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Chief Big Tree

Photo added by Rita Collvins Mayfield

Chief Big Tree

  • Birth 1841 New Mexico, USA
  • Death 27 Nov 1929 Mountain View, Kiowa County, Oklahoma, USA
  • Burial Mountain View, Kiowa County, Oklahoma, USA
  • Memorial ID 24072440

Kiowa War Chief. The first Native American tried in a civil court, a case that received international attention because it treated his acts as common criminal acts rather than crimes of a people at war. After the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867 sent the Kiowa to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma, he and other Kiowa warriors left the reservation and made continuous raids on white settlers in northwestern Texas, including scalping, torture and burning of captives. On May 18, 1871, he joined a multi tribal war party and attacked a wagon train in Salt Creek, Texas, killing the wagon master and six teamsters. Satanta, one of his fellow war chiefs, later bragged about it at Fort Sill, saying they could have attacked General William Tecumseh Sherman instead, had they chosen. When Sherman heard this, he ordered the three chiefs at Fort Sill arrested and tried in civil court. Big Tree, Satanta and Satank were arrested and sent to Fort Richardson, Texas. Satank was killed on the way, but Big Tree and Satanta stood trial in a Texas District Court. They were found guilty of murder and sentenced to death. President Ulysses S. Grant ordered the death sentences commuted and they were sent to the Texas State Penitentiary. They were released in 1873 when the Secretary of the Interior agreed to his and Satanta's release in exchange for a promise of peace from the Kiowa and Comanche tribes. For a while, he resumed attacks on whites before eventually adopting Christianity, changing his life, and becoming an advocate for peace. He was one of sculptor James Earle Fraser's models for the Indian Head nickel that was minted from 1913 through 1938. (Bio by Claudia Naugle)

Bio by: Claudia L Naugle


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Rita Collvins Mayfield
  • Added: 20 Jan 2008
  • Find A Grave Memorial 24072440
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Chief Big Tree (1841–27 Nov 1929), Find A Grave Memorial no. 24072440, citing Rainy Mountain Cemetery, Mountain View, Kiowa County, Oklahoma, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .