The Life of Ten Bears: Comanche Historical Narratives

By Francis Joseph Attocknie; Thomas W. Kavanagh | Go to book overview

1   The Life of Ten Bears
| ca. 1790–1872 |

[This chapter was compiled from several manuscripts and typescripts.]

ca. 1790

Ten Bears was born to a household from the Ketahto family clan of the Yamparika band of the Comanche Tribe. The year of Ten Bears’ birth was estimated from Thomas C. Battey’s A Quaker among the Indians. Battey was a Quaker teacher who knew Ten Bears. According to Battey, Ten Bears was “upwards of eighty years” when he died at Fort Sill in 1872.

ca. 1792

A Sioux war party annihilated a small camp of Comanches that had separated from its main band for the purpose of cutting fresh tipi poles. Only two survived the bloody action, a boy several years old, and his baby brother, who was walking but still fed from his mother’s breast. The Sioux took the older brother captive but, thinking the baby too small to survive without its mother, abandoned it at the battle scene.

Other Comanches found the destroyed campsite and the bodies of the victims. At a nearby stream, they found baby tracks and hand imprints freshly made. A path had been made that led from the stream, and the Comanches following it came to a dead woman’s bloated body. At the side of the mother was the baby boy, its skin around its mouth was covered with dead skin which had peeled from off of its mother’s breasts.

The Comanches took the baby, and its relatives later recovered it. Since Comanches were sometimes known by several names, it is not known just how long Ten Bears had this name; according to one source, Ten Bears received his name for living ten days in the wooly countryside like a bear cub, before he was found by a Comanche war party which eventually returned him safely to his relatives.

Ten Bears grew up to young manhood and became familiar with the story of the fate of his father, mother, and brother.

ca. 1805

At the age of fifteen, Ten Bears, with Pohenahwatpatuh, Umahkitipuanuhkitu, Hawahtee, and other very young Yamparika Comanches, were holding the Comanche war-party Pre-Departure Swaying Dance, nuhuhtsawe. This dance, being strictly reserved only for those going into enemy country, the youthfulness of these warriors and their female dance companions (some of whom accompanied the young war party all the way and back), plus their

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