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Satanta - White Bear - Kiowa Indian Leader / Frank Knickerbocker


Set’tainte (ca. 1820–1878) was a famed diplomat and decorated War Chief of the Kiowa Tribe during the nineteenth century, and he served his Kiowa people generously under the leadership of Chief Dohasan (died 1866). Set’tainte was also known as White Bear, which is a rough English translation of his Kiowa name, and as Satanta. One of Set’tainte’s most notable skirmishes was the First Battle of Adobe Walls in Texas in 1864, in which cavalry and infantry under Colonel Kit Carson were overpowered after they fired two howitzers on unsuspecting Kiowa and Comanche families. Set’tainte affected the outcome of the battle by sounding an army bugle, which confused the cavalry with contradictory commands, and Carson’s troops were eventually forced to retreat to New Mexico.

Set’tainte’s leadership extended beyond the battlefield. His diplomacy fostered nation-to-nation agreements, including the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty in 1867 between the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache Nations and the U.S. government. This watercolor portrait depicts Set’tainte wearing a Presidential Peace Medal, awarded to diplomats during treaty negotiations. However, the U.S. government has continued to willfully violate the treaty obligations since the year of its signing, and the Medicine Lodge Treaty remains broken to this day.

—Jordan Poorman Cocker, Henry Luce Foundation Curatorial Scholar for Indigenous Painting Collection Research, 2021

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Satanta - White Bear - Kiowa Indian Leader
Frank Knickerbocker (Artist)
Native American; Otoe-Missouria
watercolor on paper
Portrait; single-sided 0.270-0.280mm white, cold-pressed watercolor paper. Even distribution of fibers in transmitted light.
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955
Accession No: 
Previous Number(s): 
0227.221; 25510
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