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Chasing the Tales of Indian Tribes of Palo Pinto County

Keechi Tribe

Mr. Jack Schmitz, Jr., of Denton, Texas, wrote to me asking for information about the Keechi Indians. I have been trying to find information about the tribe for over a month, with little success, but here is what I have found.

Keechi is a name local to Palo Pinto County, and to a few of the other counties in North Central Texas. We have creeks and other land and water forms named for the Keechi Indians.

Keechi Creek in Palo Pinto County is at the junction of its two branches, two miles west of Grafford. It then runs south for fives miles, emptying into the Brazos River six miles northwest of Mineral Wells. The East Fork of the Keech rises three miles north of Perrin in Keechi Valley in Jack County and runs south for approximately 13 miles, while the West Fork rises three miles south of Jacksboro and runs south 16 miles. For most of the region's history the area has been used as crop and range land and for mineral production.

The Handbook of Texas <http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online> tells us that the Upper Keechi Creek rises in eastern Freestone County and runs 56 miles to the Trinity River in Leon County. It is probably named for the Keechi Indians who camped on it banks.

Lower Keechi Creek is in Leon County and rises near Jewett, running southwest 37 to flow into the Trinity River. The Handbook of Texas states: "The creek is named for the Keechi Indians, who, until their expulsion from the county in 1835, maintained a large agricultural village on the banks of the middle creek north of the site of Centerville. Anglo-American settlement in the vicinity of the stream began during the early 1840s. In the late 1860s the creek was the site of the only gristmill in Leon County. In 1871 Jewett was established near the headwaters on a new railroad line. The Pleasant Springs and Siloam communities are just north of the middle creek, and Pleasant Ridge lies on the opposite bank; Cairo is on the south bank of the lower creek."

The town of Keechi is located in northern Leon County. It was named for the Keechi Indians who camped there and was founded about 1872 when the railroad made its way west. By 1990 there were only 67 residents, and the children were schooled in Buffalo.

There is also a Keechi Creek in Falls County three miles northeast of Perry.

Keechi School was in District #76 in Grady County and was a one-room school that was located nine miles east of Cement and named for the Keechi Indian Tribe. See Caddo County Schools at http://www.rootsweb.com/~okcaddo/schools.htm .

There are many other tidbits of information regarding the Keechi name. I discovered that there was a Charles Keechi who was Chief of the Delaware Tribe, listed on a letter to Congress in 1993; that one member of the Keechi Tribe was enrolled at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School between 1879 and 1918; that one John Parker was a prisoner of the Keechi Tribe about 1840; that Anadarko Area Office of the Kiowa Agency, 1881-1962, supervised the Concho, Horton, Pawnee, and Shawnee Agencies; that the Chilocco Indian School, and the Haskell Indian Junior College while the Kiowa Agency supervised the Apache, Comanche, and Kiowa, and some Caddo, Delaware, Hainai (Ioni), Iowa, Kaw, Kichai (Keechi), Tawakoni, Waco, and Wichita; and that Rebecca Brush has a website, unofficial, dedicated to the Wichita Tribes at http://www.texasindians.com/wichita.htm which shares history and legends of the Affiliated Tribes.

There is an account of the Keechi Tribe being a very violent tribe in the Denton County Texas area. This account states that the Keechi Tribe was part of the Caddo Nation. The account goes on to say that the Keechi tribe raided many settlements in East Texas as stated on http://www.lakecities.com/museum/john_b__denton.htm .

The website for the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes gives a history of these groups at http://www.wichita.nsn.us .

As a part or perhaps sept of the Wichita Tribe, the Keechi Tribe appears to have similar legends and a similar history. One legend tells that the history of this people forms a cycle. With the world's creation, the gifts of corn and the bow and arrow were bestowed upon the people by the spirits of the first man and woman, the Morning Star and the Moon. The cycle is complete with the days of darkness, when the earth becomes barren. Just as disaster seems imminent, the cycle begins again, and the world is renewed through the new creation.

Four hundred and fifty-seven years ago, the Spanish explorer, Coronado, made contact with the Kitikiti'sh Nation in what is now southern Kansas. It is estimated that the civilization encountered by Coronado was comprised of many villages along the Arkansas River drainage and contained a minimum of 30,000 Kitikiti'sh. The string of villages was prosperous. It engaged successfully in agriculture, hunting and gathering, and in regional trade. Trade was conducted as far away as the Pueblos in what is now New Mexico and to the Gulf Coast.

The Kitikiti'sh controlled a vast hunting ground and strategic flint and salt deposits. The Kitikiti'sh were also described as a confederation of up to Seven Tribes related by lifestyle, religion, and language. This period stands as the most successful time in Kitikiti'sh history.

