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Kiowa chief commits suicide

October
11
1878

On this day in 1878, Kiowa chief Satanta committed suicide by jumping out his prison window. Satanta was born around 1820, probably in what is now Kansas or Oklahoma. He first emerged as an orator at the Medicine Lodge Treaty council in October 1867, where he came to be known as the "Orator of the Plains," although that title may have been a tongue-in-cheek reference to his long-winded speeches rather than sincere praise for his speaking abilities. In 1871 Satanta and his fellow chiefs Satank and Big Tree were arrested for their part in the Warren wagontrain raid. Satank was killed while trying to escape. The trial of Satanta and Big Tree at Jacksboro was a celebrated event, primarily because it marked the first time Indian chiefs were forced to stand trial in a civil court. The jury convicted the two men and sentenced them to hang, but Texas governor E. J. Davis commuted the sentences to life imprisonment. Satanta was paroled in 1873, but was re-arrested for his role in the attack on Lyman's wagontrain in Palo Duro canyon and in the second battle of Adobe Walls. He was imprisoned in the Texas penitentiary in Hunstville until 1878, when, demoralized over the prospect of spending the rest of his life in confinement, he took his own life.

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