Wednesday, January 2, 2019

The Cutthroat Gap Massacre

In 1833, there were only 24 stars on Old Glory. The map of the United States was called the "eagle map" because of the configuration of our states and territory. It resembled an eagle.

On March 4th of that year, President Andrew Jackson was sworn in for his second term. On May 11th, a French-American farmhand by the name of Antoine le Blanc murdered a family of three and was properly hanged. On June 6th, Andrew Jackson became the first U.S. President to ride a train.

On August 12th, the town of Chicago was established at the estuary of the Chicago River by 350 American settlers. It would very quickly become a large city. That year, from November 12th to the 13th, what was called "the Leonid meteor shower" took place. It was observed in Alabama. The spectacular site came to be known as the days the "Stars Fell on Alabama."

Just 29 years earlier, back on July 4th, 1803, the United States effectively doubled the size of the United States through a land deal with France. It was called the Louisiana Purchase. Through the Louisiana Purchase, the United States bought 828,000 square miles of land from France for the sum of 15 Million dollars. Yes, less than a home in Hollywood these days.

The whole deal included land from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, and from Louisiana to Montana and up into what is present day Canada. The area belonged to the French from 1699 until 1762. As crazy as it sounds, that's when it became Spanish property. France gave the whole thing to Spain as a present. Yes, as a present. Supposedly France gave it to Spain because they were allies against the British.

As for how it got back into French hands, well it didn't last very long in Spanish hands because Napoleon Bonaparte of France was an Indian giver and took it back in 1800. Of course, at the time Napoleon was at war with the British and he need money because his war was getting expensive. Because he needed cash to fight the Brits, Napoleon sold the land to the United States for $15 Million.

The territory was huge. It was actually bigger than most of Western Europe and included what is today Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Arkansas, parts of Minnesota and Louisiana west of Mississippi River, a huge chunk of northeastern New Mexico, South Dakota, northern Texas, some parts of Wyoming, Montana, and even Colorado. Yes, also portions of Canadian provinces Alberta and Saskatchewan. And of course Oklahoma, which was known as Indian Territory.

Of course that's the other part of those European imperialists giving gifts of land to each other, taking them back, and then selling it. They didn't really care about who was already living there. Or should I say, who was waging war there. For example, in 1833 in Oklahoma, the Osage and the Kiowa were at war and had been for a long time. No, not against the French or the Spanish or the Americans, but against each other. And in reality, those tribes hated each other for a long time.

Some say that the Osage and the Kiowa were at war for decades or longer. In the Spring of 1833, that's when the Cutthroat Gap massacre took in what is today Cooperton, Kiowa County, Oklahoma.

It's said that the Kiowa gathered their tribes on the Plains near the Rainy Mountain Creek to organize their annual Sun Dance ceremony. The Sun Dance is considered the most important spiritual ceremony of the Plains tribes. During the ceremony, the tribes also hold their tribal council meetings. When the Kiowa arrived near the Rainy Mountain Creek, it's said they found a warning sign and decided to leave the area as quickly as possible. The warning sign was an Osage arrow left there for the Kiowa to find.

Why leave and run away? Well, the Osage were simply a bigger tribe and such a warning was taken seriously. The Osage had more warriors and more weapons. They were the Kiowa's biggest enemy. The Kiowa's mortal enemy.

The problem for the Kiowa was one of grave concern. The situation they faced was one of having to make a difficult choice between two equally undesirable choices. Their Sun Dance religious ceremony was at the heart of who they are as a people and because it was extremely important to them, it needed to take place. It was already agreed upon that all of the Kiowa would have to come back to take part in the ceremony.

Kiowa Chief Islandman's group headed by the left the creek and went southwest. They found a place west of a mountain that had good grazing and looked as though it could be defended if need be. Thinking they were safe there, they set up camp. Then almost right after arriving, most of their warriors decided to leave their new camp to raid a nearby Ute camp. Some say they left to hunt buffalo. Either way, they left their camp undefended. Most of the men left to raid a Utes camp and to hunt buffalo.

Kiowa Chief Islandman sent out his warriors not realizing that they had been noticed by a hunting party of Osage warriors from Three Forks. The Osage warriors had been out hunting buffalo on the Kiowa lands when they spotted Chief Islandman small group on the move looking for a place to set up camp. They stalked Chief Islandman’s group every since they quickly left the meeting site near the Rainy Mountain Creek.

Besides being mortal enemies, the Osage saw that the Kiowa had horses in their camp. The Osage wanted the Kiowa's horses. But also, they wanted their food and supplies. The Osage knew that they needed more warriors to launch an attack and take what they wanted. And no, it didn't matter to the Osage if they killed every Kiowa there in the process.

