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During the 1850s, west-bound settlers came into conflict with the local Indian tribes. To protect the settlers from Indian attacks, the Army established a series of frontier forts. The start of the American Civil War in 1861 resulted in a withdrawal of the troops from the western frontier.

The Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867 called for two reservations to be set aside in Indian Territory—one for the Comanche and Kiowa and one for the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho. According to the treaty, the government would provide the tribes with many basic services and training, housing, food and supplies, including guns and ammunition for hunting. In exchange, the Indians agreed to stop their attacks and raids. Ten chiefs endorsed the treaty and some tribal members moved voluntarily to the reservations.

Commercial buffalo hunters ignored the terms of the treaty as they moved into the area promised to the Southern Plains Indians. A few branches of the tribes, including Quanah Parker‘s Quahadi Comanche refused to even sign the treaty. The great southern herd of American bison was all but exterminated in just four years—from 1874 to 1878. The disappearance of the buffalo reduced the Indians to dependence on reservation rations.

As conditions continued to worsen, many of the Indians who were still there now left to join with the bands who had returned to the Texas plains. Among the Indians there was talk of war and of driving the white man from the land.