In June 1867, a year before the breaking out of the great Indian war on the central plains, the whole tribe of Kiowa, led by him, assembled at Fort Larned, Kansas. He was the cynosure of all eyes, as he was without question one of the noblest-looking warriors ever seen on the plains. On that occasion, he wore the full uniform of a major-general of the United States Army. He was as correctly molded as a statue when on horseback, and when mounted on his magnificent charger the morning he rode out with General Hancock to visit the immense Indian camp a few miles above the fort on Pawnee Fork, it would have been a difficult task to have determined which was the finer-looking man.
After Kicking Bird had abandoned his wicked career, he was regarded by every army officer with whom he had a personal acquaintance as a remarkably good Indian; for he really made the most strenuous efforts to initiate his tribe into the idea that it was best for it to follow the white man’s road. He argued with them that the time was very near when there would no longer be any region where the Indians could live as they had been doing, depending on the buffalo and other game for the sustenance of their families; they must adapt themselves to the methods of their conquerors.
In July 1869, he became greatly offended with the government for its enforced removal of his tribe from its natural and hereditary hunting-grounds into the reservation allotted to it. At that time many of his warriors, together with the Comanche, made a raid on the defenseless settlements of the northern border of Texas, in which the Indians were disastrously defeated, losing a large number of their most beloved warriors. On the return of the unsuccessful expedition, a great council was held, consisting of all the chiefs and headmen of the two tribes which had suffered so terribly in the awful fight, to consider the best means of avenging the loss of so many braves and friends. Kicking Bird was summoned before that council and condemned as a coward; they called him a squaw because he had refused to go with the warriors of the combined tribes on the raid into Texas.
He told a friend of mine some time afterward that he had intended never again to go against the whites, but the emergency of the case and his severe condemnation by the council demanded that he should do something to re-establish himself in the good graces of his tribe. He then made one of the most destructive raids into Texas that ever occurred in the history of its border warfare, which successfully restored him to the respect of his warriors.
In that raid Kicking Bird carried off vast herds of horses and a large number of scalps. Although his tribe fairly worshipped him, he was not at all satisfied with himself. He could look into the future as well as anyone, and from that time on to his tragic death, he labored most zealously and earnestly in connection with the Indian agents to bring his people to live on the reservation which the government had established for them in the Territory.
At the inauguration of the so-called “Quaker Policy” by President Ulysses S. Grant, that sect was largely entrusted with the management of Indian affairs, particularly in the selection of agents for the various tribes. A Mr. Tatham was appointed the agent for the Kiowa in 1869. He at once gained the confidence of Kicking Bird, who became very valuable to him as an assistant in controlling the Indians. It was through that chief’s influence that Thomas Batty, another Quaker, was allowed to take up his residence with the tribe, the first white man ever accorded that privilege. Batty was permitted to erect three tents, which were staked together, converting them into an ample schoolhouse. In that crude, temporary structure he taught the Kiowa youth the rudiments of an education. This very successful innovation shows how earnest the former dreaded savage was in his efforts to promote the welfare of his people, by trying to induce them to “take the white man’s road.”
Batty succeeded admirably for a year in his office of teacher, the chief all the time nobly withstanding the taunts and jeers of his warriors and their threats of taking his life, for daring to allow a white man within the sacred precincts of their village — a thing unparalleled in the annals of the tribe.
At last, trouble came; the dissatisfied members of the tribe, the ambitious and restless young men, eager for renown, made another unsuccessful raid into Texas. The result was that they lost nearly the whole of the band, among which was the favorite son of Lone Wolf, a noted chief. After the death of his son, he declared that he must and would have the scalp of a white man in revenge for the untimely taking off of the young warrior. Of course, the most available white man at this juncture was Batty, the Quaker teacher, and he was chosen by Lone Wolf as the victim of savage revenge. Here the noble instincts of Kicking Bird developed themselves.
He very plainly told Lone Wolf who was constantly threatening and thirsting for blood, that he could not kill Batty until he first killed him and all his band. But Lone Wolf had fully determined to have the hair of the innocent Quaker; so Kicking Bird, to avert any collision between the two bands of Indians, kidnapped Batty and ran him off to the agency, arriving at Fort Sill about an hour before Lone Wolf’s band of avengers overtook them, and thus the Quaker teacher was saved.
One day, long after these occurrences, a friend of mine was in the sutler’s store at Fort Sill. In there was a stranger talking to Mr. Fox, the agent of the Indians. Soon Kicking Bird entered the establishment, and the stranger asked Mr. Fox who that fine-looking Indian was. He was told, and then he begged the agent to say to him that he would like to have a talk with him; for it was he who led that famous raid into Texas. “I never saw better generalship in the field in all my experience. He had three horses killed under him. I was the surgeon of the rangers and was, of course, in the fight.”
When Kicking Bird was told that the Texas doctor desired to talk with him, he replied with great dignity that he did not want to revive those troublous times. “Tell him, though,” said Kicking Bird, “that was my last raid against the whites; that I am a changed man.”