Yamparika Indians

By: H. Allen Anderson

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: September 1, 1995

The Yamparika (Yapa, Ditsakana) Indians were one of the most populous of the Comanche bands. They were a northern group and not as prominent as southern Comanches in Texas history. Their name meant "Root-eaters" or "Yap-eaters," because they dug for a potato-like root they called yap. Since this root was a traditional Shoshone staple, it has been speculated that the Yamparikas were the last of the Comanches to break away from the Shoshones; according to their own accounts they once inhabited the Rocky Mountain area north of the headwaters of the Arkansas River. Around 1700 they followed that stream as they migrated southeastward into present eastern Colorado and western Kansas, which became their home range, although they often wandered as far south as the Canadian River and beyond. Population figures can only be guessed at. In 1690 a Spanish estimate for all Comanches put their maximum number at 7,000. In 1786 Spaniards estimated that the Comanches may have numbered around 20,000 or 30,000, at which time the Yamparikas were believed capable of mounting 500 warriors. By the mid-nineteenth century the total number of Comanches had declined to 10,000. Like the other Comanches, the Yamparikas relied primarily on the buffalo for their survival on the plains and, after Spanish colonists made them available, on the horse for transportation. Governor Juan Bautista de Anza, who held a peace council with them in 1785, reported that they frequently visited Santa Fe and the pueblos of Taos and Cicuye (Pecos). They also traded with the Taovayas (Wichita) villages on the Red River, where in 1774 a nonaggression pact was made between the Yamparika leaders and a Frenchman named Gaignard, who represented the Spanish government in San Antonio. In his reports, Gaignard referred to the band as Naytane. Despite such peace overtures, Yamparika warriors may have accompanied their kinsmen on occasional forays into Texas and northern Mexico. This was especially so after Mexican independence in 1821 and the rise of the Comanchero trade in New Mexico; indeed, it was reportedly the Yamparikas who encouraged the Kiowas to accompany the Comanches to the south on raids. Prior to 1840 the Yamparikas were among the Comanche bands who feuded with the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos before William Bent arranged a truce between them. By the time Texas entered the Union in 1845, Yamparika warriors may have been involved in attacks on outlying settlements on the upper Guadalupe River and elsewhere. During the early 1850s Yamparikas also peacefully visited Fort Phantom Hill and the nearby agency of Jesse Stem.

Among the prominent Yamparika chiefs during the nineteenth century were Ten Bears, Shaved Head, Tabananica, White Eagle, and Quirts-quip (Chewing Elk), some of whom exerted considerable influence among the northern Comanches and other Indians on the upper Arkansas. Their first formal treaty with the United States government was at Fort Atkinson, Kansas, in 1852. After the outbreak of the Civil War the Yamparikas were among the bands who parleyed with Albert Pike at the Wichita agency (Oklahoma) in the summer of 1861. With the restoration of the Union four years later, they entered into the Little Arkansas Treaty (Kansas) in the fall of 1865. At the Medicine Lodge council (Kansas) in October 1867, Ten Bears gave a moving speech in which he urged peace, yet at the same time expressed his people's wishes "to wander on the prairie until we die." Following the death of Ten Bears, who along with Quirts-quip had been a member of the Alvord delegation to Washington in 1872, the power of the Yamparika band soon waned. Tabananica and other less peaceful Yamparikas participated in Isa-Tai's Sun Dance on the Red River and subsequently accompanied the war party to Adobe Walls (Texas) in June 1874. With the Comanches' final defeat in the Red River War in the late spring of 1875, the band faced the prospect of sedentary life on the reservation near Fort Sill in Indian Territory. Tabananica, who settled on a farm, later died of heart failure running to catch a train at Anadarko. Quirts-quip remained a prominent leader until his death in 1880. Another outstanding Yamparika chief was Esa Rosa (White Wolf), brother-in-law of Tabananica.

T. R. Fehrenbach, Comanches: The Destruction of a People (New York: Knopf, 1974). Wilbur Sturtevant Nye, Plains Indian Raiders (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1968). Rupert N. Richardson, The Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement (Glendale, California: Clark, 1933; rpt., Millwood, New York: Kraus, 1973). Ernest Wallace and E. Adamson Hoebel, The Comanches (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1952).
  • Peoples
  • Native American
  • Tribes (Other)

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

H. Allen Anderson, “Yamparika Indians,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed August 07, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/yamparika-indians.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 1, 1995