Kiowa Calender

The Osage Massacre

In the Smithsonian Institution at Washington is a calendar made by the Kiowa Indians, covering a period of sixty years. Their calendars consisted of a series of crude drawings on buffalo hides. The summer of 1833 is indicated by a severed head with a knife by it, which translated reads, “Summer they cut off their heads.” It is usually spoken of as the Osage Massacre. The next summer is indicated on the calendar by a crude figure of a girl, which reads, “Return of Gunpä´ñdamä.” 1

When the treaty council with the Osage at Fort Gibson broke up in disagreement on April 2, 1833, three hundred Osage warriors under the leadership of Clermont departed for the west to attack the Kiowa. It was Clermont’s boast that he never made war on the whites and never made peace with his Indian enemies. At the Salt Plains where the Indians obtained their salt, within what is now Woodward County, Oklahoma, they fell upon the trail of a large party of Kiowa warriors going northeast toward the Osage towns above Clermont’s. The Osage immediately adapted their course to that pursued by their enemies following it back to what they knew would be the defenseless village of women, children, and old men left behind by the warriors. 2 The objects of their cruel vengeance were camped at the mouth of Rainy-Mountain Creek, a southern tributary of the Washita, within the present limits of the reservation at Fort Sill.

Summer they cut off their heads
Summer they cut off their heads

Warned of their danger by finding a buffalo with an Osage arrow sticking in it, part of the Kiowa fled and made their escape, but a considerable party stopped on a small tributary of Otter Creek just west of the mountain, where they were discovered by the Osage. In the morning at daylight, a youth went out to look for their ponies, and saw the Osage creeping up on foot. He ran back to the camp where all were sleeping and cried, “To the rocks, to the rocks!” The Kiowa sprang up and fled to the mountains, the mothers seizing the children, and the old men hurrying the best they could, with their bloodthirsty enemies close behind. One woman fled with a baby on her back and dragging another by the hand; a pursuing Osage caught the older girl and was drawing his knife across her throat, when the mother rushed to her aid and succeeded in beating him off with only a slight gash upon her head. A boy named Aya was saved by his father in the same way, and lived to tell his story in 1895 to James Mooney, who set it down in a Government report. His father seized and held him with his teeth, putting him down while shooting arrows to keep off the pursuers, and taking him up again to run.

Return of Gunpä´ñdamä
Return of Gunpä´ñdamä

The warriors being absent, the Kiowa made no attempt at a stand. It was simply a surprise and flight of panic-stricken women, children, and old men, in which every one caught was butchered on the spot. Two children were taken prisoners, a brother and sister, about ten and twelve years of age respectively. When the massacre was ended, the Osage cut the heads from all the dead bodies, and placed them in brass buckets, one head in each bucket, all over the camp ground; after which they set fire to the tepees and left the place. The buckets had been obtained by the Kiowa from the Pawnee, who procured them on the Missouri and traded them to the southern tribes.

On their return to Clermont’s village early in May there was great rejoicing; feasting and dancing continued for several days and nights. They had brought home with them over one hundred scalps including many old ones taken by the Kiowa from their enemies. Poles strung with scalps were raised over their houses. Every grave in sight of the town was protected by a scalp lifted on a pole. The Osage brought also over four hundred horses and a number of Mexican dollars the Kiowa or their neighbors, the Comanche, had taken from Judge Carr’s party the previous winter. 3 Among the five prisoners they brought home were the two terrified Kiowa children, whose mother they had probably killed. The girl’s name was Gunpä´ñdamä, and the little ten-year-old boy, Tunkahtohye. On another raid, they took home as captives two girls from the Wichita Indians, who also lived in the vicinity of where Fort Sill is located.

