Society of the Old West

From early westward expansion through the early 20th Century.

Scattered bands of Kiowa, about 2,000 people gathered in a large camp at the mouth of Rainey Mountain Creek near present day Mountain View in the late spring of 1833. Islandman A'd'ate was Principle Chief of the Kiowa. He called them together to plan the annual Sun Dance and hold a council on general tribal affairs. After the council ended, a large number of warriors joined a war party and rode off northwest to raid the Utes. Others went buffalo hunting.

A few days after they had left, a hunter found an Osage arrow in the grass. Because they were long time enemies, he hurried back to spread the alarm to the camp. Sentries were posted. After few days, with no sign of the Osage, the hunters again set out, and the large camp broke up into smaller bands to seek grazing grounds for their large horse herds. One group went west to a wild horse range in the Wichita Mountains and the others spread to the four winds in search of better camp sites. It was understood they would come together again when the hunters and warriors returned for the Sun Dance.

Chief Islandman's camp had mostly women, children, the elderly and a few warriors. They moved south to the headwaters of Cache Creek, then returned northwest to the Saddle Mountain area where they stayed a few days. Searching for good grass and campsite, they moved on west to Sugar Creek, following it south, then west again through a gap in the mountains to a favorite campsite. It was a small valley ringed by mountains, good grazing, good water and plenty of wood. The camp was set up on both sides of the creek below a big springs, near a small hill on the western end of the valley. The camp quickly settled into a normal routine. There had been no further signs of the Osage. Islandman and his people felt secure and did not take precautions against an attack.

Unknown to the Kiowa, the Osage tracked Islandman's band from Saddle Mountain to the new camp site. They carefully scouted it and waited for an opportune time to attack. Late one evening, some girls had gone to the spring for water. It was located at the base of some high rocky ledges. One of the girls saw a pebble fall into the water, and as the ripples smoothed, she noticed a face of a strange warrior in the water. She quitely told the others, and they calmly made their way back to camp. They told what they had seen, but their elders thought it was just some of the boys playing tricks on them and dismissed it.

Early the next morning, one of the boys was taking his family's horses out to graze, when he saw the shaved and roached head of an Osage watching from behind a large boulder. Turning his horse he ran for the village to raise the alarm. As the Kiowa ran from their teepees, the Osage raiders struck, swarming through the panic stricken camp. The Kiowas, surprised and outnumbered, were unable to organize a defense. The few warriors tried to hold the Osage back to allow the women, children and elderly to flee. Many ran headlong into the enemy warriors who slashed and stabbed women, children and elderly with their long knives.

There were many acts of bravery in the camp. A visiting Pawnee warrior fought off a group of warriors while some of the women and children reached safety. One boy placed himself between the fleeing women and children and shot arrow after arrow at the Osage. A mother told her young daughter to run while she turned and fought off three Osage warriors with a tomahawk before she escaped. A mother fled with a young baby in a cradle board on her back dragging a small girl by hand. An Osage caught them, grabbed the girl and was about to split her throat when the mother turned on him and successfully fought him off and escaped with her children. A father grabbed the cradle board holding his child, and holding it in his teeth while running and firing arrows at the Osage. Another father grabbed his his young son, Stumbling Bear and held him while running, putting him down to shoot arrows at the Osage, taking him up and running again. Both father and son escaped.

One older man escaped on foot, made his way to another camp on Elk Creek, and word was sent quickly to other camps. Relief parties were quickly sent to help Islandman's people.

Kiowa Warriors found the camp destroyed and decapitated bodies laying where they had fallen. The Osage put the heads of their victims in cooking pots. They took the sacred Tai-me Medicine bundle, two captives, a boy named "Thunder" and a girl named "White Weasel", and many horses. Thunder died during captivity, White Weasel was returned to her family in 1834 by the first Dragoon Expedition.

For allowing the camp to be surprised, the disgraced Islandman was removed as Princple Chief. To-hau-san was chosen to replace Islandman and served as Principle Chief until his death in 1866. Little Bear recorded the massacre on his calender. It was known to the Kiowas as the "summer that they cut off their heads." The site later became known as "Cutthroat Gap".

Later, Chief To-hau-san, with the assistance of the United States Indian Agents negotiated with the Osage Tribe for the return of the Tai-me medicine bundle. While To-hau-san was chief, the Kiowa resisted all efforts of the United States to pacify them and it is said that he never lost a battle he fought with the Us Cavalry.

Cutthroat Gap had long been a favorite camping spot for the Kiowa, but they never used it again after the massacre. It is claimed by some that at certain times of the moon the spirits of the beheaded victims roam the area and can be heard still screaming and wailing. Until a few years ago, each year a member of the Kiowa tribe would climb to the top of the large mountain north of the massacre site before sundown on the evening before Easter, spend the night praying and singing and come down after sunrise the next morning.

Information about Massacre Gap was provided in part by William Hall Zotigh, Kiowa Tribal member, Hobart, OK

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