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Chief Lone Wolf

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By Barbara Barton

Published April 2012

Chief Lone Wolf of the Kiowas ranged from Colorado to Mexico but gave the U.S. Cavalry quite a run in Texas and made two trips to Washington to negotiate peace for his tribe. Photo courtesy of the Heart of West Texas Museum at Colorado City. Chief Lone Wolf of the Kiowas lived at a time when his tribe roamed over a large area of the Southwestern United States. He led his warriors from the mountains of Colorado to the Texas Plains and into Mexico.  Although he was ready to challenge any string of blue-coated soldiers he encountered while traveling through Texas, he  was very involved in peace negotiations.  Lone Wolf made two trips to Washington, D.C. in his lifetime trying to make a peace treaty with the Great White Father.

The Kiowa tribe had distinct appearances and ways of living.  Their braves were tall and walked with a graceful gait as they showed off their long hair.  Lone Wolf’s portrait details the fine Roman outline of his head.   The Kiowa ate mostly meat but supplemented that with fruits, berries roots and nuts.  Their tall teepees were covered with buffalo hides. Not only were their homes easy to transport but also their cooking utensils, which included hide bags and containers.  Horns of animals were made into spoons but no pottery was used.

While Lone Wolf was their leader, the Kiowas often pitched their tents near the buildings at Fort Bent, a location coinciding with modern-day La Junta, Colorado.  In the summer of 1856, the Kiowas left their teepees in care of William Bent at Bent’s Fort while they went on a buffalo hunt.  When they returned, they were very upset because Bent had given the tents to the Cheyennes, so a battle erupted.  Lone Wolf’s horse was shot in the fight and his braves had to retreat.  But the Kiowas later made peace with the Cheyennes, the house stealers.

Lone Wolf and wife Etla. Photo from Brady collection. By 1863, Lone Wolf was a member of the Tsetanma, an elite society of warriors, which gave him much privilege.  His fighting ability and leadership earned him the right to represent his tribe when he made a trip to Washington, D.C. with Indian agent S. G. Colley.  Although this attempt to obtain peace failed, in 1865 he was one of several chiefs who signed the Little Arkansas Treaty with federal commissioners October 18, 1865.

But signing such a treaty didn’t keep his tribe from riding to Texas to look for horses.  A scarce six months after the signing, they were in the saddle riding fast to capture 150 ponies from Texas owners.  Lone Wolf didn’t sign the next treaty that was made available to the Indians in 1867 at Medicine Lodge, Kansas.  He probably refused this treaty because he knew if he signed it, he couldn’t raid any more ranches to get horses.

The Kiowas continued to war against the U. S. Cavalry for several more years even though they were suppose to be peaceful while living on an Indian Reservation.  Finally one brash, young cavalry leader named Lt. Col. George Custer held peace talks with Lone Wolf and Chief Satanta in 1868.  After the talks, Custer brought the two leaders to Ft. Cobb in Oklahoma, which was a part of the Indian Reservation.  The two chiefs were led there under a flag of truce, but the moment they arrived, Gen Phillip Sheridan ordered them held hostage.  Custer said he would hang them if they didn’t agree to return to the reservation.  The two chiefs weren’t released until about a year later after most of their tribe had returned to the reservation.

A band of Kiowa warriors.  Lone Wolf led his band until 1879.  Courtesy of Library of Congress Archives. Lone Wolf and his warriors couldn’t stay on the reservation forever, so in 1872, they visited the southwestern part of Texas.  Lone Wolf’s war party and his son, Sitting-in-the-Saddle, attacked a wagon train at Howard’s Well.  It was a station on the San Antonio-El Paso Road.  Seventeen teamsters who were driving their wagons through that area were killed.  The Ninth United States Cavalry from Fort Concho were in the area and attacked the Kiowas.  Lone Wolf’s favorite son, Sitting-in-the-Saddle, was wounded in the battle with the soldiers but was rescued by a warrior named Mamadayte .