Colonel Hugh Love and General Leavenworth

About the first of March, 1834, Colonel Hugh Love, who had a trading establishment at the mouth of the Verdigris, purchased from the Osage the two prisoners, Gunpandama and Tunkahtohye, and took them home with him. He paid seventy-five dollars for the boy and one hundred forty dollars for the girl. It was Love’s intention to use these prisoners for his benefit, expecting that by returning them to their people he would be able to establish profitable trade relations with them. On the arrival of Brigadier-general Leavenworth at Fort Gibson, the commissioners suggested purchasing the prisoners from Love in order that the Government might have the benefit of whatever friendly impression could be created by returning them to their people. General Leavenworth was so impressed with the possibilities thus presented that he regarded the return of the girl to her home as the key to the success of the expedition planned for the summer of 1834. The commission had no money to pay for the prisoners, and General Leavenworth entered into a writing obligating himself to pay to Hugh Love the sum of two hundred dollars for the Kiowa girl, the boy, unfortunately, having been killed. Part of the sum represented board and clothing furnished her by Love. It developed that when the girl was delivered to General Leavenworth in June, Love had left his trading house for Philadelphia, and on his return in September he filed a complaint with Colonel Dodge of the Dragoons on the ground that he had not agreed to part with the prisoner for two hundred dollars, and that she had cost him much more than that sum.

The expedition from Fort Gibson in 1832 had accomplished little in the way of impressing the wild Indians in the southwest. The expedition of 1833 employed a much larger force, but had not achieved its object. It was now determined to send a formidable expedition to the Kiowa and Comanche country. The Secretary of War had directed that efforts be made to rescue Abbay, the ranger who was captured by the Indians while on the expedition in 1833. Gabriel M. Martin was a well-to-do planter who lived at Pecan Point on Red River now in Texas, but then claimed to be part of Miller County, Arkansas, in which county Martin held the office of judge. With his son and servants he was camped on Glass Creek, now called Glasses Creek, about fifteen miles above the mouth of the Washita and three miles west of that stream near where is now Medill, Marshall County, Oklahoma. About the fifteenth of the month Judge Martin sent two of his black men and a white man to hunt, and in their absence from camp the Kiowa Indians attacked and killed Martin and one of his black boys, scalped them both and took the son captive to their home in the Wichita mountains. 4 May 25, the day news of this outrage was received by General Leavenworth at Fort Gibson he addressed a communication, and at his request Governor Stokes’s commission wrote another, to Colonel Almonte and Colonel Bean, Mexican officials in the military and Indian service respectively, at Nacogdoches, Texas; they were solicited to use their influence to induce the Texas Comanche Indians to meet Colonel Dodge’s expedition at the mouth of the Washita and accompany it to the village of the Comanche on the north side of Red River in the hope that friendly relations and negotiations with the latter might be facilitated. General Leavenworth then entered into a written contract employing Benjamin Hawkins to carry these letters to the Mexican officials, and then to attend the Indian Council soon to be held on Trinity River and endeavor to induce some of the Indians in attendance to meet Leavenworth and Dodge at Camp Washita. 5 No Comanche were induced to attend but thirty-three Caddo Indians arrived at the mouth of the Washita July 22, and accompanied Captain Dean on the march to the western Indians after the departure of Colonel Dodge. With the purpose of recovering Abbay and the Martin boy from the Indians, and, by exhibiting a large force of mounted troops, hoping to make an impression on them, and with the further object of inducing a number of representatives of these tribes to return to Fort Gibson with the Dragoons, the expedition to the southwest was ordered.

George Catlin

George Catlin
George Catlin. National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, gift of May C. Kinney, Ernest C. Kinney and Bradford Wickes

At Fort Gibson in June 1834, was George Catlin, the Indian painter. He was a Philadelphian who studied for the bar but became a painter and student of Indians among whom he lived for eight years, painting more than five hundred pictures that were shown and appreciated in London, where he published his absorbing two-volume account of his life with the Indians. The pictures were afterwards placed in the National Museum in Washington. Catlin was permitted to accompany the expedition, and he painted a large number of the western Indians, besides drawing a vivid word-picture of the expedition, the like of which had never before been seen in this country.

