The Great Chiefs

Ten Bears

Ten Bears

(1795 -1873)

Also known as Ten Elks, Paria Semen (also Paeea-wa-semen, Pariaseamen, Parooway Semehno, Parrywasaymen or Parywahsaymen) was an eloquent poetic speaker and adroit negotiator who effectively represented his Comanche followers. Although he was apparently never active as a great warrior, he was still held in high esteem by the tribe, who choose him to be their delegate at many peace conferences with the Whites. His early years were seemingly uneventful; he was born about 1792 on the Southwestern Plain and by middle age had come to be a leading speaker for the Comanche.

He visited Washington D.C. in 1863, but failed to win significant concessions from the authorities. He signed the 1865 treaty at the Little Arkansas River and two years later was present as a speaker at the Council at Medicine Lodge, Kansas, which resulted in a treaty whereby the Comanche agreed to go on a recently established reservation in the southwestern section of the Indian Territory.

Though he was always a peacemaker, Ten Bears was equally determined as a Native American patriot who resented the White man's intrusion. During a long and eloquent address at the Medicine Lodge conference, he stated, "You said you wanted to out us upon a reservation&I was born upon the prairie, where the wind blew free and there was nothing to break the light of the sun. I was born where there were no enclosures and where everything drew a free breath&I want to die there, and not within walls."

But the Whites were not there to negotiate; they were there to dictate. Previous treaties had "not made allowance for the rapid growth of the White race," and the Comanche, Kiowa and other tribes of the Central Plains were forced to sign a treaty whereby they gave up most of their lands in exchange for a reservation. The days of free hunting were over and the tribes were expected to become peaceful farmers.

Ten Bears set off on another futile journey to Washington D.C., with other leaders from the Southern Plains, always hoping that this time it would be different, that the White man would honor his promises, but it was not to be. He returned to the hated reservation, where he died at Fort Sill a few weeks later, in 1873.


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