Andele, Mexican-Kiowa Captive

By Richard Duree (Col. Richard Dodge, SASS 1750 Life)


Ruth Levin Duree and Richard Duree

In the spring of 1886, Rev. J.J. Methvin arrived in Anadarko, Oklahoma with his wife and five children in a buckboard wagon. He had been sent by the Methodist Church from Georgia to serve as "Missionary to the Wild Tribes" and he was to live in Anadarko until his death in 1942 at the age of 94. Two years after his arrival, he met a stranger standing on the bank of the Wichita River. The stranger was Andre Martinez and he told a story of being kidnapped as a child by Apache warriors when he was 11 years old, being traded to the Kiowas, and raised by them as a warrior for 20 years. He was known as "Andele" by the Kiowas.

J.J. Methvin was my maternal great-grandfather. He fought in a Georgia regiment during the Civil War and lived long enough to baptize me when I was born. He wrote the story of Andele's life as I have related it here. This is the remarkable, true story of Andele Martinez.

Juan Martinez could not have foreseen the traumatic events that would change the lives of his little family forever. It was a fine October morning in 1866; it was haying time and he needed Dionicio, his older son, to help bringing in the hay on their little farm. The task of watching the family's milk cows must fall to 11 year-old Andre for the first time. Andre eagerly accepted the new task, anxious to show that he was grown up and no longer a child. Martinez had homesteaded his little farm near Las Vegas, New Mexico a year earlier and the new crop was critical to his family's survival. It was time for Andre to start taking responsibility.

As the boy followed the three cows to their usual pasture, he was joined by his six year-old cousin, Pedro, who had slipped out to follow Andre against his aunt's admonitions. Since it was too far back to return, Andre reluctantly took Pedro with him.

It didn't take long for the boys to learn how boring it would be and the morning passed slowly in the warming sun. Andre whittled a twig into shavings; they threw rocks at distant trees, even at darting dragon flies. Being grown up didn't seem to be so wonderful, after all.

Suddenly, shortly before mid-day, they were startled by shrill yells and a terrified scream coming from the nearby road. Scrambling up a low rise, they saw a horrifying sight through the tall grass. Their blood froze in fear.

Four mounted Indians had surrounded an elderly Mexican man leading a donkey laden with two large burlap sacks. One brave dropped from his horse, drew a large knife and slashed one bag open; freshly ground flour flowed white, blowing across the road and dousing the brave in white dust. War whoops and laughter erupted from his companions. The outraged brave turned to the hapless Mexican, his face contorted with hate, and without hesitation thrust his lance clear through the man's body, then withdrew it with a shower of blood. The doomed man stumbled to the side of the road, his body suddenly pierced by arrows. The flour-covered brave seized the hapless donkey's ear and slit its throat with one swift stroke. With a pitiful bray the hapless beast collapsed, blood spreading across the dirt road. The mounted braves joyfully drew bows and released several more arrows into both the dead man and the burro.

Poor little Pedro gave them away. His gasps brought the dismounted brave running toward them. They were quickly seized and in moments each was bound and tied behind one of the mounted braves. Then began a long, painful ride that took them far away from their home and family. Andre would not see them for twenty years.

These were the dreaded Mescalero Apaches, most vicious of all the Apache tribes. Andre's father would search for his son in vain for several years before dying of a broken heart.

For three days they rode eastward, at one point passing through an enormous buffalo herd that took two full days. On the third day, young Pedro, who never stopped crying, was thrown to the ground in disgust. As he lay sobbing piteously, a lance was driven through his small frame. A final scream of pain and he was abandoned to the scavengers of the desert.

Young Andre managed to survive by sheer will power. He refused to show fear to the Apache and that saved him from the lance, even though he was treated harshly. The Apache, like most tribes, admired bravery, even in a captive or enemy. Desperate to elude certain pursuit by their captive's family, they traveled rapidly. Poor Andre had only ridden the family's plow horse around the farm and suffered mightily from the long ride. Each night he would lie bound, staring into the direction they had come, praying for his father to rescue him, hiding his tears from his cruel captors. What would become of him?