The Secretary of War had cast the Dragoons prominently in the theatre of western activity. It was intended, he represented to the President in 1833, 6 to order the whole regiment to proceed through the extensive Indian region between the western boundaries of Missouri and Arkansas, and the Rocky Mountains. It was deemed indispensable to the peace and security of the frontiers that a considerable force should be displayed in that quarter, and that the wandering and restless tribes who roamed through it should be impressed with the power of the United States by the exhibition of a corps so well qualified to excite their respect.

“These Indians are beyond the reach of mere infantry force. Without stationary residences, and possessing an abundant supply of horses, and with habits admirably adapted to their use, they can be held in check only by a similar force, and by its occasional display among them. Almost every year has witnessed some outrage committed by them upon our citizens, and as many of the Indian tribes from the country this side of the Mississippi have removed and are removing to that region, we may anticipate their exposure to these predatory incursions unless vigorous measures are adopted to repel them. We owe protection to the emigrants, and it has been solemnly promised to them.”

While the rangers wore no uniforms, Congress went to the other extreme in the organization of the Dragoons, who must have created a sensation in all beholders, if one can visualize them in their splendor: A double-breasted dark blue cloth coat, with two rows of gilt buttons, ten to the row; cuffs and collar yellow, the latter framed with gold lace and the skirt ornamented with a star. Trousers of blue gray mixture, with two stripes of yellow cloth three-quarters of an inch wide up each outside seam. A cap like an infantryman’s, ornamented with a silver eagle, gold cord, and with a gilt star to be worn in front with a drooping white horsehair pompon. Ankle boots and yellow spurs; sabre with steel scabbard and a half-basket hilt: sash of silk net, deep orange in color, to be tied on right hip and worn with full dress. Black patent leather belt, black silk stock, and white gloves. For undress uniform, the dark blue coat had only nine buttons on each breast, one on each side of the collar, four on the cuffs, four along the flaps, and two on the hips; an epaulette strap on each shoulder. There was also a great coat of blue gray, made double-breasted and worn with a cape. 7

Add the soldier’s equipment of rifle and ammunition, and picture these helpless tender-feet from northern states starting in the middle of summer on an expedition of seven hundred miles, to impress the Indians with the splendor of their raiment and the menace of their arms and numbers; marching over the blazing prairies in heavy uniforms and through the suffocating thickets of underbrush and briars that entangled with the countless buttons and snatched off the towering cap with the white pompon.

The expedition was not in any sense fit or ready. Three of the companies had not arrived at Fort Gibson from their weary march from Jefferson Barracks until the twelfth, and the start was delayed for their arrival. Eight companies departed on June 15, leaving one to complete its preparation at Fort Gibson. Crossing the Arkansas near the mouth of the Grand, they proceeded eighteen miles southwest, where they stopped at what they called Camp Rendezvous until the twenty-first, when they took up their march for Washita River. The tenth company, that of Captain Wharton, was absent as an escort to the party of Santa Fe traders. They had not got under way when evidence of the unfitness of the organization for the undertaking ahead of them was disclosed by the fact that twenty-three men were sent back to Fort Gibson from Camp Rendezvous, having been pronounced by the surgeon unfit for service.

With the expedition were General Leavenworth, Colonel Dodge, Colonel S. W. Kearny, 8 and Major R. B. Mason. Jefferson Davis, first lieutenant, a few years out of West Point, was in command of a company. Lieutenant T. B. Wheelock, a staff officer, was the journalist of the expedition and wrote an account to which we are indebted for interesting information concerning the country and people visited by them.

A German botanist, Count Beyrick, a professor in the University of Berlin, commissioned by his government to undertake scientific research in the United States, was authorized by the War Department to accompany the Dragoons. Traveling in a comfortable dearborn wagon from Saint Louis to Fort Gibson, and covering most of the route with the Dragoons, he had made a valuable collection of plants and scientific information; but soon after his return to Fort Gibson he died from the disease that swept away so many of the Dragoons.

