100 years after his death, descendents of Quanah Parker gathered to remember his life and walk in his footsteps. The Quanah Parker Celebration is ongoing in Quanah, the Hardeman County Texas town named in his honor.
Parker was the last Chief of the Comanche Tribe. He was the son of Cynthia Ann Parker, a White woman, taken captive as a child and raised Comanche. His father was Chief Peta Nocona – for whom Nocona, TX is named. Parker led his people to where the Comanche Nation is still based, near Fort Sill, Oklahoma. He pushed for peace with White People and assimilation of culture, while still retaining the traditions passed down for thousands of years.
Parker settled in a mansion near Cache, Oklahoma dubbed "Star House". He died there in 1911. The Parker family still gathers at the home for reunions, but each year they also gather in Quanah for the celebration.
Parker was well liked by people in the Hardeman County area. He would take his family shopping in the town when he came to visit. He blessed the town upon its incorporation. In the town square stands a monument to the Chief. Friday morning's parts of the celebration were centered on that spot.
For his family, all born long after he had passed, it was a time to connect with their deep roots. "It means a lot to me to be able to come here and for them to welcome us as descendants of Quanah Parker because he liked to come here and visit. All of the ranchers were very hospitable to him… I imagine just looking down these streets what it would be like with his family and I feel like we're that family coming back," said Ardith Parker Leming, Great Granddaughter of Parker.
The weekend is also about sharing the proud Comanche traditions with people who otherwise may not have been exposed to it before. "I'm proud to be here and share our traditions and cultures with people… this is exactly what he would have liked to see - to see the two cultures blend together," said Parker Leming.
Her husband, Glen Leming, has been interested in Native American culture his entire life. He is descended from Indians, but has become an expert in Comanche crafts. The Lemings erected a tipi in front of a watching crowd, in true Comanche tradition. "Its an honor to me to be able to do this because all of my life it was my dream to be able to learn these things… And to be able to demonstrate it to these other people and let them see something that most of them had never seen," he said.
Children ask questions, and explored the authentic display hands-on. The Lemings answered questions for anyone who'd ask. The educational value of the experience brought out a number of people. Barbara Hines took her young grandson to the event. "I've lived here all my life and just thought that the Indian heritage was very interesting and I wanted my grandson to be a part of it," she said after touring the tipi. "Its just amazing, really. We hear of it, we study it, but to be able to see it just makes it more real."
The outpouring of respect from the Quanah community was overwhelming to Parker Leming. "I'm really proud... just emotional to me," she said. "We feel like his spirit lives on here in Quanah, more than anywhere else."