacred by the Osage in that year.

It was chiefly through his influence that peace was made between the Kiowa and Osage after the massacre referred to, which has never been broken.

In 1862, when the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa Apache were assembled on Arkansas River to receive annuities, the agent threatened them with punishment if they did not cease their raids. Dohasan listened in perfect silence to the end, when he sprang to his feet, and calling the attention of the agent to the hundreds of tipis in the valley below, replied in a characteristic speech:

“The white chief is a fool. He is a coward. His heart is small not larger than a pebble stone. His men are not strong too few to contend against my warriors. They are women.”

“There are three chiefs the white chief, the Spanish chief, and myself. The Spanish chief and myself are men. We do bad toward each other sometimes stealing horses and taking scalps but we do not get mad and act the fool. The white chief is a child, and, like a child, gets mad quick. When my young men, to keep their women and children from starving, take from the white man passing through our country, killing and driving away our buffalo, a cup of sugar or coffee, the white chief is angry and threatens to send his soldiers. I have looked for them a long time, but they have not come.”

“He is a coward. His heart is a woman’s. I have spoken. Tell the great chief what I have said.”

In addition to the treaty of 1837 Dohasan was also a signer of the treaty of Ft Atkinson, Ind. T., July 27, 1853, and treaty of October 18, 1865, on Little Arkansas River, Kansas.

Dohasan, (born late 1780s to early 1790s – 1866) was a prominent War Chief of the Kata or Arikara band of the Kiowa Indians, and then Principal Chief of the entire Kiowa Tribe, a position he held for an extraordinary 33 years.

He is best remembered as the last undisputed Principal Chief of the Kiowa people before the Reservation Era, and the battlefield leader of the Plains Tribes in the largest battle ever fought between the Plains tribes and the United States.

Also known as Dohäsan, Dohosan, Tauhawsin, Tohausen, or Touhason, and in English as Little Mountain, Little Bluff, or Top-Of-The-Mountain, he was born in what is now either Oklahoma or Texas.

He was the son of Dohá (Bluff). Because his name, and the Chieftainship of his band, was hereditary, (though not necessarily father to son) – Dohäsan himself was succeeded by his nephew, rather than one of his sons, and though his father was a chief, it was his uncle who was the hereditary war chief from whom he got his name. 


The Arikara Band

The Arikara band was so named because of their close trading relationship with the Arikaras in the upper Missouri valley during the tribe’s early recorded history. Because of their trading relationships with traders from the US, Spain, and the French, the Kiowa, and the Arikara in particular, were well known to European-Americans.

Dohäsan was known to traders as early as the late 1820s. He gained a reputation as a fierce, but tricky, warrior and successful war chief.

He was a member of the elite warrior society, the Koitsenko.

Although his position as Chief of the Arikara band was hereditary, the Principal Chief of the entire Kiowa people was not a hereditary position. The elders of all the bands met together and elected the Principal Chief, and he generally held that position the rest of his life.

Dohäsan became principal chief of the Kiowas in the spring of 1833, after the tribe elders and sub-chiefs deposed then-Principal Chief A’date. This followed the massacre of A’date’s village by Osages at Cutthroat Gap, near the head of Otter Creek in what became the Indian Territory of Oklahoma. Dohäsan was the last undisputed Principal Chief of the Kiowa Tribe while they were a free people. 

After A’date was deposed, and Dohäsan arose to become principal Chief of the entire Kiowa people, the United States Army became acquainted with Dohäsan.

The massacre of an entire village of the Kiowa prompted the dragoon expedition of Colonel Henry Dodge to Western Oklahoma in the summer of 1834. Dohäsan was among those on hand to greet the colonel and his expedition.

The purpose of the expedition was to end the ferocious fighting between the various Plains Tribes, and in May 1837 Dohasan was one of the principals who signed the Fort Gibson Treaty, by which the United States government sought to end intertribal warfare in Indian Territory.

However, treaties did little to end the Kiowas’ frequent raids for horses and other plunder, and it is arguable whether they even slowed the fighting between the tribes. Texas was basically wide open to joint Kiowa-Comanche raids, and the annual raids into Mexico became a dreaded part of life in both Mexico proper and its northern states.

In his raids, Dohasan and his tribesmen and allied Comanche came to live in the winter in the Staked Plains, especially along the Canadian River valley and Palo Duro Canyon, which served as a base for both wintering and the annual raids.

At Palo Duro Canyon, on September 17, 1845, he was sketched by Lt. James W. Abert in his watercolor portfolio.

In the summer of 1851 Dohäsan led a war party of the various Kiowa bands, and allied Comanches against the Pawnees near the head of Medicine Lodge Creek in Kansas, killing most of them.

His name is again found in Army records in 1857 when he successfully led his warriors out of an ambush by Mexican soldiers at Hueco Tanks near El Paso Norte in Texas. The Mexicans had pursued the raiders north out of Mexico, and hoped to eliminate them. Instead, most of the Mexican troops were killed or wounded.

The American Government was anxious to keep the Kiowa friendly as the Civil War beckoned, and in late 1859, as a goodwill gesture, Major John Sedgwick’s troops gave Top-Of-The-Mountain an old army ambulance wagon along with the usual presents.

When he was unable to master the art of driving a team, Dohasan had a couple of Kiowa boys ride the harnessed horses as he sat in the driver’s seat.


First Battle of Adobe Walls

Other than the extraordinary length of his service as Principal Chief, and being the last Principal Chief of the free Kiowa, Dohasan will be remembered in military history for commanding the Native American forces at the First Battle of Adobe Walls.

