THOSE with whom my lot
was now cast were composed principally of men who had been undesirable
members of their own tribes. These, of course, had been put out. Others
left of their own will.
As I now recall it, there
had been a council of many of the tribes. A few of the men quarrelled
with their respective leaders, and left Zakatoh, the Kiowa chief of the
Estizeddelebe, was one of these. He and several of his brother-warriors
had refused to give themselves up when the Kiowas surrendered to the
United States authorities. Afraid of being imprisoned or hanged for
their raids upon white settlements in Texas, they had fled westward.
It was not long before
they were joined by other stragglers, and Zakatoh, by force of his
personality, had become their leader.
There were a Comanche or
two, several Cheyennes and Arapahoes, at least one Osage and a Cherokee,
and some from other half-civilised tribes, the larger number being
Seminoles—a most peculiar combination. They had some difficulty in
understanding each other clearly as they had not been together very
long> Each man was compelled to use his own language at first, but
always the sign language helped.
The Seminole came to
predominate. I learned it rapidly, for I made my home in the tepee of
Zakatoh whose wife, Tosopahehle—Pretty Face—was a Seminole. She could
not learn his language, but he found hers easy for him. So the
tepee-talk was Seminole.
In the new tribe there
were, all told, about thirty men, women and children, when I first met
There were more men than
women. But it was not long before there were more women than men. For
these freebooters of the plains went on frequent excursions, and when
they returned their arms were not empty.
They made a most
picturesque appearance. Some of them wore the costume of the prairie
tribes—the long-fringed buckskin shirt and leggings, and the moccasins
with rawhide soles and shape peculiar to these tribes. Others wore the
short-fringed shirt and leggings, and the soft-soled moccasins of the
forest dwellers. There were two Mexicans, with their ornamented short
jackets, slit bottomed trousers and high-heeled boots; and one white man
in the dress of his civilised type.
The Indians wore their
hair in the style of their respective tribes. The men of the prairie
braided theirs on each side of their heads, and around each braid rolled
a piece of otter skin or red cloth. The Kiowas fixed the hair on the
left side in this manner, zoo but cut the right side even with the lower
part of the ear. Like the other prairie tribes they braided the scalp
lock, and let it hang down the back.
The Seminoles wore short
hair, with the exception of the scalp lock which they braided as did the
others, while the Osage cut off all of his except the scalp-lock and a
roach running along the top of the head.
The two Mexicans and the
white man let their hair hang loosely about their shoulders.
The band increased in
numbers. Forced by the same causes which led Zakatoh and the original
members to throw off their tribal allegiance, malcontents from various
tribes kept coming in.
The primary reason for
their banding together was that of self-protection. The weaker of the
plains people were always in danger of being robbed or slain by the
stronger, so loyalty to each other was the first law of existence.
When a straggler was met
on the prairie by any of our tribe, or when any one appeared in our camp
for food and showed a disposition to join us, the question was not what
he had been nor whence he had come, but whether he was willing to become
one of us for good or for ill. If any such showed a spirit to the
contrary, his property was taken and he was left on the prairie to
become food for the wolves.
Our chief was very
suspicious of any member of the band whom he deemed a rival for his
The white man whom we
called Kithlucks—Bon’t-Know—from the fact that he could hardly
understand the mixed dialect we spoke—led a party of the warriors into
Texas, plundered a Mexican settlement and captured two women.
Zakatoh, who had not been
consulted in the matter, looked upon this as insubordination. Moreover,
as the white man might be looking forward to deposing him, he took him
on a hunt one day, and the white man never returned.
strict discipline, there were desertions from the band from time to
Zackoyea, an influential
Kiowa chief, was with us until after a fight with soldiers during which
he with several of us became separated from the main body of our people.
For several days we were without water, in consequence of which I became
completely exhausted. And he, believing that I was dying, left me. He
returned to his own people and reported that I had died. But they
believed for many years that he had killed me.
With the feeling that
there was not a single tribe friendly to us, a vigilant watch was kept
against surprise. We never felt safe.
Zakatoh devised a system
of signals by which our warriors could communicate with each other when
separated. In case any of us wished to notify the others that an enemy
was in the vicinity when we were scattered on the prairie, we went to
the top of the highest hill, kindled a small fire and put some damp
grass on it to make a dense smoke. Then we spread over it a robe which
we jerked away deftly.
This made a puff of
smoke. The number of puffs conveyed certain things to our friends.
At night fire-arrows were
shot into the air as signals, and the cries of the screech owl and the
bark of the coyote were imitated for message-carrying purposes.