Indian Guides

Tuch-ee - "Dutch"
Tuch-ee (familiarly called by white people, “Dutch” – Catlin plate 218) is one of the most extraordinary men that lived on the frontiers in the 1830’s, both for his remarkable history, and for his fine and manly figure, and character of face. – George Catlin

There were also eleven Osage, eight Cherokee, six Delaware and seven Seneca to serve as guides, hunters and interpreters, and as representatives of their respective nations. The Cherokee were in charge of Dutch, 9 remarkable for his personal beauty, daring character and successful enterprise against the Osage. The Delaware party included Black Beaver, 10 who later became a well-known guide and interpreter, and had for a leader George Bullett, distinguished for his warlike qualities. Beattie, a Frenchman who had lived nearly all his life among the Osage and was a celebrated hunter, was in charge of that band. De-nath-de-a-go was in charge of the Seneca. There were also two Indian girls, one the Kiowa about fifteen years of age, captured by the Osage in 1833 with her brother, and the other a Wichita, eighteen years of age, taken by the Osage five or six years before.

The train of five hundred mounted troops, a large number of white-covered baggage wagons, and seventy head of beeves, with the necessary attendants, made a very imposing procession. Enthusiastic Catlin, riding to the top of a hill, described the view of the expedition as it started on the march: 11

“Beneath us, and winding through the waving landscape were seen with peculiar effect, the ‘bold dragoons’, marching in beautiful order forming a train of a mile in length. Baggage wagons and Indians (engages) helped to lengthen the procession. From the point where we stood, the line was seen in miniature; and the undulating hills over which it was bend-ing its way, gave it the appearance of a huge black snake, gracefully gliding over a rich carpet of green.”

But there was a touch of sadness for Catlin at the beginning of the journey.

“Wun-pan-to-mee (the white weazel) a girl, and Tunk-aht-oh-ye (the thunderer) a boy, who are brother and sister, are two Kioways who were purchased from the Osages, to be taken to their tribe by the dragoons. The girl was taken the whole distance with us on horseback, to the Pawnee village, and there delivered to her friends, as I have before mentioned; and the fine little boy was killed at the fur trader’s house on the banks of the Verdigris, near Fort Gibson, the day after I painted his portrait, and only a few days before he was to have started with us on the march. He was a beautiful boy of nine or ten years of age, and was killed by a ram, which struck him in the abdomen, and knocking him against a fence, killed him instantly.” 12

The picture of the little boy and his sister with her arm affectionately about him is one of the Catlin collection hung in the National Museum at Washington.

Wun-pan-to-mee and Tunk-aht-oh-ye
Wun-pan-to-mee (the white weazel) a girl, and Tunk-aht-oh-ye (the thunderer) a boy, who are brother and sister, are two Kioways who were purchased from the Osages, to be taken to their tribe by the dragoons

They marched over the new road recently laid out by orders of General Leavenworth, to the mouth of the Washita; leaving Camp Rendezvous at eight o’clock in the morning, they went over waving prairies. The lush grass varied with gorgeous patches of coreopsis, golden rudbeckia, and pink phlox in bloom, and the more modest centaurea and a riot of other prairie flowers; they made twenty miles through beautiful undulating prairie and patches of timber, reaching the north fork of the Canadian that evening; there they had great difficulty in getting their wagons across, thirty or forty men being required to pull and push one up the bank. The next day a company was compelled to drop behind to care for wagons that had broken down, and Wheelock 13 records 14 that they early dis-covered baggage wagons to be a great handicap to such an expedition.

General Leavenworth had preceded the command, and was overtaken at the Canadian on the twenty-fifth by Colonel Dodge and his staff, the regiment coming on a few hours later. They crossed the Canadian just below the mouth of Little River, which is near the present town of Holdenville. Lieutenant T. H. Holmes 15 with one company of the Seventh Infantry, was then constructing a fort and quarters for two companies at the junction of Little River and the Canadian, which was afterward known as Camp Canadian and Fort Holmes. 16 Before leaving here, General Leavenworth sent orders back to Fort Gibson for Lieutenant Chandler to proceed to Fort Holmes with several cannon then at Fort Gibson.

