For anyone interested at all in Indian Territory, frontier, or Native American history,
Fort Sill
is THE place to go. This bastion from the Old West flourishes as the last
remaining, active military post that was built during the Indian wars.

Established in 1869 by Major General Phillip H. Sheridan, Fort Sill's primary function
was to halt border raids by the Plains Indians. The
Comanches, Kiowas, and
Apaches saw their way of life quickly disappearing by the onslaught of Texas
settlers, the newly arrived Kansas and Nebraska tribes (who had been expelled as
part of the reconstruction treaties between Indian Territory's "Five Civilized Tribes"),
and the progress of the
Chickasaws and Cherokees, who bordered the lands to the
east. By 1870, the Plains Indians declared themselves in open warfare against the
Americans.

From Fort Sill, some of the most famous American frontier scouts embarked to battle
the Native Americans, such as "Buffalo Bill" Cody and "Wild Bill" Hickock. The 19th
Kansas Volunteers and the 10th Cavalry, widely known as the African American
Buffalo Soldiers, conducted scouting expeditions of their own. The fort served as
home to several displaced Indians tribes, and housed prisoners of war from the
Apaches and Kiowas tribes as well.

In 1871, Kiowa warriors, under Chiefs Satanta and Big Tree, ambushed and killed the
Warren Wagon Train in Young County, Texas. Based in Fort Sill, the Kiowas boasted
of this coup when General William Tecumseh Sherman found out about it. Sherman
(who had gained fame and a reputation for remorseless warfare on his March on
Georgia during the Civil War), had the Kiowas responsible for the assault  arrested
and sent to
Fort Richardson (Jack County, Texas) to stand trial. The accused men,
the first Indians ever tried on criminal charges in an American civil court, were
sentenced to death, though Chief Satanta's eloquent speech about his people's
suffering helped to spare their lives.

Sherman understood that the only way to defeat the Indians was to wage a war of
attrition, thus beginning a series of skirmishes now known as the  
Red River Wars in
1871. Fort Sill became the headquarters for the American troops. In 1875, the Plains
Indians surrendered at Fort Sill, and made the fort and the land surrounding it their
home. The Comanches, Kiowas and Apaches offered to let Geronimo and his people,
who had been expelled from their own homelands in Arizona, stay at the fort, too.

Though considered a prisoners of war, the Native Americans did not spend time in
cells. Instead, they took on life as farmers, though
they always longed for the buffalo hunt. Quanah Parker, the last Comanche Chief,
built Star House west of the fort, which served as
the headquarters for the Comanche Nation. Geronimo lived out his life successfully
farming pumpkins and squash, and made money on the side selling autographs and
momentos. All of these famous men, plus many more signers of the Medicine Lodge
Peace Treaties
(1867), are buried at the Fort Sill cemetery.

