Dohasan, Chief of the Kiowa


Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
I recently had opportunity to research the Kiowa tribe and its chiefs for an upcoming seminar. Great fun. One of the interesting tidbits I came across was how the US Army not only made a very positive first contact with the Kiowa but also assisted in Dohasan's long-lasting grip on power within the tribe. Here is the story:

Doha, Dohate, or Dohasan, Chief of the Kiowa

The story of how Dohasen became chief and the story of how the Beheading Mountain got its name are really the same story. In the summer of 1833 most of the Kiowa warriors joined a raid against the Utes and left the women and old men in care of a few warriors under Chief A’date (Island Man). One morning a few young men came across signs of a large Osage war party coming to attack the village. They quickly raised alarm at which time the people broke up into four groups, each group taking off in a different direction. Unfortunately for the group with Chief A’date, they retreated to a small tributary of Otter Creek just west of the Beheading Mountain. At that point, Chief A’date decided that all was well and his group stopped and made camp, but they were tragically early. The very next morning, while everyone but A’date’s wife still slept, the Osage made a surprise attack on the camp. Mrs. A’date ran about shouting “Tsa Batso! Tsa Batso!” (to the rocks, to the rocks) in hopes they could still get away. But as they made for the mountain, only the fleetest of foot got away, a group that included Chief A’date, but, tragically, not his wife Sematma, who raised the alarm. Some of the retreating adults managed to carry small children and left stories of sacrifice and courage. A Pawnee warrior who was living with the Kiowa stayed to fight, and held off the Osage long enough for some to escape.

But many did not escape. Two small children were taken captive while five warriors lay dead along with a large number of women and children. The Osage did not scalp the dead but, instead, had a habit of beheading the bodies. In this case, the Osage cut off the head on each body and placed it into copper buckets which had been obtained in trade with the Pawnee. Not only did the Osage kill a large number of people, they also looted the village and took the Taime’ Shield. Because of the lost Taime’, the Kiowa did not hold a sun dance for the next two years.

Needless to say, the tribe was not pleased with A’date. He had been the principal chief of the Kiowa tribe and was now replaced with Doha or Dohate’, who is better known as Dohasan. Chief Dohasan ruled the tribe until his death in 1866, most famously leading the Indians at the first battle of Adobe Walls. At that battle he was the commander of the largest group of warriors ever to go against the US Army on the southern plains.

But, prior to that battle, in the early stages of Dohasan’s time as chief, the US Army had a very friendly relationship with the Kiowa. It all started with the same massacre by the Osage. As stated above, the Osage took 2 children captive in the raid on A’date’s camp. The army and Commissioner of Indian Affairs wanted to make contact with the Indians on the southern plains. At that time, Texas did not belong to the US, it was 1834 and the Red River formed the dividing line between the US and Mexico. The US had never made contact with either of the Comanche or Kiowa tribes.

Anyway, the commissioner purchased the two Kiowa children from the Osage and also convinced the Osage to make peace with the Kiowa if it could be arranged. An expedition of dragoons rode into hostile Indian territory.

As the dragoons first approached the Kiowa, nobody would come forward to talk with them. But then the soldiers showed the Kiowa their little girl, and released her to tribe. (the little boy had actually been killed by a sheep). The Indians then relaxed and accepted gifts from the soldiers and treated everyone to a good time. Chief Dohasan accompanied the dragoons to Fort Gibson where a permanent peace was arranged between the Kiowa and the Osage. Only one year after becoming chief, Dohasan had brought peace. His time as principal chief of the tribe would last 33 years.

This painting of Dohasan was done by George Catlin who was on the 1834 dragoon expedition to the Kiowa and Comanche villages. His paintings are incredible. :)

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