After crossing the Canadian, they found the dragoon camp on the south side of the river. Beginning their daily march at eight or nine in the morning and camp-ing at four, the men had been pushed through the hottest part of the day, and by the time they reached Camp Canadian or Fort Holmes, twenty-seven more men were past going, and they were left at that place with Assistant-surgeon Hailes and a command under Lieutenant Edwards. Here Lieutenant Cooke 17 was left sick, but he lived to return to Fort Gibson and to write his scorching indictment of the Administration for its folly in sending these inexperienced men from the north on this disastrous expedition.

On the twenty-sixth, about ten miles below the Canadian, in the vicinity of where the town of Allen now is, they came across a band of between five hundred and six hundred Osage under their chief Black Dog, 18 engaged in curing buffalo meat; and soon after they began to see large numbers of buffaloes. Catlin describes how General Leavenworth, Colonel Dodge, and other officers yielded to the temptation to chase these great beasts, a folly which they had repented as a cruel waste of the energy and strength of their horses, soon to be put to a severe test. General Leavenworth then sternly announced that there should be no more chasing of buffalo. This resolution was joined in by his companions, the while they were traveling through a section in which no buffalo were to be seen. They had hardly finished discussing the subject when General Leavenworth who was in the lead sighted some buffalo grazing just over the knoll ahead. With an inconsistency any true hunter will excuse him for, General Leavenworth gave a few hasty orders to Dodge, Catlin and Wheelock calculated to compass the destruction of the buffalo, and dashed into what was to be his last ride after that animal. Catlin details at length the exciting chase which ended in General Leavenworth being thrown when his horse plunged into a hole. The General got up and declared he was not hurt, and immediately fainted. Catlin says he was hurt, and that he began to fail from that hour until the time in camp near the Washita, when Catlin describes him under a raging fever: 19

“The General lies pallid and emaciated before me, on his couch, with a dragoon fanning him, while he breathes forty or fifty breaths a minute, and writhes under a burning fever, although he is yet unwilling even to admit that he is sick.”


