SNYDER, Texas (AP) — Quanah Parker stands again above the Texas plain. Poised with spear in hand, he’s turned eastward, ready to mount his horse and face the future once more.
The Abilene Reporter-News reports the bronze statue, crafted by Abilene artist Terry Gilbreth, was installed on the campus of Western Texas College in front of the Scurry County Museum. Commissioned in 2011 on the centennial of Parker’s death, it finally was dedicated Nov. 16 in a ceremony attended by descendants of the Comanche chief.
Parker is one of the most complex and revered figures to emerge from the bloody history of westward expansion in Texas during the second half of the 19th century. His story is one of pain, sacrifice and, ultimately, hope.
The story of his mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, is a tragic one. She was captured by Comanches on May 19, 1836, during an attack on Fort Parker in Limestone County, east of Waco. While the other four captives eventually were released, Cynthia Ann wasn’t and subsequently spent more than two decades living with the Comanche.
Cynthia married Chief Peta Nacona and bore two sons, Quanah and Pecos, and a daughter named Topsannah. On Dec. 18, 1860, Parker was captured after the Battle of Pease River, her husband killed.
Taken back to her family nearly a quarter-century after having last seen them, Cynthia never saw her two sons again. Near this time, she was photographed with her infant daughter nursing at her breast. Cynthia’s hair was cut short in the Comanche tradition as she mourned her husband, the grief in her eyes apparent.
A few years after that photograph, Topsannah died as well, struck down by pneumonia at age 5.
But while tragedy weighted his mother’s life to the end, Quanah’s life took a different turn. It very well could have ended in the same bleak manner as his parents’ lives had. Quanah led many raids with the Quahada Comanches, most famously the Second Battle of Adobe Walls on June 27, 1874, in Hutchinson County.
The superior firepower of the U.S. Army and the inexorable march of settlers coming west lead Quanah to one inescapable conclusion: Fighting was not going to prevent the extinction of his people. About a year after Adobe Walls, Quanah lead his warriors to join other Comanche and Kiowa peoples on a reservation in Oklahoma.
It was a difficult transition for many. But Quanah knew that just because the fighting had stopped, that didn’t mean his people weren’t in danger. Only now, the danger came from within.
“Even before 1875, when they took him to Fort Sill, way before that he knew the end was coming,” said his great grandson Bruce Parker. “He knew they were going to have to assimilate or they were going to be gone.”
Attending the dedication with his family, Bruce, Don Parker and Paul Davis performed a Comanche blessing of the statue.
“I guess the important thing for me is that he was so forward looking,” Bruce said.
Atop its 4-foot pedestal, the statue stands 19 feet high from the tip of the upraised lance. Holle Humphries is the facilitator of the Quanah Parker Trail, a cultural heritage project of the Texas Plains Trail and Texas Historical Commission. Quanah’s statue is one of the few in the nation, she said, to depict a native American as a specific portrait of an individual.
“Quanah spent the rest of his life forging political, social, religious and educational ties to benefit his family, his Comanche tribe, and all those Apache and Kiowa people who shared the confined space on the reservation with him,” Humphries said in remarks to the gathered crowd.
“I think Quanah so badly wanted to be back in Texas, that after he came to the reservation in 1875, he eventually over the years managed to procure a horse-drawn buggy, a fine suit of clothes and even access to a railway named after him, to get out,” she continued.
It drove him to learn English, and from there the nuances of business. Quanah learned how to invest his own money, negotiate grazing rights with cattlemen and lobby Congress on behalf of the Comanche.
Western Texas College President Barbara Beebe said she was pleased to have the statue on campus.
“For us, it’s a wonderful educational and leadership opportunity,” she said. Beebe inherited the statue project from her predecessor Mike Dreith, who was also on hand for the dedication. “All that (Quanah) did throughout his life in leadership; there’s no better place to put him than on campus.”
Bruce Parker thanked the college for their work, and for honoring his great grandfather’s love of art, beauty and education in the creation of the statue. His family and the Comanches, he said, would forever be grateful.
“It falls to me that Quanah is remembered not only as a warrior chief, but as a person,” he said. “Quanah was a skilled statesman, who understood the need for a tolerance and acceptance of other cultures.”
He added that Quanah fought for religious freedom and founded the Native American Church, defending its right to freely meet.
“Most importantly, he chose peace over war as the road to the survival of his people,” Bruce said. “We’re here to honor our ancestors for their valor, for their sacrifices. We’re here to appreciate and review their lessons.”
Shortly, he joined Davis and Don in the blessing of the statue. The scent of burning cedar wafted from small vessel in Davis’ hand while Don beat a drum, singing with Bruce who gestured toward the statue with a fan made from eagle feathers.
“A lot of these songs aren’t sung in an open forum, like today. But I believe that if Quanah Parker were here, he would share them with you,” Don had told the audience. “You have given us the opportunity to feel the presence of this great man, I believe the great Creator ordained him to be a symbol.
“We are all in this together.”