The Abbeville Banner
November 10 1847
Texas, -Derivation of the name.-
…… Comanche claim to be the lineal descendents of the empire of Montezuma, and the only legitimate owners of the whole Mexican country. The Chiefs say that when Cortes landed in Mexico, he found the country torn to pieces by internal factions and was enabled, by employing the disaffected chiefs, to raise a force to seize upon their capital. Those chiefs believed if they could destroy the power of Montezuma, they could easily dispatch the Spaniard, and have the control of the country in their own hands. But too late they ascertained that they had introduced a harder master, and that unconditional servitude was all they had to expect. They were required to change their ancient religion, and thousands of them were sent off to work in the mines from which they rarely ever made their escape. A great proportion of them bowed their necks to the conqueror, and became serfs and slaves to the Spaniards; but a few, the noblest and best, preferred exile to servitude, and set out on a pilgrimage to the north, in hopes to find a land where they could enjoy their ancient institutions in peace.
……They traveled for many weeks, and at last came to the great river north- the Rio Grande – where they encamped, and sent out twenty chosen men to examine the adjacent country. They crossed the great river, and ascended one of the highest peaks of the mountain, which overlooked the adjacent plain. The prairie was covered with buffalo, deer and antelopes, and they thought they had reached the happy hunting-ground, and the word “Tehas! Tehas! Tehas!” burst from every tongue. It was decided unanimously that it should go by the name apparently furnished them by the Great Spirit.
Tehas is the Camanchee name for the residence of the happy spirit in the other world, where they shall enjoy an eternal felicity, and have a plenty of deer and buffalo always at hand. By taking the sound as they pronounce it, and giving it the Spanish orthography, it gives us the word “Texas, “ which is the “happy hunting ground” or the “Elysium,“ of the Camanches. This is the true history of the name as derived from Isowacuny himself.
“SORROW WHISPERS IN THE WINDS”: THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS’S COMMANCHE INDIAN POLICY, 1836-1846 THESIS Presented to the Graduate Council of the University of North Texas in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements For the Degree of MASTER OF ARTS By Carol A. Lipscomb, B.S. Denton, Texas December, 1994
……Isawacony (Little Wolf) was a chief of the Penateka band of Comanches before the Comanches became a centralized nation. Before the Comanche Nation was centralized, Comanches lived in disparate bands. Though they were related and shared a culture and history, Comanche bands were autonomous and seldom worked together.
Isawacony was one of several chiefs of the Penateka band, which lived primarily throughout what is known today as Southern Texas and Northern Mexico. He was unique among his fellow chiefs in that while other chiefs considered peace and violence equally as options in dealing with the incursion of Americans into their territory, Isawacony seemed dedicated primarily to peace. This dedication to peacemaking and never compromising on what he thought was best for the Penateka Comanches are two traits that appear to define Isawacony’s life.
……He was one of the principal negotiators in several treaties between the Republic of Texas and, later, the United States, and the Penateka band of Comanches. In 1836, Isawacony was party to an attempt to draft a treaty between the Penateka band and the Texans that would allot a swath of land and create a boundary between the two groups. While Sam Houston, who was an adopted Cherokee, was sympathetic to the Comanches’ cause, the majority of Texan settlers were unwilling to relinquish any land to tribal bands. David Gouveneur Burnet, the first president of the Republic of Texas, wrote to M.B. Menard in 1836: “It is a matter of great importance to secure the entire neutrality at least of the Indian tribes … But I must enjoin it upon you to avoid with great caution entering into any Specific treaty relating to boundaries, that may compromit the interests of actual settlers.”
The following year, the Texas Congress appointed a commission to work with peace-seeking Comanches and improve relations between the Republic and the Comanches. However, members stipulated that “no fee simple right of soil be acknowledged.”
……In 1838, 150 Comanches went to San Antonio to ask a group of Texans to return with them to Comanche territory to discuss a peace treaty with their chiefs, including Isawacony. The Texans complied but were dismayed that the Comanche chiefs stipulated that any peace treaty include a boundary that would allot them some of the richest land in Texas. The Comanches wanted the land north of the Guadelupe Mountains, which amounted to about a quarter of Texas’ territory. They likewise warned that they would kill any surveyors who appeared on their land.
Sam Houston along with Noah Smithwick, a Texas ranger, drafted a treaty with five Comanche chiefs, including Isawacony, but in his letters Smithwick says he fails to recall the exact terms of the agreement. It mattered little as neither side observed the terms of the treaty anyway. Peace between Penateka Comanches and Texans continued for a while, though some settlers did move closer to the Comanche boundary.
……One of the terms of the treaty was that a trading post be established on Brushy Creek at the site of an abandoned blockhouse. The Republic reneged on its commitment to establish the trading post. When the Penatekas came with their hides and other wares to trade and found no post, they sought Smithwick, who was unable to give them a convincing reason for refusing to build the promised trading post.
……Smithwick lost favor with the Comanches by reneging on this stipulation of the treaty. However, he also lost favor with Texans for having drafted a treaty with the Comanches to begin with. To re-establish favor among the settlers, he set out to hunt Comanches with aplomb. In his letters, he writes, “I really felt mean and almost ashamed of belonging to the superior race when listening to the recital of the wrongs the redmen had suffered at the hands of my people. Yet when they made hostile incursion into the settlements, I joined in the pursuit and hunted them as mercilessly as anyone.” Smithwick did add, however, that he vividly remembered the “kindness and friendship shown (him) by the Comanches, especially the old chiefs” in 1837.
