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PARRA-O-COOM

PARRA-O-COOM (?–1874). Parra-o-coom, a Comanche chief, was a leader of the Quahadi band during their last years on the West Texas plains. His name has been translated as He Bear or Bull Bear. Although little is known about him, he apparently was a warrior of much renown; he is described by one contemporary as "a great bear of a man with curly hair." Parra-o-coom detested whites and always wanted to engage them in individual combat; indeed, fighting seemed to be his chief pleasure. By the time the orphaned Quanah Parker joined the Quahadis in the 1860s, Parra-o-coom had been elevated to head chief of that band. Although he camped near Medicine Lodge Creek in the fall of 1867, he never attended the councils or signed the resultant treaty. More than once he declared that not until the horse soldiers had come to the Plains and defeated him in battle would he or his followers even consider going "the white man's road."

During the early 1870s Parra-o-coom was closely associated with Mow-way, leader of the Kotsoteka band. It was their bands that Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie and his Fourth United States Cavalry pursued in the fall of 1871, and in the battle of Blanco Canyon the older chiefs chose Quanah to formulate a plan of escape. Though Quanah emerged as the hero of that engagement, it was Parra-o-coom who gave final approval to any significant move or command. When Mackenzie attacked Mow-way's village on the North Fork of the Red River on September 29, 1872, Parra-o-coom immediately summoned the warriors of his camp, which was farther upstream, into battle by the following words of encouragement. "When I was a young man like you I met things straight ahead. I fight! I want you young men to do the same. Be brave!" However, in the charge that followed, at least twenty braves were killed or wounded by the horse soldiers, and several of the women surrendered. Subsequently, in the winter of 1872–73, Parra-o-coom camped near the Wichita Agency at Fort Sill, Indian Territory, to await the release of the captive women and children. This was probably the only peaceful contact he ever had with the whites, and during his stay William S. Soule made the only known photographs of the Quahadi chief. The following summer Parra-o-coom resumed his roaming raids. However, by the time of the intertribal Sun Dance on Elk Creek in 1874, during which the attack on the Adobe Walls trading post was planned, he had contracted pneumonia and was on his deathbed; thus Quanah was chosen to lead the war party. Parra-o-coom died while the second battle of Adobe Walls (see RED RIVER WAR) was being fought on June 27, 1874, and was buried on the banks of Elk Creek. Wild Horse, second chief of the Quahadis, succeeded him as nominal head chief, even though Quanah emerged as the dominant figure, particularly after the Comanches' final defeat. Most of what is known concerning Parra-o-coom was subsequently supplied by his son, Timbo, and others of his old followers.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

James L. Haley, The Buffalo War: The History of the Red River Indian Uprising of 1874 (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1976). Bill Neeley, Quanah Parker and His People (Slaton, Texas: Brazos, 1986). Wilbur Sturtevant Nye, Carbine and Lance: The Story of Old Fort Sill (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1937; 3d ed. 1969). Wilbur Sturtevant Nye, Plains Indian Raiders (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968).

H. Allen Anderson

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

H. Allen Anderson, "PARRA-O-COOM," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fpa86), accessed September 17, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.