Several days after Andre's capture the band crossed paths with a much larger Kiowa hunting party led by Chief Tall Bear. The Kiowa and Apache were occasional allies, roaming freely over thousands of square miles, trading and marauding together. Tall Bear's own son had died recently and he took a liking to the young Mexican lad. He had promised to bring a new son home with him and after some bargaining Andre was exchanged for a blanket and a donkey. Andre's new life was about to begin.

Days later, his arrival in the Kiowa camp was met with a mixture of delighted kindness from his new Kiowa mother and jealous aggression by the younger Kiowa boys. Again, he displayed a fierce anger at what had happened to him. He was almost immediately drawn into a fight with three Kiowa boys. He had bloodied the face of one and was making a good account of himself when the fight was interrupted by a Kiowa brave who did not look like a Kiowa. He was Santiago, himself a Mexican captive turned warrior. They were soon to become close comrades as Santiago took the boy under his wing to teach him the skills he would need as a Kiowa brave.

Days turned into months and hopes of rescue began to fade. Many times he stood at the edge of the village, staring off to the west, still hoping for rescue. As months turned into a year, then another, his alert young mind began to turn to his new life; his language and memories of home and family began to fade and he gradually entered into the Kiowa world.

One day when the Kiowas were camped near a Cheyenne village, Andele was gathering reeds from a nearby stream early in the morning. The sound of many shod horses reached his ears, then the rattle of sabers of the white man's blue-coated soldiers. Peering through the reeds he saw a cavalry column led by an officer with long, light brown hair, suddenly charge across the shallow stream and into the Cheyenne camp. Screams and gunfire erupted, heavy at first, then lessening until after a few sporadic shots – silence. Andele quickly ran to his own village to spread the warning. He had just witnessed Lt. Col. George Custer's infamous massacre of an entire peaceful Cheyenne village.

At the age of fifteen, four years after his capture, he was allowed to accompany Santiago on a raid on a Texas ranch. Although ordered to wait with the horses, he disobeyed and managed to steal a mule from its stall in a locked barn. There was much rejoicing and admiration by the tribe when they returned to camp. Andre was now "Andele," as close as the Kiowa tongue could come to Andre. His future as a full-fledged Kiowa warrior had begun.

Mount Scott is Oklahoma's highest point. It was sacred to the Kiowa and it was here that young Andele, as all other Kiowa lads must do, came to seek his vision. Climbing high up the mountain's flank, he sat and waited. And waited. Two days, then three, without food and only sips of water. As the inevitable waves of delirium approached, he drew his knife. The sharp edge opened rivulets of blood along one arm, then the other, adding a blanket of pain to the torment. At last he slept and the dream came.

Out of the darkness a giant bear appeared, eyes glowing red and fangs bared to kill. A huge paw is raised to destroy with its enormous claws. As death comes closer and closer, a shield appears. It is red with a yellow sun and a white handprint. The claws, which could disembowel a horse, struck the shield and the shield did not yield. The bear arose to its fearful height, roaring in anger. Suddenly, the shield moves with great speed, striking the bear in the chest. The bear disappears into the darkness.

It is dawn when Andele drifts to awareness. He has had his vision! Now he can return to the village, stand before the gathering of the warriors and tell of his vision. Now he will be welcomed as a warrior, ready to embark on his path to do great deeds.

He drinks deeply from his water bag, eats from the block of pemmican prepared for him by his mother. His return was a joyous celebration of this very important rite of passage for a young Kiowa warrior.

His first task was to have that shield made and he carried it for the rest of his time with the Kiowa. His utter belief in the shield's power led him to adventures over the next ten years of his life that gained him great respect as a full-fledged Kiowa warrior. He even took a lovely Kiowa bride named "Ti-i-Ti" (White Sage) and began to aspire to become a Kiowa medicine man.

He bravely and almost single-handedly rescued Tahan, a "recovered" white captive, from the white man's soldiers. Tahan did not want to be "recovered" and with Andele's help escaped from the soldiers in a Kiowa ambush in a deep gully.

In other engagements, Andele participated in skirmishes with the U. S. Army and the Texas Rangers. Never injured, he earned an enviable warrior's reputation, the most coveted status for the Kiowa warrior that Andele had become.

Andele's life took a sudden turn when Tall Bear became ill with a strange disease. Frantic, Andele hired medicine men, four of them one after the other, to cure Tall Bear, impoverishing himself in the process as they demanded ponies, blankets, and most of Andele's possessions. Of course, their "medicine" had no effect on the patient and death soon followed. Andele's faith in the power of the Indian's medicine was shattered. In his grief he disavowed his beliefs, his dreams, the very essence of the Indian way of life. The seed was planted for a return to the white man's world.

