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Bugle of Kiowa chief sounded at Wichita powwow

Chief Satanta's bugle played on Kansas soil over the weekend.

During gourd dances at the two-day Friends of the Keeper Powwow, the bugle was played in honor of the Kiowa chief's Kansas descendants, who wore red shawls with gold fringes.

"He was a great warrior," said descendant Sue Seal, who also helped organize the powwow.

The powwow honored Blackbear Bosin's Keeper of the Plains statue, the iconic 44-foot-tall sculpture of a warrior raising his hands skyward at the confluence of the Arkansas and Little Arkansas rivers. This marked the seventh powwow hosted by the Friends of the Keeper.

"We started more under stress of needing to develop a system because we realized nothing was being done for the Keeper," Seal said. "We do this out of awareness for the Keeper."

Kari Nolan, secretary of the Friends of the Keeper Inc., said the weekend's powwow netted no proceeds, but between 30 to 50 tribes were represented at the gathering.

"We do it just to continue the mission he (Bosin) set forth, the ideals he wanted to share," she said. "We are bringing that pride to Native Americans and sharing that part of our culture with the city of Wichita."

The Friends of the Keeper sponsor a powwow every May to mark the anniversary of the statue, which was dedicated in 1974.

"We are creating greater awareness for Blackbear," who was also of Kiowa descent, she said. "Until now, this has been happening mostly through support of the elders, but now I've got a lot of young people involved."

The significance of Satanta's bugle playing in Wichita wasn't lost on those in attendance. Special permission had to be obtained from Oklahoma descendants in order to bring the bugle to Kansas, Seal said.

In the mid-1860s, Satanta was nicknamed the "Orator of the Plains" by U.S. soldiers and reporters at the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty.

His name, Set-tainte, meant White Bear Person.

Satanta was notorious for his strategic raids against the U.S. military and white settlements.

In 1864, when a government physician visited the southern Plains to vaccinate Indians against smallpox, he stayed in Satanta's village for four days.

He reported that Satanta had a brass French horn, which he blew vigorously.

A few months after the visit, the Army dispatched 350 volunteer troops commanded by Kit Carson to "punish" the Kiowas for raids against white settlers. It was reported that 1,000 Kiowa and Comanche warriors fought the troops and that, as the soldiers retreated, there was widespread confusion because a bugler kept sounding advance.

It was Satanta blowing his horn. He had learned to mimic the cavalry's bugle calls.

As the gourd dances were sung and played this weekend, the bugle's call sounded.

"It gives you chills," Seal said. "Until now, it has only been done in Oklahoma. I got permission to bring it here."

She hopes the bugle can be sounded in Kansas on Sept. 23-25, during the Medicine Lodge Indian Peace Treaty.

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