top of page

Comanche Rations at Fort Supply

This photograph documents the first issuance of rations to the Comanches at Fort Supply, but is undated (OHS).

After the Comanches were forced to give up their home territories through several treaties and an eventual war, the tribe lived in the western Indian Territory, which became Oklahoma Territory in 1890. They shared their reservation lands with the Kiowas, Apaches, Cheyennes, and Arapahos.

By relinquishing their territory to the federal government and the state of Texas, Comanches received rations of food at Fort Supply as well as monies to offset the loss of property. Comanche leaders were not in charge of distribution, however; that fell to Indian agents, who were all invariably white men. In the early days of distribution, the tribe received live cattle that they would hunt, not unlike a bison hunt of old. The military quickly discontinued the practice as the point of reservations was to teach the Plains Indians how to farm, not to continue their traditions.

The beef was supplied by white cattle ranchers all along the Red River Valley. They entered into exclusive contracts with the U.S. government to supply the tribes at the forts. One prominent beneficiary was Isaac "Ike" Cloud, who ran the Cloud Ranch in western Love County, Oklahoma. Cloud, born in Alabama in 1846, grew up in Lamar County, Texas and attended McKenzie College at Clarksville (Red River County, Texas) before joining the confederate army to serve under Sam Bell Maxey. After the Civil War, he moved to Gainesville (Cooke County, Texas) and then, to Tishomingo (Johnston County, Oklahoma). Since his brother had married a Chickasaw woman, a quasi-legal status that gave non-Chickasaws permission to ranch/farm/use Chickasaw land (subsequently rescinded by the Chickasaw courts), he was able to use Chickasaw land as a ranch. The monies he made from these federal contracts - even though he had fought against the U.S. army just a few years prior! - offered him the financial ability to build one of Gainesville's most substantial cattle baron mansions, the Cloud-Stark house.

Fort Supply, located in Woodward County, opened in 1868 to guard Native Americans against white violence and to carry out the functions of the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty, signed just a year prior. The fort saw lots of action during its existence. The fort itself served as a munitions depot for the Red River Wars (1874-1875). Soldiers escorted cattle drives going to Dodge City, Kansas and removed "land smugglers," whites who tried to squat on Indian land... like Ike Cloud.

Ledger art
Comanche or Arapaho ledger art depicting a longhorn hunt, substituting for a bison, is on display at Fort Supply. "Ledger art" was produced by native people to document their histories (calendars) after there were no more bison hides to do this anymore.
The Ike Cloud house in Gainesville, a cattle baron mansion (THC).
Fort Supply is now a minimum security prison, plus a museum.
"Cloud Road" and "Clouds" are the indicators for Ike Cloud's ration business on this 1872 map of Indian Territory. Cloud had fought against the Union, but received an exclusive contract to supply beef to the Comanches through a ranch that he established on Chickasaw land and subsequently, lost, because he wasn't Chickasaw. Can't make this up!

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page