In spite of Lone Wolf’s attacks against the military, he was well thought of enough that he was selected to go to Washington again. This time he accompanied a new Indian agent named Henry Alford.  He helped to release his two friends, Chief Satanta and Chief Big Tree.  A year later in 1873, Lone Wolf and his son led a group of warriors in a raid into Mexico.  On the way back through Texas, they fought with the Fourth United States Cavalry at Kickapoo Springs in Edwards county.  Sitting-in-the-Saddle was killed during this skirmish December 10, 1873. 

The Kiowa chief mourned the loss of his favorite son for a long time, so the following spring, Lone Wolf retrieved his son’s body and brought it back to Kiowa country.  He buried him on a high hill in present Mitchell County near Loraine, Texas.  The hill now is named Lone Wolf Mountain.

A distinguished warrior, he was originally called Mamadayte, but became Lone Wolf the Younger when adopted by Chief Lone Wolf because of his heroic acts in battle. In 1874, Lone Wolf and his men stayed on the reservation very little.  His hatred for the white man fueled his desire to kill them as he fought in the second Adobe Walls conflict June 27, 1874.  On July 12th of the same year, he attacked twenty-seven Texas Rangers in what was called the Lost Valley Fight.  Not only did two rangers lose their lives, but the group lost most of their horses.  During the battle, Mamadayte  killed a ranger named David Bailey.  The warrior knew that this Ranger had killed Lone Wolf’s son the year before, so Mamadayte  gave the dead man to his chief.  After Lone Wolf cut off the soldier’s head, he said his son was avenged.  For the brave deed that Mamadayte had done, Lone Wolf adopted him and gave him the name Lone Wolf the Younger.      

In 1874, Lone Wolf couldn’t follow the peaceful existence of some Kiowas, so he led a band of warriors who attacked a wagon train.  The Kiowas had to flee in defeat and found themselves riding into Palo Duro Canyon for protection.  A few days later, Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie led his troops against the Indians in Palo Duro Canyon and destroyed the Kiowas’ camp.  The Kiowas wandered around the Texas Panhandle for awhile until they were starved and dejected.  Lone Wolf finally surrendered at Fort Sill February 26, 1875.  He was incarcerated and sent to Fort Marion in Florida.  There he contracted malaria and became very ill.  He was released in the summer of 1879 and died near Fort Sill.  His adopted son, Mamadayte, succeeded him and was called Lone Wolf the Younger.

Although the Kiowas raided from the Panhandle to the Rio Grande, they were thought of predominately living in the Texas Panhandle.  Courtesy of the Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection in the University of Texas Library.
Chief Lone Wolf
Chief Satana (White Bear)
Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie destroyed Kiowa lodges during the battle of Palo Duro Canyon.  Lone Wolf retreated to Palo Duro after an unsuccessful raid on Lyman’s wagon train. Courtesy of the West Texas Collection, Angelo State Univ.
Lone Wolf was among the Kiowa braves when Gen. William T. Sherman, shown above, arrested Chiefs Big Tree and Santanta at Fort Sill.  Photo courtesy Library of Congress Archives.

A postscript to the story occurred in Mitchell County in 1902.  At that time, local ranchers around Lone Wolf Mountain were surprised to see two wagon loads of Indians making their way to Lone Wolf Mountain, about four miles north of Loraine, Texas.  Area citizens also saw  fires on top of the mountain at this time.  Harvey Muns, who knew the story of their visit, recounted it by saying the Oklahoma Indians camped there for three days.  After the Indians departed, area men visited the campgrounds and noticed that a large hole had been excavated on Lone Wolf Mountain.  Since Lone Wolf also buried his nephew, Heart-of-a-young-wolf, at the same time that he buried his son, observers thought the Indians may have unearthed the bones of their ancestors and taken them back to Oklahoma with them.


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