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Satanta - White Bear - Kiowa Indian Leader / Frank Knickerbocker

Essay/Description

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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Title(s): 
Satanta - White Bear - Kiowa Indian Leader
Creator(s): 
Frank Knickerbocker (Artist)
Culture: 
Native American; Otoe-Missouria
Date: 
1950
Materials/Techniques: 
watercolor on paper
Classification: 
Object Type: 
Credit Line: 
Gift of the Thomas Gilcrease Foundation, 1955
Accession No: 
02.221
Previous Number(s): 
0227.221; 25510
Department: 
Signed by hand in watercolor with colophon, "Frank Knickerbocker 1950" in lower left on recto; Notes in the artist's hand; Inscribed by hand in watercolor, "'Santana' White Bear Kiowa Indian Leader" in bottom center on recto; Inscribed by hand in ink, "Frank Knickerbocker 2635 Myrtle Springs Rd. Dallas, Texas, D4-0889" in lower right on verso.
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