Cornudas Cave and the 1839 Siege at Hueco Tanks

heuco-cave

There is a Kiowa Legend about the 1839 ambush of Kiowa Indians by the Mexican military at Hueco Tanks, Texas in which a wounded Kiowa warrior was left to die at a place known to the Kiowa people as Sun Mountain. A member of todays Kiowa Nation tells this story and says Sun Mountain is the same as Cornudas Mountain.


This information is compiled from the website http://www.desertusa.com/desert-people/konate-kiowa-legend.html and a story told to Bobby Jones by a member of today’s Kiowa nation.


In 1839, the Mexican Militia ambushed a Kiowa raiding party at what is today Hueco Tanks, Texas. The Kiowa’s holed up in a the box canyon for ten days, as the Mexican army laid siege to the entrance, determined to starve the Kiowa warriors out.


On the tenth day of the siege, the Kiowa’s devised a plan to attempt their escape by running from the mouth of the canyon and through the Mexican military camp in the earliest hours, just before sunrise, when they would have the best chances of catching their adversaries sleepy and off guard. They did exactly that and for the most part, their plan was successful. But one Kiowa warrior name Konate was gut shot and although he managed to escape, his wounds were considered to be fatal. His fellow warriors took him to a place they called the Sun Mountain, were they made his as comfortable as they could, and  left him to die a brave warrior’s death. But they had to keep moving.


Bobby was told this place the Kiowa called Sun Mountain is Cornudas Mountain and Konate was left in the large cave which has the well today. Although Konate did suffer greatly, he did not die.


Except from http://www.desertusa.com/desert-people/konate-kiowa-legend.html


“The following morning, the Kiowas, replenished, pushed toward home on fresh horses, putting the threat of the Mexican military behind them for good.  Their troubles, however, were not over.  As they reached a spring near the summit of a promontory they called Sun Mountain, named for the glisten of its stone crest in the sunlight, it had became evident that the suffering Konate could go no farther.  He had lapsed into unconsciousness.  His infected wounds and fevered body made it certain, the Kiowas believed, that death would take him within hours…

They placed Konate within reach of the water of the spring.  They surrounded him with stones to ward off scavengers anxious to eat his flesh and savage his bones.  They built an arbor to shade him through his final hours.  They rode away in sadness, never expecting to see Konate alive again.  In accordance with Kiowa custom, they planned to send a party back from home to recover his bones and return them for burial…

Hours passed.  Shadows lengthened.  The desert heat softened.  Konate emerged from the darkness of unconsciousness. He discovered that he lay in absolute aloneness, left behind in the desert.  He knew that his companions had headed for home, expecting that he would die…”


A wolf found Konate, and instead of killing him, helped him survive.

Except from http://www.desertusa.com/desert-people/konate-kiowa-legend.html

“Then, Konate heard the howl of a gray wolf, distant and unearthly. Silence.  The temperature of the dry desert air began to fall as night closed its grip. Konate heard the voice of the wolf again, this time closer. He realized the animal could smell the foul odor of his wounds.  He lay helpless, unable to rise, chilled by the awareness that the animal could attack and dismember him, still alive, for his flesh. On the edge of consciousness, Konate heard the wolf snuffling at the stones that surrounded him.  Konate braced for the savage attack that he felt sure would come.  He heard the wolf climb over the rock wall, but instead of attacking, the animal lay down gently beside him.  It warmed him in the chill desert night.  It licked his wounds, trying to clean them.  At daylight, the wolf disappeared, but when night fell again, it returned, perfectly gentle, protective… “


And in time, a band of Comanche’s found him and took him with them. In time he recovered. Except from http://www.desertusa.com/desert-people/konate-kiowa-legend.html 

He heard Comanche voices.  Unable to speak, he groaned to make himself heard. The Comanches, a raiding party of six warriors headed south and west on the Indian trail, were astonished to discover Konate still alive.  Several days earlier, they had met Dohasan and the Kiowa raiders on the trail headed north toward home.  The Kiowas asked the Comanches to cover Konate’s body to protect it from wolves until a party could be sent back to recover the bones.  No one anticipated that it would be a wolf that would save Konate’s life. 

The Comanches gave Konate water and buffalo meat broth.  They cut away his filthy and bloodstained clothes and dressed him in clean clothes.  They bathed him and dressed his wounds with buffalo tallow.  They cared for him for several days, until he recovered enough strength to travel.  They gave up their journey to raid and placed the Kiowa warrior on a shaded travois behind a gentle horse and turned north to take Konate home…home!”


Source: Konate’s Staff and the Wolf that Saved him by Jay W. Sharp

http://www.desertusa.com/desert-people/konate-kiowa-legend.html

Photo Hueco Tanks courtesy of nps.gov


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