The Kitikiti'sh settlements in the 17th and 18th centuries in what is now Oklahoma and Texas were not as extensive as those in Kansas but were numerous throughout much of Oklahoma and spanned north central to northeast Texas. The Kitikiti'sh presence in this three state region is centuries old, and their importance and power within this region withstood both Spanish and French exploration and did not begin to diminish until the U.S. began its westward expansion in the late 18th century. Though a return to full fledged nation status may not be possible, the Wichita and Affiliate Tribes strive to restore this status to the greatest degree possible.

One of the earliest accounts of the Keechi Tribe was in 1699 when the Frenchman Iberville le Moyne, with grants from the French crown, sailed up the Mississippi and established a post which he called Biloxi (now Biloxi, Mississippi.). Nineteen years later, in 1718, a cousin of Iberville le Moyne, one Bienville le Moyne founded a port city at the mouth of the mighty Mississippi, which he named New Orleans. Arriving with le Moyne at New Orleans were two other French grantees who would have a great deal to do with the area now called Oklahoma. They were Claude du Tisne and Juan Baptiste Benard de la Harpe. In 1719 de la Harpe dispatched his aid, named Du Rivage, armed with gifts, upriver to make contact with the Indians of the area of the Red River. At that time three primary Indian tribes in the area were Caddo, Wichitas, and Tawconies, who lived in a city-state government. De Rivage had as his guide to these villages, Keechi guides and interpreters, and one assumes from the report that the Keechi Indians lived peacefully with the French. See Ancient Oklahoma, http://www.tc.umn.edu/~mboucher/mikebouchweb/choctaw/ancokla.htm.

One account of the Texas Keechi Tribe stated that they were served by a trading post, formerly called Coffee's Stattion at Walnut Bayou, but later called Warren's Post at Cache Creek, from 1836 to 1848. This post also served Comanches, Kiowas, Wichitas, and Tawakonis.

"The early settlers of Fannin County faced many difficulties with Indians, particularly with the Cherokees and their Twelve Associated Bands. The first skirmish took place on May 16, 1837, when settlers attacked a band of Indians made up of various groups. Tension had been mounting as the Indians grew less friendly with the rapid influx of white settlers and the resulting damage to hunting. The Indians retaliated with constant raids of their own in which settlers were killed and livestock stolen. Stories describe brutal attacks of Indians on cabins and travelers. Residents of Fannin County were infuriated particularly by the Indians' practice of mutilating dead bodies, and their indiscriminate killing of women and children. Skirmishes with the Indians continued over the next six years until the Treaty of Bird's Fort was signed by Edward H. Tarrantq with the Tehuacanas, Keechis, Wacos, Caddoes, Anadarcos, and others. This treaty, for the most part, ended Indian hostilities." Handbook of Texas, http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/FF/hcf2.html

The Killough Massacre on October 15, 1838, near the site of present Old Larissa in northwestern Cherokee County. The eighteen victims included Isaac Killough, Sr., and members of his extended family, who had immigrated to Texas from Talladega County, Alabama, the year before. The exact composition of the Indian group is not known, but Gen. Hugh McLeod, a participant in the battle, later wrote that the band included Caddos, Coushattas, several runaway slaves, Mexicans, and possibly Keechis. The survivors of the massacre claimed that they saw a white man dressed as an Indian, but the claim was never substantiated. Handbook of Texas, http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/KK/btk1.html

There is the story of John Bunyan Denton who served in the military, as a captain in a company commanded by Col. Edward H. Tarrant. On May 22, 1841, Denton's unit attacked the Indians of Keechi Village in the battle of Village Creek, about six miles east of the site of Fort Worth. Denton, who, according to one account, was himself immediately in charge of the attacking force, was instantly killed by a bullet that hit his chest as he raised his rifle to fire. An interesting account of Denton's life can be found online at http://www.lakecities.com/museum/john_b__denton.htm .

The Treaty at Byrd's Fort was signed on September 29, 1843. A treaty of peace and friendship, between the Republic of Texas and the Delaware, Chickasaw, Waco, Tawakoni, Keechi, Caddo, Anadarko, Ioni, Biloxi and Cherokee tribes of Indians, was concluded and signed at Bird's Fort on the Trinity River, the 29th day of September, 1843. The Keechi who signe it was Kahteahtic. It should be noted that this treaty was fully ratified by the Republic of Texas on February 3, 1844. It was also honored by the state of Texas following its annexation by the United States of America, and was never superceded by any other treaty. It, therefore, theoretically remains in force to present day. This treaty can be found online at http://members.aol.com/txcherind/thompson-mccoy_chickasaw-choctaw/1843.html .

