For anyone interested at all in Indian Territory, frontier, or Native American history, Fort Sill is THE place to go. Fort Sill represents the Old West and flourishes as the last remaining, active military post that was built during the Indian wars.
Established in 1869 by Major General Phillip H. Sheridan and built by the volunteer soldiers of the Tenth Cavalry, Fort Sill's primary function was to contain the Southern Plains people, who had been relegated to the reservation in the 1867 Medicine Lodge Treaty. The reservation for the Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches, carved from the Chickasaw nation in 1866, surrounded the fort, which also served as home to several displaced Indians tribes and housed prisoners of war from the Apaches and Kiowas tribes.
A cross section of white and black Americans interacted with the Native Americans at the fort, including "Buffalo Bill" Cody", "Wild Bill" Hickok, the 19th Kansas Volunteers, and the 10th Cavalry, widely known as the African American Buffalo Soldiers. The fort also saw plenty of bison hunters, who were decimating the grand herds of the Southern Plains. The vast majority of the soldiers hailed from more settled areas like New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. They either joined the army during the Civil War and remained in service, or enlisted after 1865 to assist in the next great, but undeclared action - the wholesale expansion and exploitation of the American West.
In 1871, Kiowa warriors under Chiefs Satanta and Big Tree ambushed and killed seven men of the Warren Wagon Train in Young County, Texas. The Kiowas at Fort Sill boasted of this coup. General William Tecumseh Sherman, Chief of the U.S. Army, ordered the Kiowas responsible for the assault arrested and sent to Fort Richardson to stand trial. The accused men were sentenced to death, though Chief Satanta's eloquent speech about his people's suffering helped to spare their lives when the Texas governor commuted their sentence.
Sherman believed that the only way to defeat the Indians was to wage a war of attrition, thus beginning a series of skirmishes now known as the Red River Wars in 1871. Fort Sill became the headquarters for the American troops. After the resounding defeat at the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon in 1875, the Plains tribes returned to Fort Sill. The army arrested the native men who participated in the war and sent them to Fort Marion, Florida where many became ill. A petition, generated by concerned whites, was signed and presented to the U.S. president, who released the Comanches, Kiowas, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, and Apaches to Fort Sill.
The fort became the center of their new homelands. A mission was established nearby to convert people. Some adapted to the new belief system, like Chief Gotebo of the Kiowas. Others refused to do this wholeheartedly, like Quanah Parker of the Comanches.
Fort Sill is the last tangible link to frontier history in the United States, and is worth a lengthy visit. As it is an active military post, you will be subjected to a search upon entering the fort, but the grounds are free to tour. So enjoy the incredible history that is Fort Sill!