In 1874 and 1875, Comanche, Kiowa, Southern Cheyenne, and Arapaho Native American tribes clashed with the U.S. Army in a series of battles known as the Red River War. These battles, which resulted in the tribes' expulsion from their lands and subsequent resettlement on reservations, are a key chapter in the history of the American West. However, as new settlers flocked to the region, establishing towns and building railroads, many historic sites were lost or forgotten. In recent years, a resurgence of scholarly interest in the region's history has led to fascinating new perspectives and greater preservation of sites and artifacts related to the conflict.
On November 7, 2009, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum (PPHM) in Canyon hosted a free, public symposium called "The Red River War: A Clash of Cultures on the Southern Plains," with grant support from Humanities Texas. Scholars, museum experts, tribal representatives, and others gathered to discuss topics including battle site preservation, Native American perspectives on the conflict, and the future of the Southern Plains region. Panelist and author Brett Cruse of the Texas Historical Commission's Historic Sites Division said of the material discussed, "It was fascinating because it really . . . brought a human element to it . . . These were women and children running away from their homes, not just Indian warriors fighting U.S. Army troops, but fathers protecting children and elders. It made us look at the battle and the entire war differently."
In addition to the symposium, the Panhandle Plains Historical Museum is featuring the exhibition "A Running Fight: Art of the Red River War." The exhibition, the first to focus on art depicting the Red River War, features works by artists including Frederick Remington, W. Herbert Dunton, and Edward Borein. The exhibition will also feature artifacts and historical items related to the conflict. The exhibition runs from October 3, 2009 through February 14, 2010.
The symposium and exhibition form part of a broader initiative to promote history, education, and tourism in the Southern Plains region. Thirteen regional museums, including the PPHM, along with the Texas Historical Commission and Texas Beyond History, will collaborate to develop new and innovative materials for educators and students, promote historic conservation, and provide new opportunities for heritage tourism. The association expects to develop a revised heritage tourism guide for the Panhandle, which will be released in the fall of 2010 to coincide with Texas Archaeology Month.
For detailed, in-depth information about the Red River War and other topics in Texas culture and history, visit Texas Beyond History.