Another account of the Keechis was that Thomas J. Smith and George Whitfield Terrell were appointed commissioners to the Waco, Wichita, and Keechi Indians. The treaty of "peace, friendship, and commerce" that resulted from their efforts was signed on Tehuacana Creek near Waco on November 16, 1845, the last Indian treaty formulated by the Republic of Texas.

The Wichita and Affiliated Tribes have an enrolled membership of over 1900 people. Enrolled membership is restricted to possessing at least one-eighth degree blood: i.e., either one great-grandparent is full blood or two great-grandparents are half blood Wichita, Keechi, Waco, or Tawakoni, or a mixture of those bloods to equal to one eighth. Over half of this membership resides within the state of Oklahoma. The Wichita Governmental Headquarters is centered within the largest concentration of Wichita's living in Oklahoma. However, through modern methods of communication, all Wichita's have access to their government, no matter where they live. Politically, the Wichita and Affiliated tribes is governed by the people through a body known as Wichita Tribal Council, which is composed of all enrolled members who are eighteen years of age or older. This Council empowers an elected body of seven committee members, known as the Wichita Executive Committee, to govern the Tribe's sovereign responsibilities. Each member of the Executive Committee serves a term of four years and can be re-elected without intervention. The Wichita Executive Committee is composed of a President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, and three Committee members. The Wichita Executive Committee also appoints Commissioners to the Wichita Housing Authority. All Wichita Tribal members retain their rights as citizens of the state of Oklahoma and of the United States of America. Future civil protection for Wichita People are afforded under the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968.

As of December 6, 2001, there were currently 2,150 enrolled tribal members of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes. In order to be enrolled with the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, an applicant must meet one of the criteria listed in Article II - Membership of the Governing Resolution (stated below) and submit the following documents, (1) an application for enrollment, (2) Original State Certified Birth Certificate that shows the Wichita parent, (3) Social Security Card and (4) a copy of the parents' CDIB's. Other supporting documents may be required depending on the circumstances of each applicant. Upon receipt of the Enrollment Application and all supporting documents the Enrollment Officer will present each application to the Wichita Executive Committee for approval.

Article II - Membership

(Pursuant to Amendment II Adopted 6-24-72 and Amendment III Adopted 5-21-77)

Section 1. The membership of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes shall consist of the following persons, providing they have not received a share of land or money by virtue of being enrolled as a member of another Tribe: (a) All persons of Wichita, Keechi, Waco and Tawakonie Indian blood who received an allotment of land as members of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes (Wichita, Keechi, Waco and Tawakonie) shall be included as full blood members of the Tribe. (b) All living lineal descendants of allottees eligible for membership under the provisions of Section 1 (a) of this Article born on or before the date of adoption of Amendment I (6-24-72). (c) All persons of at least one-eighth (1/8) degree Wichita, Keechi, Tawkonie, or Waco Indian blood as defined by and derived from Section 1(a) and Section 2 of this Article born after the date of adoption of Amendment I (6-24-72).

Section 2. All persons who possess no less than one-eighth (1/8) degree Wichita, Keechi, Waco, or Tawakonie Indian blood, who elect to be enrolled as members of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes, and who possess Indian blood of another tribe or a combination of tribes shall be considered as possessing Wichita, Keechi, Waco, or Tawakonie Indian blood equal to their full amount of Indian blood for the purpose of computing the eligibility of their descendants for membership in the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes.

Section 3. All applicants for membership in the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes whose names do not appear on the membership roll as of the date of adoption of Amendment III (5-21-77) must submit an application for membership to the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes Executive Committee. Application for membership must be supported by birth certificates or other records as required by the circumstances of each applicant. All evidence will be retained by the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes to support the record.

Section 4. The Tribal Executive Committee shall have the power to make ordinances covering loss of membership, future membership, and adoption into membership subject to review by the Secretary of the Interior.

The Keechi Tribe is a federally redognized part of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes which consists of the Wichita, Waco, Keechi, and Tawakonie tribes. Their tribal headquarters is located at P.O. Box 729, Anadarko, OK 73005; Phone: (405)247-2425; Fax: (405)247-2430. Gary McAdams is the tribal president until 2004. The 2002 Wichita Annual Dance will be held August 15-18, 2002, in Anadarko, Ohlahoma.

Well, I really learned a lot this time, and I'm getting ready to begin my research on another Indian tribe whose history touches our county. Until next time.

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Sue Seibert