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Battle of Wolf Creek

The largest intertribal battle on the Southern Plains was fought in mid-June 1838 on Wolf Creek in northwest Oklahoma. The allied tribes of the Cheyenne and Arapaho attacked the confederated villages of Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache. The site was about twenty miles north of where Fort Supply would be built in 1868.1,2

The Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes traveled from southeast Colorado in search of their traditional enemies to avenge the massacre of a war party of Cheyenne Bowstring Society warriors killed in 1836 by the Kiowa while on a raid along the Washita River.3 The attackers fell upon the villages in the morning, killing many of the people who were either berry picking along the river or hunting buffalo in the nearby hills. Some defenders came out to meet the attackers while others defended the villages. The fighting was between individuals or small groups armed with traditional weapons such as bows and lances while only a few Cheyenne had guns. Repeated attacks during the day failed to overwhelm the villages, and the attackers ceased fighting in the afternoon with their revenge satiated.4,5

The scene of carnage was witnessed three days later by a U.S. Army Dragoon detachment escorting friendly Osage chiefs to a counsel with the Kiowa.6

A positive consequence of the battle was the peace agreement made between the tribes. The opposing warriors had tested each other in battle but now faced a new menace in the form of Euro-Americans which precipitated the need for an alliance on the Southern Plains. In the summer of 1840 at Bent’s Fort in southeast Colorado, they came together to make peace and to form an alliance that lasted throughout the struggle with the United States during the Indian Wars of the last half of the 19th century.7

Endnotes

  1. Hoig, Stan. Tribal Wars on the Southern Plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.
  2. Bent, George. Letter to George Seger, January 23 and February 17, 1905. Denver Public Library.
  3. Grinnell, George. The Fighting Cheyennes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1955.
  4. Grinnell, George. The Fighting Cheyennes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1955.
  5. Mooney, James. Calendar History of the Kiowa. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute Press, 271-273.
  6. Choteau, A.P. Letters Received, Office of Indian Affairs, M234, Roll 922. National Archives.
  7. Hoig, Stan. Tribal Wars on the Southern Plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.

Bibliography

Bent, George. Letter to George Seger, January 23, 1905 and February 17, 1905. Denver Public Library.
Grinnell, George B. The Fighting Cheyenne. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1955.
Hoig, Stan. Tribal Wars on the Southern Plains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993.
Mooney, James. Calendar History of the Kiowa, Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institute Press.
Letters of A.P. Chouteau. Letters Received, Office of Indian Affairs, M234, Roll 922. National Archives.