EXTRAORDINARY TEXANS: WARRIOR WOMEN
COMANCHE WOMEN OF POWER AND INFLUENCE

Kewiddawippa (Tall Women) ??

Treaties signed by The People [ We call them Comanches. They call themselves Numunu, "The People"] with the Republic of Texas and United States contain signatures with the word "women" included in the translation. A very interesting example is the signature of Kewiddawippa on the Butler Lewis Treaty. I suspect this signature belongs to a wife of the Warchief Santa Anna. There are two good reasons for this suspicion. First, one wife accompanied Santa Anna to Washington to meet "the Great White Father", President Polk, after the Butler-Lewis Treaty was signed. She was the only woman from the delegation of Texas Indians noted in Polk’s journal. In an entry in July 1846 Polk noted, "Among the Comanches and other wild Indians of the pra[i]ries were several women or squaws, and among others the wife of Santa Anna, the Comanche Chief, was present." The second possible clue is contained in the following quote from William Parker’s Notes Taken During the Expedition Through Unexplored Texas in the Summer and Fall of 1854 contains an interesting observation. Parker reported:

A very interesting woman accompanied this party. She was the widow of Santa Anna, a celebrated chief who died about three years since, and still mourned her loss, going out every evening in the neighborhood of camp to howl and cry and cut herself with knives, according to the custom among them of persons in affliction. She had separated herself from the tribe, and formed a band of women, seven in number, like herself widows. She owed a large herd of mules and horses, and was a most successful hunter, having alone shot with her rifle fifteen deer in a mornings hunt. She was a fine looking woman, an Amazon in size and haughty bearing, rode astride, and dressed in deep black.

Tall Woman… an Amazon in size…. The choices of conclusions, until additional documentation is discovered, are: (1) Santa Anna’s " Amazon" wife signed the treaty and accompanied him to Washington and her name was Kewiddawippa (2) some other "tall woman" signed the treaty (3) A man called "Tall Woman" signed the treaty (4) none of the above. Unfortunately, no reference has been found naming Santa Anna’s wives. They seem always identified in relation to a male. Another example was provided by RIP Ford. He was impressed by "the mother of Carne Muerto" [Carne Muerto was Santa Anna’s son]. He noted:

While encamped at Los Ojuelos, Ford’s company on September 24, 1850, was sworn in for another six months enlistment. Shortly after this, we were quite surprised to be honored by a visit from two ladies. One was the mother of Carne Muerto, the Comanche prisoner, and the other, the mother of the young brave whom we had been forced to kill at Benavides’ ranch. They had come to learn of the fate of their children. How they managed to make the trip, to pass between the different military stations of regulars and rangers, no one could guess. But here they were, speaking for their children and for themselves.

They found an able interpreter in Roque and also in Warren Lyons, who had recently joined the company. Everything was explained to them and they started, accompanied by Roque, to find Taiaistes Chemohecut—Bad Finger. They met Captain Ford at the gate leading out from Fort McIntosh. Carne Muerto’s mother took his hand and gazed into his face imploringly; the tears coursed down her cheeks. There was an earnest sadness in her mute appeal possessing a force, an eloquence, which went to the heart of everyone present. This scene lasted three of four minutes. The captain instructed Roque to say that her son was safe and would be taken care of as long as he remained in the hands of the Americans. Roque was also to suggest that she report to her people the good treatment Carne Muerto had received at the hands of the white men, to say to them they owed us the life of one warrior, at least, and in the event any of our people fell into the hands of the Comanches, to beg them to treat the unfortunates as we had her son. He expressed regret that the wounds of Carne Muerto’s cousin were so serious, so certainly fatal, that his life could not have been saved by a human agency. He pointed out that the whites had killed the Indian out of mercy.

These women remained at Laredo for some time. They received many presents from all classes, and finally departed. Rip had lost a finger in an earlier fight.

All that can be concluded at this point is that Santa Anna had one or more wife/wives who certainly did not fit well into the "powerless chattel" role. The story of remarkable women associated with Santa Anna does not end here. Information about his mother was collected from Horseback and some of the other last surviving chiefs of the horse culture by Emmor Harston, an adopted member of the tribe whose Comanche name was " Nod-e-mah Ta-o-yo" or "Little Trader Boy." Harston reported Santa Anna’s mother, Wap-so-ni, was the "female governor of Conas [the warrior training camp at what is now called Santa Anna Peak]". An additional source, a recently published Comanche Dictionary and Grammar, included the following entry, " Santanta (name) Comanche chief; mother was Wapusoni; sent to Washington D.C.; in 1847 signed German peace treaty." This recent dictionary and grammar was compiled with the assistance of Comanche elders and leaders who remember both their language and history. The fact that Wapsoni/Wapusoni was included in a reference to The People.

The people (Numunu or Comanche) will return to Santa Anna Peaks in Coleman County to participate in " Funtier Days", an annual event sponsored by the town of Santa Anna, the weekend of May 7-8. This is an opportunity for them to remember some of their most glorious years as "Lords of the South Plains" and to strengthen a growing friendship with the citizens of Santa Anna and the people of Texas. I hope you will join the town of Santa Anna, Texanna, and other groups of Texans in welcoming The People as they again return home. Bill Neeley, the Comanche Tribal Historian recently wrote, "Texas is a Religion. Our land is sacred to all races who live and have lived upon it. As we once fought for its possession, let us now pray together for our integration with it and our harmonious unity as we reflect upon a stormy past.

 

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A Comanche Village in 1834 by George Catlin