The small band of Osage warriors attacked the Kiowa camp and mercilessly slaughtered all of the women and children, included the elderly. The attack was easy because the Osage found the camp defenseless. While they were after the horses and supplies, they and saw it their chance to wipe out that small group.

Genocide being what it is, "the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation." No one can argue the point that the Osage intention was genocidal in nature. Like it or not, killing warriors is warfare. Killing women and children to halt the existence of a people is genocide.

The Kiowa warriors who were said to have either been away from camp buffalo hunting or raiding a Ute camp left the camp unprotected and the Osage killed approximately 150 Kiowa because of that fact. The Osage did take a couple of children as slaves, but also took the Kiowa's sacred Tai-me medicine bundle.

It was a surprise attack, and the Kiowa women found themselves outnumbered. Panic sent the Kiowa women and children in every direction hoping to find safety. Though mayhem swept through the camp, a visiting Pawnee warrior attempted to fight off the Osage warriors to help the Kiowa women flee with their children. One Kiowa father who had not left the camp is said to have grabbed his young son and actually carry him with his teeth as he tried to fight his way out of the carnage. the story goes that he would put his son down, fire arrows at the Osage invaders, pick him up again and run.

There's another story of a young Kiowa boy who put himself between the Osage warriors and the other children while firing arrows at the Osage. Some of the Kiowa women fought as hard as they could while telling their children to run and hide. Some gathered up their babies and fled but were no match for the Osage who roared into the camp. Though screaming for mercy, the Osage ruthlessly decapitated, scalped, and murdered all there. After the killings, the Osage then burned down their teepees to deprive shelter to those returning. And no, the horror didn't stop there. The worse was found later when the Kiowa warriors returned to camp.

It's said someone escaped and alerted a nearby Kiowa camp. This had their warriors rushing to the help Chief Islandman's tribe. By the time the Kiowa warriors arrived, Chief Islandman's warriors returned to the camp. They found the decapitated and dismembered bodies of their wives and children, and even their elderly. To their horror they also found that the Osage warriors had taken the heads of their victims and placed them in cooking pots where they were left there to be found.

The Kiowa warriors also found that two sibling children were taken. One was a small boy named Thunder and a girl named White Weasel. As for White Weasel, she was returned to the Kiowa a few year later. Her brother, Thunder, had later died a slave of the Osage.

After the massacre, Chief Islandman was blamed for not providing proper security, for not setting up some sort of a perimeter, for not leaving enough warriors behind to protect the camp. He was held responsible for the camp being attacked and was replaced by Chief To-hau-san. Besides the horses and supplies that they were after, the Osage also took the Kiowa's sacred Tai-me medicine bundle that was necessary in order to perform the Sun Dance. Because of that, the Kiowa were not able to perform the Sun Dance ceremony for two years after the massacre. It took Chief To-hau-san a long time to talk the Osage into giving their Tai-me bundle back to the Kiowa.

The place of the massacre became known as Cutthroat Gap. After the massacre, the Kiowa never used it again for their Sun Dance ceremony. In fact, legend has it that the spirits of the Kiowa dead still wander the area. Some say their screams for mercy can still be heard in the wind.

Tom Correa


  1. Interesting story, Thank You for sharing. I have many friends of Indian descent. 95 percent (just a guess) always press on how the US (American people) are the cruel and disangenuess. Me being of the Osage descent, I find it troubling and painful to read the madness of my past brothers and sisters. Yet, those were the times, and that is how life was back then.

    1. Thank you so much for writing. I truly appreciate your comment. You will never know how much I appreciate the fact that you are not offended since you are of Osage descent. What took place there is ancient history. While everyone can learn from what took place there, from the need of providing proper security to learning about how hate and greed can be ruthless, we are not responsible for the way things were back in the day. As you correctly said, "Those were the times, and that is how life was back then." I post these stories so that all we can learn something from them. I don't do it to chastise anyone. Thank you so much.

  2. Elizabeth L Johnson said, You know this article has just reiterated to me a lesson the Lord has just taught me. I am not responsible for other individuals. I pray for them, but then the time comes when each person is solely responsible for himself. I'm referring to the choices a person makes. Kinda like that plaque that says, "The buck stops here"; when you realize you can't make a person change. Thanks for this article. I like sharing to face book the history that you teach us. Thanks for all your hard work to do this for us. I enjoy reading all your blogs.

  3. I just found your site and am reading your archives. Really well wfitten, informative, and entertaining . Thank you for your hard work!


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