  1. U.S. Bureau of Ethnology, Annual Report for 1895-96, part 1, Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians by James Mooney, 257 ff.[]
  2. Journal of Rev. W. F. Vaill, American Board for Foreign Missions, Congregational House Boston, Manuscript Library, vol. 73, no. 101.[]
  3. Vaill’s Journal, Ibid.[]
  4. Leavenworth to Jones, July 3, 1834, Adjutant-general’s office, Old Files, 160 L. 1834.[]
  5. U.S. Quartermaster, Fort Myer Depot, Book 14, S 304, no. 151.[]
  6. U.S. Senate, Executive Documents, 23d congress, first session, no. i, 18.[]
  7. Army and Navy Chronicle (Washington), vol. i, 392.[]
  8. Stephen Watts Kearny, uncle of Philip Kearny was attending Columbia University in New York when the War of 1812 broke out and he left his studies to enter the army. As Lieutenant-colonel of the Dragoons came to Fort Gibson where he saw many years of border service. In 1836 when Colonel Dodge was made governor of Wisconsin Territory, Kearny succeeded him as colonel in command of the regiment; was in command at Fort Gibson and in command of the Army of the West in the War with Mexico; marched to California, conquering New Mexico on the way. He established a provisional government at Santa Fe, pressed on to California and was twice wounded in battle. In 1847, governor of California; joined the army in Mexico; in March 1848, was governor, military and civil, of Vera Cruz and governor of the City of Mexico. In August 1848, he was brevetted Major-general; he died in Saint Louis on October 31, 1848.[]
  9. For an account and picture of Dutch see Smithsonian Institution, Annual Report to July 1885, (Washington 1886), Part v. The George Catlin Indian Gallery, 206. ff.[]
  10. Black Beaver was born at the present site of Belleville, Illinois, in 1806, and died at Anadarko, Oklahoma, May 8, 1880. From 1834 until his death his services were in constant demand by the Government and were invaluable to military and scientific explorers of the plains and the Rocky Mountains. Black Beaver was chief of a band of five hundred Delaware Indians living on Canadian River in the early fifties in the vicinity of Old Camp Arbuckle northeast of where Pauls Valley now is. He served in the Mexican War at the head of a company of mounted volunteer Shawnee and Delaware Indians. As the Federal troops of forts Washita, Cobb, and Arbuckle fled before the Confederate forces in April 1861, Black Beaver acted as guide for the fugitives and piloted them toward Fort Leavenworth.[]
  11. Catlin, George. Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Condition of the North American Indians, vol. ii, 466 ff.[]
  12. Smithsonian Institution, Annual Report of the Board of Regents to July, 1885, part v, 52. Here in Catlin’s Gallery the Kiowa girl’s name is spelled Wun-pan-to-mee. In Mooney’s account of the Kiowa Massacre, [U.S. Bureau of Ethnology, Seventeenth Annual Report 1895-1896, part i, 261], she is Gunpandama.[]
  13. Thompson B. Wheelock was born in Massachusetts and on September 24, 1818, entered West Point Military Academy; graduated July 1, 1822. June 30, 1829, he resigned from the army and served until 1833 as president of Woodward College at Cincinnati, Ohio. September 19, 1833, he re-entered the army as first-lieutenant of the First Dragoons. Ordered to Florida in the Seminole War where he died on June 15, 1836, at the age of thirty-six.[]
  14. Wheelock kept a daily journal of the expedition which presents a fascinating narrative of that adventure. It was submitted by Wheelock to his commanding officer Colonel Dodge on August 27, 1834, and is to be found in American State Papers, “Military Affairs” vol. v, pp. 373-382. The journal was published with the President’s Message of December 2, 1834. [U.S. Senate, Executive Documents, 23d congress, second session, no. 1, pp. 73-93-][]
  15. Theophilus Hunter Holmes was born in North Carolina and from that state entered West Point Military Academy on September 1, 1825, graduating July 1, 1829. With the Seventh Infantry at Fort Gibson from 1832 to 1838. Served in the Mexican War. Resigned from the army April 22, 1861, and joined the Confederate Army with which he served in Indian Territory and later became a Lieutenant-general. He died June 20, 1880.[]
  16. This fort was afterward called Old Fort Holmes when Major Mason established the fort higher up Canadian River near the site of the town of Purcell, Oklahoma, which was also called Fort Holmes.[]
  17. Philip St. George Cooke was born near Leesburg, Virginia, June 13, 1809. He was graduated from West Point July 1, 1827; participated in the Black Hawk War in 1832, and served at Fort Gibson in 1834.

    In 1846 in charge of a battalion of Mormons recruited from a company of emigrants from Missouri. During the following winter he made the first wagon road from the water shed of the Atlantic to that of the Pacific ocean. In 1847, as major of the Second Dragoons served in California. In 1848 he was in command of a regiment at the City of Mexico.

    Colonel Cooke served in numerous Indian campaigns in the west and prepared a system of cavalry tactics which was adopted for the service in 1861. As Brigadier-general he was in command of the cavalry in the army of the Potomac and took part in the defense of Washington and in many other engagements in the Civil War. Brevetted Major-general March 13, 1865, he was retired in 1873 and died in Detroit, Michigan March 20, 1895.[]

  18. Colonel Chouteau had recommended (Dodge’s Military Order Book 92) that Black Dog be employed to head a body of Osage Indians to accompany the expedition and furnish buffalo meat to the men of the command who did not know how to kill the animals.[]
  19. Catlin, George, op. cit., vol. ii, 473, ff.[]

Foreman, Grant. Pioneer Days in the Early Southwest. Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co. 1926.

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