Fort Sill is the last tangible link to frontier history in the United States, and is worth a
lengthy visit. As it is an active  military post, you will be subjected to a search upon
entering the fort, but the grounds are free to tour. So enjoy the incredible history
that is Fort Sill!
Fort Sill
The oldest barracks at Fort Sill date to 1870.
Fort Sill in
1889 (Library
of Congress).
Many myths surround
Geronimo's jail cell door.
The most famous one
claims that Geronimo
purposefully bent the
bars of his cell door
while angry. By all
accounts at Fort Sill,
however, Geronimo was
a pleasant man who lived
a relatively quiet life at
the fort.
Geronimo of the Apaches
went on the reservation
reluctantly. He started to
farm pumpkins, which he
felt was beneath him, as
farming, for his culture,
was women's work.
Instead, he made a better
living traveling with Wild
West shows and selling
his autographs. The
Apaches still call Fort Sill
home. The Apache group,
originally from the arid
lands in what is now
Arizona, are kin to the
Chiricahuas (Geronimo's
group). (Library of
Congress photo, 1895).
In many ways, Fort Sill
serves as the end of
history for the Plains
Indians. This Library of
Congress photos
remind us of what was
lost when the
Americans took over the
Great Plains. Geronimo
slaughtered one last
buffalo before having to
farm like the white man.
The 10th Cavalry was called
the "buffalo soldier
regiment" by the Plains
Indians during the Red
River Wars (1871-1875), as
the hair of the black
soldiers "resembled the
woolly bison fur." The
cavalry, organized in
Kansas at the beginning of
the Civil War, was made up
of abolitionist volunteers.
After the war, the cavalry
remained as a special,
volunteer unit that worked
predominantly in the
southwest. The 10th cavalry
built Fort Sill in 1869.
(Oklahoma Historical
Society).
Fort Sill holds
some very
important
historical relics
in its collection,
like this original
flag for the 10th
Cavalry Soldiers.
The cemetery at Fort Sill is a treasure
trove of Plains Indian history. Here is
the grave of Black Beaver, a Delaware
man who helped to forge the pioneer
trails in northern Oklahoma that would
later become the
Chisholm Trail.
Sitting Bear is better known as Satank, one of the raiders of the Warren Wagon
Train
. On his way to stand trial for the raid in Jacksboro, Satank gnawed his
wrists to undo his cuffs, sang his death song, and commenced to wrestle with
the American soldiers, who shot and killed him.
Kiowa Chief Satanta, who fought to preserve his people's way of life, was also one
of the planners of the
Warren Wagon Train Raid. He committed suicide while
imprisoned in Huntsville and was at first buried there, but his body was
subseqently repatriated at Fort Sill.
Chief Kicking Bird, a signer of the Medicine Lodge Creek Treaty (1867), was the
leader of the peaceful Kiowa band who sought diplomacy over war. His
willingness to negotiate with the whites brought him status, but not amongst the
Kiowa war bands. Many of his followers believed he was poisoned for taking
sides against the Plains Indians during the Red Rivr Wars.
Quanah Parker, the son of Comanche chief Peta Nocona and the Anglo-American
Cynthia Ann Parker, was himself one of the last Comanche chiefs to surrender to
the U.S. government after the Red River Wars. After imprisonment at Fort Marion
and his return to Fort Sill, Quanah Parker became a rancher, horse racer, and
leader of the Comanche tribe.
Cynthia Ann Parker, mother of Quanah, was kidnapped in a Comanche raid in
1836
and then married Peta Nocona, with whom she at least four children,
including
Quanah and a daughter, Topsannah. She was "rescued" by white
troops, led by Charles Goodnight, after the Battle of Lost Creek. However, Cynthia
was not happy she had been "found." She had acclimated to the Comanche way
of life and believed them to be her family. She remained in mourning for the rest
of her short life, especially after her daughter, Topsannah died within a year of
their capture.
The grave of Chief Geronimo lies in the Apache cemetery at Fort Sill,
surrounded by his wives. There are rumors that Geronimo is not actually
buried here
, and that his skull is in the possession of a secret society at Yale
University. These rumors are very direspectful to descendants of the Apaches.
Quanah Parker's
abode on his
ranch was called
the "Star House"
due to the four
white stars he had
painted on his roof
- this was
supposed to
denote his status
as a warrior and
leader. The house
sits inside an
abandoned
amusement park in
Cache, Oklahoma,
south of Fort Sill,
and is slowly
decaying.
One of the more
interesting "stories" at
western forts is the
graffitti that soldiers
left behind. Sometimes,
the graffiti just shows
names and dates; other
soldiers drew
impressive and
detailed art of what
they encountered out
on the "wild frontier."
Most of the soldiers
hailed from more
settled areas like New
York, Pennsylvania,
and Ohio. They either
joined the army during
the Civil War and
remained in service, or
enlisted after 1865 to
assist in the next great,
but undeclared action -
the wholesale
expansion and
exploitation of the
American West.
Comanche and Kiowa
school children
attend recess at the
Baptist orphanage
school at Fort Sill in
the 1890s. Not all
children remained at
the post, however.
Most were sent to
far-off boarding
schools back east in
order to "kill the
Indian and sa
ve the
man." T
his resulted
in subsequent
generations losing
language and cultural
knowledge, which
most Indian tribes
were unable to regain.