Maman-Ti (ca. 1835–1875)

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: Biography

Published: April 1, 1995

Updated: December 2, 2020

Maman-ti (Mama'nte), a Kiowa chief and medicine man also known as Swan, was born about 1835. He was a mysterious and somewhat sinister character whose name has been variously translated as Sky Walker, Walking Above, Walks-in-the-Sky, and Man-on-a-Cloud. He supposedly assumed the power that was once Dohäsan's after the latter's death in 1866. Originally a member of the tribe's buffalo-medicine cult, Maman-ti reportedly obtained new "medicine" when he "communicated" with a screech owl, a bird the Kiowas believed was the embodied spirit of a dead relative. Shortly thereafter, while ill with a fever, he had a dream vision in which he died momentarily and traveled to the spirit world, or "dead men's village." As a result, by the early 1870s he had become not only a fierce and popular war chief but also a powerful shaman, or dohate (medicine man, "owl prophet"). In this role he was revered among his people since he gave advice based on spiritual messages he allegedly received by a cured owl's skin that he manipulated like a hand puppet. Maman-ti was married twice and had three children by his first wife and several more by his second. In addition, he adopted a young White captive, Tehan, into his family.

Maman-ti masterminded most of the Kiowa raids into Texas and led some of them himself. He was the real power behind such prominent chiefs as Lone Wolf and Satanta. On January 4, 1871, he led the foray in which Britton (Brit) Johnson and three other black teamsters were killed and scalped near Flat Top Mountain in Young County. Maman-ti next made plans for a big raid in the vicinity of Jacksboro. Shortly after noon on May 18, more than 100 Kiowa and Kiowa-Apache warriors, concealed by the rocky terrain of a hill overlooking the Butterfield Trail through the Salt Creek valley, sighted the party escorting generals William T. Sherman and Randolph B. Marcy to Fort Richardson. Maman-ti, however, restrained his followers from mounting an ambush, declaring that his medicine decreed that the second party that passed by should be attacked. Hours later, the Indians attacked Henry Warren's wagontrain, killed seven teamsters, and destroyed the wagons. Subsequently the other participating chiefs, notably Satank, Big Tree, and Satanta, bore the blame for the episode; Maman-ti went free, since he was virtually unknown to the Whites at that time (see WARREN WAGONTRAIN RAID).

He continued in his occult practices, but his following diminished somewhat as more Kiowas joined Kicking Bird's peace faction. Lone Wolf's son and nephew died at the hands of soldiers in the fall of 1873, however, and several members of Lone Wolf's band shared their leader's thirst for revenge. Maman-ti helped Lone Wolf recruit warriors and foretold through "owl medicine" that the raid would be a success. The resultant Lost Valley fight against Maj. John B. Jones's Texas Rangers on July 16, 1874, fulfilled the dohate's predictions and satisfied Lone Wolf. Even so, factionalism became more evident among the recalcitrant warriors, particularly the followers of Big Bow, who was increasingly scornful of Maman-ti's prophecies; for more than a month the chiefs quarreled over whether to stay holed up along Elk Creek or move west to the Llano Estacado. When the dohate used his magical owlskin to guarantee complete safety under the walls of Palo Duro Canyon, the war faction voted overwhelmingly for the latter move. Maman-ti thus witnessed the five-day siege of Lyman's wagontrain on September 9–14, 1874, during which his nephew Botalye won tribal acclaim for his daring. However, Maman-Ti's magic apparently ran out when Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie's Fourth United States Cavalry sacked the Indian villages in Palo Duro Canyon on September 27. Afterward, Maman-ti was one of the Kiowa leaders who surrendered to the authorities at Fort Sill, on February 26, 1875. (see RED RIVER WAR).

That summer Maman-ti was among those singled out by Kicking Bird, his number-one rival for tribal leadership, to be incarcerated at St. Augustine, Florida, for his role in the Kiowa depredations on the Texas frontier. Since Kicking Bird cooperated so closely with the Whites, the dohate cursed him and promised to cause his death by witchcraft. Soon after the prisoners' departure, Kicking Bird died from apparent poisoning. Maman-ti, assuming the efficacy of his hex, declared that since he had destroyed a fellow tribesman, his own life would be forfeited as punishment. Not long after the arrival of the prisoners at Fort Marion, where they were confined, Maman-ti fell ill, apparently with dysentery. On July 28, 1875, he called the other Kiowa inmates together and told them that he would soon be departing this life; the next morning, according to Kiowa sources, he shook hands with his friends, took to his bed at the hospital barracks, and died. He was buried in the post cemetery.

Maman-ti's daughter and oldest child, Hoodle-tau-goodle (Red Dress), subsequently became an important source of information concerning the owl prophet, his family, and his exploits in the spirit world. She was among those who discredited Rev. Joseph Griffis's claim of being her long-lost foster-brother, Tehan. Her younger half-brother, who reportedly resembled Maman-ti in appearance, was known in later years as Rainy Mountain Charlie.

James L. Haley, The Buffalo War: The History of the Red River Indian Uprising of 1874 (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1976). Mildred P. Mayhall, The Kiowas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962; 2d ed. 1971). Wilbur Sturtevant Nye, Bad Medicine and Good: Tales of the Kiowas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962). Wilbur Sturtevant Nye, Plains Indian Raiders (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968).

  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Chiefs and Other Leaders
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Maman-Ti,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 15, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995
December 2, 2020