Born: Circa 1830
Satanta was born about 1830 most likely along the Canadian River, a tributary of the Arkansas River, somewhere in present Oklahoma. This was the winter home of his people, the Kiowa. Also called Settainte, his name means White Bear.
As a young man Satanta participated in campaigns against the Cheyennes and the Utes to protect Kiowa hunting grounds. He used both warfare and diplomacy to seek safety for the Kiowas. His actions earned him the respect of his people. Satanta spoke four American Indian languages and Spanish. Since he was highly regarded and possessed excellent communications skills, he was selected to be a negotiator. He became a subchief along with Guipago (Lone Wolf) and participated with other Kiowa leaders in negotiations in advance of the Treaty of the Little Arkansas River in 1865. The treaty failed to secure peace on the plains and soon Satanta and others were leading raids against the new white settlers who were moving into the area. After Kiowa principal chief Dohäsan died in 1866, dissention among subchiefs intensified and raids increased in 1866 and 1867.
Satanta was selected to be one of his people's representatives at the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty in October 1867. A tall muscular man, Satanta earned the name "orator of the plains" at Medicine Lodge and signed the treaty that removed the Kiowas to a reservation in present-day Oklahoma. Conflicts between the Kiowas and the white settlers remained and Generals William T. Sherman and Philip Sheridan were enlisted to lead a winter campaign in 1868 and 1869 to quell further violence. This mission destroyed the homes of the plains people and forced them to return to the Oklahoma reservations. On the new reservations, Kiowa hunters competed with other plains people for limited game. Food supplies grew scarce and animosities rose. In the wake of those campaigns Satanta and Guipago surrendered to Custer. Satanta was released a few months later.
The Kiowas lived a few years in peace on their reservation. When in 1871 food rations became scarce, Satanta led a raid of 100 Kiowa men on Fort Sill. Seven men were killed; Satanta was arrested and charged with murder. He was found guilty, but paroled after two years. Satanta led several more raids after returning to the reservation. In 1874 he was arrested and sent to Huntsville, Alabama, where he committed suicide October 11, 1878. A city in Haskell County is named for him.
Your people shall be our people, and peace shall be our mutual heritage.—Satanta
View primary sources related to Satanta in Kansas Memory.
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: April 2011
Date Modified: July 2014
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