National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Opposed to the increasing wave of American settlement on Comanche lands, Quanah Parker emerged as one of the leaders of the Red River War, which was fought on the southern plains in 1874-75. For him the historic encounter between non-Natives and the Comanche shaped many elements of his life. His mother was a white woman who had been captured as a child. His father-an important tribal chief-fought the U.S. military on repeated occasions. Following the surrender of the Comanche to federal authorities in 1875, Parker decided to accept a new life. In time he became a prosperous farmer and rancher with property of more than forty thousand acres. He was also politically active, rising to become the principal chief of the Comanche and often serving in a diplomatic role with U.S. officials. Yet his decision to wear his hair in braids, to practice polygamy, and to use peyote in ceremonies suggested his continuing desire for an independent life.