Plains Cultures Gallery
The Fort Worth Museum of Science and History welcomes you to a new gallery space dedicated to exploring the indigenous peoples of the Great Plains.
Featured is the bison robe worn by Cynthia Ann Parker during her recapture and return to her family after 24 years with the Comanche people. One Story, One Tribe: Cynthia Ann Parker’s Life In The Southern Plains examines Cynthia Ann's story as told by her descendants.
Peoples of the Plains
Long before Anglo or Euro-American settlers moved west, various cultures lived throughout the Great Plains Region of North America. For generations, these peoples occupied the landscape and created their own societies. About thirty different cultures resided in this broad geographical area, each with their own identity.
Many indigenous groups relied on the American bison and followed the herds, not just for food, but also to make clothing and shelters. Tribes gathered native plants such as yucca, wild plums, and prairie turnips while hunting wild game or fishing.
As different cultures came into contact with one another, their social interactions were complex. The United States and its territories would be drawn into two wars occurring in the mid-19th century. By the 1870s, the Plains Wars came to a close with casualties for both native tribes and the United States. Limited access to physical and economic resources left many Plains tribes struggling and ultimately lead to the hard decision of assimilation.
Cynthia Ann Parker
Cynthia Ann Parker or “Narua”, which in the Comanche language means, “Something Found or She Warms With Us”, was at the age of 9, one of five captives taken during a Comanche/Caddo/Wichita Indian raid on Fort Parker near Groesbeck, Texas on May 19th, 1836. In those days, people died at an early age and the taking of children as captives was a way in which to replenish the number of people in the tribe. Children were taken in and raised as Comanches.
Narua stayed with the Comanche people for 24 years and became the only wife to Peta Nocona, Chief of the Kwahadi band of Comanches. Together, they had two sons and a daughter. The oldest was Quanah Parker (Fragrance), Pecos (Pecos) the middle child and Topsuana (Prairie Flower), the youngest. During her stay with the Kwahadi’s, Narua had multiple opportunities to return to her Parker family but declined them all. She had fully assimilated herself into the Comanche way of life with a love for her husband Peta and children.
After her re-capture in 1860, she was taken back to Fort Cooper and claimed by her uncle, Senator Isaac Parker, (whom Parker County, Texas is named after). She initially went to live with her Uncle Isaac and his wife Lucy in Birdville, Texas. Within a couple of months, Cynthia Ann and Topsuana were taken to live with her brother and sister, Silas Parker Jr. and Orlena Parker O’Quinn (they had survived the Indian raid of 1836 and married O’Quinn siblings and all lived together on the same property) in Van Zandt County and later Anderson County.
Narua made attempts to return to her Comanche family but was always found and brought back. As a young child, Topsuana became sick with fever and passed. It is said that this broke the spirit of Narua, and she gave up on life, passing around 1870 to 1873, by refusing to eat. She was buried in Fosterville Cemetery in northern Anderson County, Texas.
Written by the descendants of Cynthia Ann Parker: Lance Tahmahkera, Nocona Burgess, and Scott Nicholson.
Interested in learning more about Indigenous History and Fort Worth? Check out the following!
Displayed upstairs in the Cattle Raisers Museum is a headdress given to Stephen Keys Titus by Quanah Parker, circa 1900. Make sure to take a peek!
Just across the circle drive stands the Cowgirl Hall of Fame. In 1998, Cynthia Ann Parker became a Cowgirl Honoree. Learn more about the Cowgirl!
Down the road is Log Cabin Village, home to the Isaac Parker Cabin. This cabin is where Cynthia Ann Parker and her daughter, Topsannah, were brought to when they were forcibly taken from their Comanche tribe in 1860 by the Texas Rangers. This cabin is the oldest structure in Tarrant County.
Originally called the Arkikosa River, many have debated the renaming of the Trinity River. Check out this article from the D Magazine examining the tumultuous relationship between indigenous peoples and Anglo settlers regarding the river.
The City of Fort Worth’s Diversity & Inclusion Department will present an educational program, Native Tribes in Texas: Acknowledging the Land and Its First People, from noon to 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10. The event will include a historical presentation and cultural performance. Click the link above to watch live!
In 1990, Congress passed and President George H.W. Bush signed into law a joint resolution designating the month of November as the first National American Indian Heritage Month. This annual observance honors the history, heritage and culture of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives. It is during this month that we celebrate the vast achievements of America’s original indigenous people.