Monday, July 8, 2013

Remembering Quanah Parker and the Comanche Nation Along Highway 83


For the first time, the Highway 83 Chronicles welcomes a guest blogger, Barbara Brannon, Executive Director of the Texas Plains Trail Region.

On the Fourth of July, 1909, the city of Paducah, Texas, welcomed a distinguished guest: Quanah Parker, chief of the Quahada Band of Comanches. Cottle County historian Carmen Taylor Bennett saw Quanah herself on that occasion, later recalling, “He was tall, erect, and made a striking figure.” 
Quanah was a man who bridged two worlds, that of the last, nomadic Native Americans who roamed freely on the Plains they had dominated for centuries, and that of the settlers who brought their own rules and structure and forced Indians onto reservations. Pursued by a U.S. military bent on exterminating his people, Quanah chose to adapt to sweeping change, and save them. For the rest of his life he forged friendships with ranchers and politicians, increasing his own wealth and respect. He adopted some Anglo-European customs while keeping other, indigenous traditions.
Today Quanah’s memory—and the underappreciated history of the Comanches and other Native Americans—is marked by a series of monumental arrow sculptures along Highway 83 and throughout the Texas Plains Trail Region. Pictured above is one in Earth, Texas.
 Imagined and implemented by a group of volunteers in 2010, the Quanah Parker Trail weaves together documented fact, oral history, and local legend to present a story not fully apparent to travelers across the former Comancheria.
In 2011, a century after Chief Quanah’s death, the first of these markers were installed in Paducah and other sites. The 21-foot-tall giant arrows (and a handful of smaller versions), made by artist Charles A. Smith of New Home, Texas, dot roadsides, parks, and promontories across the Texas Plains and Panhandle. More than 60 have been installed to date; five may be found along U.S. 83 at Canadian, Wellington, Wheeler Shamrock and Paducah.
Background, locations, photos and a map are available at
The week of July 4, 2013, five more were added, in Lamb County, Texas, at sites along the ancient Running Water Draw that for hundreds of years served as the highway for Comanches hunting buffalo, and, later, for troops and ranchers and fortune seekers.
County historians, community leaders, and friends gathered to watch as the arrows were lifted and set into the ground. At every stop they expressed the same wish: that the Native heritage of this place be recognized for centuries to come. The arrows soaring against the sky now tell the story, written on the land.

Barbara Brannon is executive director of the Texas Plains Trail Region, a heritage tourism initiative of the Texas Historical Commission. She blogs regularly at

To join the Fans of U.S. Route 83 group on Facebook, CLICK HERE. And check out the U.S. Route 83 Travel page at



Stew Magnuson is the author of Wounded Knee 1973: Still Bleeding: The American Indian Movement, the FBI, and their Fight to Bury the Sins of the Past published by the Now & Then Reader. It is available as an eBook on Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iTunes. Buy it in paperback on Amazon or bookstores such as Plains Trading Company Booksellers, in Valentine, Neb., on Highway 83.

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