|Edward Palmer, 1864 |
Photo Lot 70, National Anthropological Archives
But before his field work days, Palmer was a surgeon contracted with the US Army; at this time, his interest in plants was only a hobby. In 1868 he was named the official physician for the Kiowa and Comanche Agency in Oklahoma Indian Territory. According to the biographer William E. Safford, Palmer was pressed by his friends at the Smithsonian to collect specimens from both the tribesmen and the environment, and thereby send them back to Washington, DC for study.
Whatever the reason, Palmer soon found himself the physician to nearby Fort Cobb on the Washita River; though the head of this particular reservation, Major Shanklin, was much friendlier towards Palmer, the people certainly were not. They feared he was a witch-doctor because of his strange specimen-collecting practices. The women at Fort Cobb often referred to him as tewit-sa-mariett, or dangerous wise man. And when Palmer failed to save a child sick with pneumonia, it was the last straw; the Kiowa and Comanche of the Fort Cobb reservation decided they needed to be rid of the evil medicine man once and for all.
|Drawing of two Comanche men, collected by Edward Palmer in 1868|
Manuscript 127,601 National Anthropological Archives