Old West Lifestyle & Stories

Lawrie Tatum – Quaker Indian Agent

Lawrie Tatum Quaker Indian AgentIn 1869 the Kiowa and the Comanche were being relocated to a reservation near Fort Sill, Oklahoma. President Grant felt if Quakers were hired as Indian Agents, they would be able to teach the Indians to be pacifists.  So, Lawrie Tatum, a man known for his Quaker work, was appointed to the unenviable job as the Kiowa-Comanche agent.
Although the 47 year old knew little or nothing about wild Indians, he felt that he could tame them with honesty, industry, patience and kindness. The Comanche weren’t a major problem. But the Kiowa were impossible.  
Showing his trust, Lawrie had the military withdrawn from guarding the provisions. The Kiowa saw this as weakness, and not only stole the provisions, but they started making raids to nearby Texas.
Learning this approach wasn’t going to work, Lawrie tempered it with toughness. He had the three chiefs responsible for the Texas raids arrested. He put the provisions under guard, and refused to give any provisions to marauding Indians.
It had become normal for the government to ransom any white captives taken on raids. But continuing his hard line, Lawrie, feeling ransom only encouraged the taking of captives, refused to pay any.
Increasingly Lawrie felt that force was necessary to control the Kiowa. Eventually his actions conflicted with his Quaker superiors. And losing confidence in Grant’s Peace Policy, in 1873 Lawrie resigned.
Lawrie Tatum continued his Quaker belief, writing several books in support of it. He also wrote a classic about his experience with the Kiowa and Grant’s policy. On January 22, 1900, at the age of 78, he died.
Incidentally, late in life Lawrie was appointed the guardian of an infant by the name of Herbert Hoover, the man who became our country’s 31st President.  

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