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Battle of the Washita / CPT David L. Payne

November 29, 2000

Historian's Notes

The Battle of the Washita, I feel, is noteworthy mainly because it is indicative of the manner in which Euro-Americans treated Native Americans throughout much of the history of the United States. I received more complaints from this Almanac segment than any other. Some people, it seems, considered my history a bit on the revisionist side and too biased in favor of Native Americans. It's a good point to make and one that has come into play on many Almanac segments since. Thanks for the input!

Resources for "Battle of the Washita":

The great majority of information for this Almanac came from material gathered during a visit to the site.

Additional material and some last minute fact checking were done via Internet searches. I typed in “Black Kettle,” in Google ( and found a wealth of material from which to draw.

Almanac Transcript

Hello, I'm Steven Kite welcoming you to the Oklahoma Audio Almanac where we turn the pages of history to bring you the stories of our state's past.

November 27, 1868 marks the anniversary of the Battle of the Washita. Many scholars of Plains Indian history consider the Washita battle one of the more important battles of the Indian Wars in Oklahoma. In reaction to continued white encroachment Indian raids on settlers and travelers through the territory was on the increase. Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer in a move to intimidate the Native Americans chose to attack a peaceful law abiding group of Cheyennes under the leadership of Chief Black Kettle. The Native Americans, settled in their winter encampment, were located near the present day town of Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Custer set out from the newly established Fort Supply, and in a surprise attack managed to murder approximately 100 Cheyenne males and an unknown number of women and children, as well as taking 53 prisoners. As he pulled out of the devastated camp, Custer ordered the burning of all structures, clothes, food and arms as well as the destruction of over 700 Cheyenne ponies. Having achieved his goal, the Lt. Colonel gathered his troops and returned under cover of darkness to the safety of Fort Supply.

It was in this week in 1884 that Captain David L. Payne passed away. On November 28, 1884 land Boomers all across Kansas mourned the loss of their leader and the champion of their cause. David L. Payne, one time Kansas farmer began in the early 1880s to lead groups of settlers into the unoccupied lands of Indian Territory. The vacant lands were left open after having been taken from the Native Americans as punishment for their role in the Civil War. Although it was decided in at least one court case that their actions were illegal, the Boomers led by Payne continued their attempts to settle the region. As wagon trains of Boomers entered and encamped on the lands they were soon escorted back across the Kansas line and fined up to $1000 per person. As the Boomers were mostly penniless the various fines imposed upon them really had no effect, and their settlement efforts continued unabated. By the time of his death in 1884, Payne had been fairly successful in convincing the federal government of his case, and it was only five years after his death that the lands were indeed opened to settlement.

Ethnic cleansing and the death of a Boomer, this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

I'm Steven Kite.

The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.

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