……Isawacony was later party to another treaty in 1844 after yet another land dispute between Texas and the Comanches. During negotiations, Sam Houston told the chiefs that “a bad chief,” meaning his nemesis Mirabeau Lamar, had broken the peace between Texans and the Comanches, referring to an attack on Comanche leaders in San Antonio.
……Houston suggested that this wrong “be mended,” to which Buffalo Hump, another chief alongside Isawacony, replied: “The Great Spirit above is looking down and sees and hears my talk; the ground is my mother, and sees and hears that I tell the truth. When I first heard the words of your chief I felt glad and I was uneasy until I struck the white path and came here to see him. That is all I want to say. What I came here for was to hear the words of peace. I have heard them and all is right; peace is peace – I have no more to say.”
……Over the next couple of days, Houston drafted another treaty with Buffalo Hump and Isawacony in which he designated a line of settlement setting off Comanche lands from those of settlers. Houston’s line ran from the Red River through upper Cross Timbers to Comanche Peak, then southwest to the old Spanish presidio on the San Saba and southwest again to the Rio Grande.
……Isawacony and Buffalo Hump, as well as the other three chiefs present, rejected the terms, asserting that they should be able to follow their herds wherever they roamed on Comanche land. The chiefs proposed a new line, which would have granted the Comanches more land to the west, but Houston refused to redraw the proposed boundary. Houston, however, persuaded the chiefs to sign the treaty after he struck the terms regarding any boundary between Texans and the Comanches, making the treaty more or less worthless.
In 1846, the U.S. annexed Texas and assumed jurisdiction over the Penateka band of Comanches and other tribal nations in Texas. The U.S. had previously dealt with the northern Comanches and wanted to have influence over the southern Comanches as well.
……That spring the Comanches agreed to meet with the U.S. and sign the Treaty of Council Springs in which Comanches were to turn over stolen property and prisoners and keep the peace, while the U.S. would keep American trespassers off Comanche land. As with other treaties, the U.S. showed it couldn’t control frontier citizens; and as land hunger grew (as did political expediency), the Comanches’ rights were ignored in Washington.
……After negotiating the treaty and seeing it fail, two Penateka chiefs, Old Owl and Santa Anna, visited Washington to try to speak directly to American politicians about enforcing the treaty. While in D.C., they saw the massive American population and weapons, and they became convinced of the U.S.’s military might. After reporting back to their fellow chiefs on how violent resistance would be futile against the Americans, local skirmishes between Comanches and Texan settlers grew fewer.
……The chiefs’ realization of the U.S.’s military capabilities diminished the Comanches’ resolve to consider violence against encroaching Americans. Isawacony, however, saw this realization as an opportunity to redouble peaceful efforts between the Comanches and Americans. He believed that Americans would be more willing to work with the Comanches if the Comanches were now known to be more peaceful.
……Over the next couple of years, relations between Texans and Comanches were mildly hostile, but no major skirmishes occurred. In 1849, however, the discovery of gold in California brought settlers westward, who in turn brought cholera with them. The disease all but wiped out the Penatekas, though Isawacony, who was in Mexico at the time, managed to dodge the illness.
……Over the next few years, the remaining Penatekas began negotiating with the U.S. for a reservation to keep away from American squatters and to have a sovereign space in which to govern themselves. In 1854, Shanaco, another Penateka peace chief, met with officials and agreed to reservation life. He said: “You come into our country and select a small patch of ground, around which you run a line, and tell us the President will make us a present of this to live upon, when everybody knows that the whole of the entire country, from the Red River to the Colorado, is now and always has been ours from time immemorial. I suppose, however, if the President tells us to confine ourselves to these narrow limits, we shall be forced to do so, whether we desire it or not.”
……Of all the chiefs present, only Isawacony refused the reservation proposal. He believed that being part of the reservation system was an affront to his people. He argued that the U.S. officials could not make white men out of Indians any more than they could make a “dog out of a wolf.” Instead, Isawacony proposed the usual line settlement, but the U.S. Indian agents refused. Isawacony left the council feeling like the other chiefs had turned their backs on him and their people.
……He was killed by Lipan Apache hunters a week later.
Isawacony’s legacy, from my research, appears to be one of refusing to compromise on what he felt was best for his people and insisting on handling disagreements peaceably. History on Comanches before the tribal nation was centralized is hard to come by. Likewise, history on American Indians who preferred peace to violence is hard to come by as most of the “history” from that period was selectively written by white settlers who had an interest in portraying them as “savages.” For example, you can find an entire book on Buffalo Hump, who was known more for leading raids on settlers than for peaceable dealings, while little information is available strictly on Isawacony’s leadership. That said, the little information on Isawacony reveals a Comanche leader who dedicated himself to Comanches’ cultural and political well-being as well as protecting as many Comanche lives as possible in the process.
Born ca. late 1790s to early 1800’s in Edwards Plateau, Texas
Died: c. 1865/1870 Fort Sill, Oklahoma
Occupation: Medicine man and was a Native American War Chief of the Penateka band of the Comanche Indians. His N?m? tekwapu (Comanche) name, properly transliterated, was Po-cha-na-qua-hip which meant “erection that won’t o down”. He came to prominence after the Council House Fight when he led the Comanches on the Great Raid of 1840.
Buffalo in Comanche is cuhtz.