White Horse: The Kiowa Chief feared by all

by Jim Fish

Ozona—In the summer of 1867, the Pecos River provided the backdrop of the serene setting of a Navaho village nestled along its banks. Unbeknownst to the villagers, a war party of warriors was stealthily riding into the vicinity of the village, until a war hoop announced an attack was imminent and underway.

During the initial charge, a warrior seized a young Navajo boy by the hair and at a full gallop, pulled him up, and set him securely on his horse behind him. When the attack ended, members of the village pursued the marauders, killing three in the process, but the remaining band of several Kiowa and Comanche combatants, the warrior and his captive, all escaped without further ado and made it safely back to their main camp. The warrior absconding with the boy was none other than Kiowa chief, White Horse (Tsen-tainte), who subsequently adopted and raised the boy as his son. European settlers considered him the most dangerous warrior among the Kiowa.

White Horse was known among the tribe for his uncanny daring, incredible aptitude as an apprentice warrior, his unusual strength, and outstanding horsemanship. He joined a party of Comanche and Kiowa on a revenge raid against the Navajo, previously known to be living on the reservation near Fort Sumner, New Mexico. During the days leading up to the raid, White Horse and his followers killed and scalped a Navajo warrior on the Canadian River near the Texas-New Mexico state line. 

“Although White Horse participated in the council at Medicine Lodge Creek in Kansas, he soon cast his lot with the war faction and gained considerable notoriety during the early 1870s for his raids on Texas settlements. He and his followers made a raid on Fort Sill on June 12, 1870, following the annual tribal Sun Dance, and stole seventy-three mules from the post quartermaster. On June 22, they attacked a party of cattle drovers on the trail a few miles south of the fort. White Horse killed and scalped two men before a detachment of troops came to the Texans' relief.” Handbook of Texas Online, "White Horse (unknown - 1892)," by H. Allen Anderson.

Soon after, White Horse headed his band back into Texas, took out Gottlieb Koozer, and captured his wife and six children. As a result, a Quaker Indian agent, Lawrie Tatum, admonished the guilty party on Aug. 7 and withheld their weekly rations until all the captives and stolen property was returned. The Koozers were exchanged for $100 each, and while the raids in the vicinity of Fort Sill were curtailed, White Horse rebelliously resumed his attacks south of the Red River on Texas settlers, commercial wagon trains, and others they encountered.

“On September 30 he ambushed a stagecoach en route to Fort Concho near Mount Margaret (also known as the Mound) and killed Martin Wurmser, a trooper who was serving as an escort. White Horse also participated in the Warren Wagon train Raid on May 18, 1871, and helped carry the fatally wounded brave, Hau-tau, to safety during the fight; afterward, he escaped arrest. While the imprisonment of chiefs Satanta and Big Tree momentarily curbed his raiding, he and Big Bow engineered another attack on a wagon train in what is now Crockett County on April 20, 1872, which resulted in the death of seventeen Mexican teamsters. On the way back from that foray, White Horse was wounded in the arm during a skirmish with Capt. N. Cooney's Ninth Cavalry troops.

“On May 19, White Horse's younger brother, Kim-pai-te, was killed in a fight with L. H. Luckett's surveying crew near Round Timbers, twenty-five miles south of Fort Belknap. That event prompted White Horse to organize a revenge raid, and on June 9, with the help of Big Bow, he attacked the homestead of Abel Lee on the Clear Fork of the Brazos about sixteen miles from Fort Griffin. Lee and his fourteen-year-old daughter Frances were fatally shot, his wife scalped and murdered, and the remaining three children carried into captivity. Soldiers trailed them, but the Kiowas escaped back to the reservation and held a scalp dance that went on for several nights. The Lee children remained captives for a few months before they were ransomed.” (Anderson – 1996)

White Horse was peaceful for a time after the general assemblies and the release of Satanta and Big Tree from prison in 1872 and placed on parole, but he remained defiantly active with a waring group of warriors. In a multi-tribal war party he participated in the second battle of Adobe Walls in June 1874. On Sept. 27, he was camped in Palo Duro Canyon when Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie attacked them, killed some two thousand of their horses, and captured all survivors.

White Horse and a group of warriors surrendered at Fort Sill on April 19, 1875. He was one of the perpetrators designated by Kicking Bird and transported for confinement at the prison in St. Augustine, Florida for the atrocities he had committed. He was returned to the reservation in 1878 at Fort Sill with the others. White Horse lived his remaining years along with his family until he died of stomach complications in 1892 and was buried on the reservation.

Ozona July