By 1880, the Kiowas had been defeated, as had most of the other Plains tribes, and were being confined to reservations and military forts. The Kiowa were confined to Fort Sill and very closely guarded, for they were considered the most deadly of the Plains Tribes. Here, Andele was confined with his people for the next two years.

Strange new events now entered his life. Though he still remembered nothing of his Spanish tongue, he began to learn the white man's strange language. He saw white people entering and leaving a strange building carrying small folded sheets of paper – "talking papers" someone explained. Other captives like himself, long assimilated into the tribe, were one-by-one singled out, taken away and never seen again. With the help of the others, Andele managed to stay hidden away from the agents' searching eyes. But it couldn't last.

"You're not Kiowa! You're Mexican." The words came at last. An alert agent finally spotted him and his Hispanic face gave him away. But his memory of who he had been was gone. There was no place to send him, so he was to remain at the fort. At his own request for work to do, he was introduced to the blacksmith and instructed in the trade, soon becoming a skilled blacksmith.

It happened suddenly. In the middle of the night, Andele awoke abruptly and sat up, startling the sleeping Ti-i-Ti.

"My name is Andre Martinez! My father's name is Juan!" Springing from the bed, he sprinted to the doctor's office and pounded on the door; it was just past midnight.

"My name is Andre Martinez! My family lived near Las Vegas! My brother was Dionicio! I remember!" The words poured out of him to the sleepy-eyed doctor. Nodding, the doctor opened the door, seated the excited young man and questioned him at length. He was astounded at how much Andele could recall, even up to the day of his capture.

"Do you think we can send a talking paper to my family?" Andele's excitement mounted.

"We'll try," the doctor told him. "It's been a long time and they may not even be there anymore." A letter was penned, addressed to Juan Martinez in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Alas, the family no longer resided there and it took two more years for the letter to almost accidentally fall into his brother's hands. The family had moved away from Las Vegas following Andele's abduction and his father's death. His mother was now elderly and frail, hoping always to see her youngest son again. Andele's letter of course caused great excitement; his mother fainted when she heard the news. A telegram was quickly sent to Fort Sill and Dionicio set off immediately on a month-long trip to Anadarko by wagon to retrieve his long-lost younger brother.

When he arrived at the Kiowa Agency, Dionicio was met by a handsome Kiowa brave dressed in full beaded buckskin regalia, hair braided and bound in beaver skin, face painted, complete with feathered war bonnet, bow, arrows, war hatchet, and a red shield bearing a yellow disc and a white hand print – Andele. One can only imagine the emotional reunion.

Reluctantly leaving his Kiowa family, including Ti-i-Ti, Andele returned to New Mexico with Dominic to another even more emotional reunion. Andele could still not speak Spanish, though they could converse in English. He remained in New Mexico for four years to relearn Spanish and his ancestry.

Eventually he realized he must return to his Kiowa people. "They will need me," he thought. Their world has ended and they must learn to live in the new one. In spring of 1888, Andele made the return trip to Anadarko. There, he learned that his dear Ti-i-Ti had died in his absence. Many of his Kiowa people were also gone, decimated by illness, many by sheer loss of the will to live in this strange new way. There was much to do and Andele's mind was tortured with sadness and a quiet joy of returning to his Kiowa family. One fine day while standing on the banks of the Wichita, lost in memories, he was approached by a small, slight gentleman with a fierce red beard.

"Welcome, friend." The red-bearded man extended his hand. "I'm Reverend Methvin. Are you new to these parts?"

P.S. – Methvin immediately hired Andele to teach in his school and assist in his church. The two men became life-long friends and together helped lead the Kiowas to the "white man's road." The Methvin Kiowa Methodist Church still serves a large, very devout Kiowa membership in Anadarko; hymns are sung in the Kiowa language. Both Methvin and Andele are held in fond memory by the tribe. Andele died in 1935. The two men are buried within a few yards of each other in the Anadarko Cemetery.

Methvin, J. J.; Andele, Mexican-Kiowa Captive; Plummer Printing Co., Anadarko, 1927