The first battle of Adobe Walls occurred on November 26, 1864, in the vicinity of Adobe Walls, the ruins of William Bent’s abandoned adobe trading post and saloon near the Canadian River in Hutchinson County, Texas. The battle was one of the largest engagements in terms of numbers between European-Americans and Indians on the Great Plains, and the largest engagement ever between the Comanche and Kiowa and their allies, against the non-Natives.

It came about because Gen. James H. Carleton, commander of the military district of New Mexico, decided to punish Comanche and Kiowa attacks on Santa Fe wagon trains. The Indians saw the wagon trains as trespassers who killed buffalo and other game the Indians needed to survive.

Col. Christopher (Kit) Carson, was given command of the First Cavalry, New Mexico Volunteers, and told to proceed and campaign against the winter campgrounds of the Comanches and Kiowas.

This was the second invasion of the heart of the Comancheria, after the Antelope Hills Expedition. The campgrounds in question were reported to be somewhere on the south side of the Canadian River.

On November 10, 1864 Carson started from Fort Bascom with 335 cavalry, and 75 Ute and Jicarilla Apache scouts he had recruited from Lucien Maxwell’s ranch near Cimarron, New Mexico.

On November 12, 1864, Carson’s force, supplied with two mountain howitzers under the command of Lt. George H. Pettis, twenty-seven wagons, an ambulance, and forty-five days’ rations, proceeded down the Canadian River into the Texas Panhandle. Carson had decided to march first to Adobe Walls, which he was familiar with from his employment there by Bent over 20 years earlier.

Inclement weather, including an early snow storm, caused slow progress, and on November 25, 1864, the First Cavalry reached Mule Springs, in Moore County, approximately 30 miles (48 km) west of Adobe Walls. Scouts reported the presence of a large Indian encampment at Adobe Walls, and Carson ordered his cavalry forward, to be followed by the wagons and howitzers.

Approximately two hours after daybreak on November 26, 1864, Carson’s cavalry attacked the Kiowa village of 150 lodges. Dohasan, and his people fled, passing the alarm to allied Comanche villages nearby.

Marching forward to Adobe Walls, Carson dug in there about 10 AM, using one corner of the ruins for a hospital. Carson discovered to his dismay that there were numerous villages in the area, including one very large Comanche village. The total number of Indians opposing Carson is often estimated at 3,000, but it is unlikely that the total manpower of the Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa-Apache amounted to more than one-half that number.

Whatever their numbers, Carson saw he was outnumbered by the warriors pouring forward to engage him in battle, a much greater force than he had expected.

Dohasan, assisted by Satank (Sitting Bear), Guipago (Lone Wolf) and Satanta (White Bear), led the Kiowas in the first attack. Fierce fighting developed as the Kiowa, Kiowa Apache, and Comanche warriors repeatedly attacked Carson’s position.

Reportedly, Satanta replied to Carson’s bugler with his own bugle calls. Carson succeeded in repelling the attacks only through his clever use of supporting fire from the twin howitzers. After six to eight hours of fairly continuous fighting, Carson realized he was beginning to run low on shells for the howitzers, and ammunition in general, and ordered his forces to withdraw.

The angry Indians tried to block his retreat by setting fire to the grass and brush down near the river. The wily Carson, however, set back-fires and retreated to higher ground, where the twin howitzers continued to hold off the Indians.

When twilight came, Carson ordered a group of his scouts to burn the lodges of the first village, which also resulted in the death of the Kiowa-Apache chief, Iron Shirt, when he refused to leave his tepee.

Despite the fact that Carson was forced to retreat in the face of much more opposition than he had expected, the United States Army declared the First Battle of Adobe Walls a victory. Carson was probably outnumbered 10-1, and his clever use of backfires and the howitzers prevented his being overrun.

As it was, Carson lost 6 dead, 25 wounded, to approximately 50-60 killed among the Indians. Nothing could obscure the fact, however, that the Kiowa and their allies had driven the American army from the field.

Dohasan, probably then in his 70’s, had commanded the largest force of Plains Indians ever massed against the army, and compelled a force armed with howitzers to retreat and yield the day.


Little Arkansas Treaty

In October 1865 Dohäsan signed the Little Arkansas Treaty, but he vigorously protested confinement to a reservation, declaring that the Kiowas owned all the land from the North Platte River to the upper Texas Panhandle and needed room to roam about. Shortly afterward, in early 1866, he died.


The Reservation Era

As noted earlier, though the chief position in the Kata or Arikara band of the Kiowa Indians was hereditary, it was not necessarily given from father to son, and in this case, it was not.

Dohäsan’s sister’s son, Agiati or “Gathering Feathers” inherited his name in 1864. The younger Dohäsan took part in the remaining battles as the Kiowa struggled to remain a free people. But time was running out.

He was part of the delegation to Washington in 1872, which appealed to the government to allow the Kiowa to remain free, to no avail.

Afterward, as the remaining Kiowa went to the reservation, the younger Dohäsan lived with his family in peace on the reservation near Fort Sill until his death.

He was the primary calendar keeper among the Kiowa throughout most of the 19th century. He added many innovations to Kiowa pictorial art. In his winter count, he added an image for each year’s summer Sun Dance. To painted tipi designs, Dohäsan introduced images of counting coup.

When he died, his nephew Agiati became a calendar keeper, followed in turn by Agiati’s son, Silver Horn (1860–1940), one of the most prolific of all Kiowa artists.

Dohäsen’s original calendar is in the collection of the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley.

In 1892 the younger Dohäsan gave his annual family calendar history, begun by his uncle, the last great principal chief of the Kiowa, to Capt. Hugh L. Scott, who in turn donated it to the Smithsonian Institution.

Dohasan’s descendents included his granddaughter, Betty Nixon, who co-founded the Mid-America All-Indian Center in Wichita, Kansas, in 1976.

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