Comanche are a Native American ethnic
group whose historic range (the Comancheria) consisted of present-day eastern
Mexico, southern Colorado,
northeastern Arizona, southern
Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of
Originally, the Comanches were hunter-gatherers
, with a typical Plains Indian
culture. There may have been as
many as 45,000 Comanches in the late 18th
. Today, the Comanche Nation
consists of 14,105 members (2008 enrollment figures), about half of
whom live in Oklahoma (centered at Lawton), and the
remainder are concentrated in Texas, California, and New Mexico.
The Comanche speak an
classified as a Shoshone
Comanche emerged as a distinct group shortly before 1700, when they
broke off from the Shoshone people living
along the upper Platte River in
This coincided with their acquisition of
, which allowed them greater mobility
in their search for better hunting grounds.
Their original migration
to southern plains, from where they moved southward into a sweep of
territory extending from the Arkansas River to central Texas.
During that time, their population increased dramatically because
of the abundance of buffalo
influx of Shoshone migrants, and the adoption of significant
numbers of women and children taken captive from rival groups.
Nevertheless, the Comanche never formed a single cohesive tribal unit
but were divided into almost a dozen
autonomous groups. These groups shared the same language and
culture but may have fought among themselves just as often as they
The horse was a key element in the emergence of a distinctive
Comanche culture. Some scholars have suggested the Comanche
broke away from the Shoshone and moved southward to search for
additional sources of horses among the settlers of New Spain to the south (rather than search for new
herds of buffalo.) The Comanche may have been the first group of
Plains natives to
fully incorporate the horse into their culture and to have
introduced the animal to the other Plains peoples.
By the mid-19th century, the Comanche were supplying horses to
French and American traders and settlers and later to migrants'
passing through their territory on the way to the California Gold Rush
. The Comanche had
stolen many of the horses from other tribes and settlers; they
earned their reputation as formidable horse, and later, cattle
thieves. Their stealing of livestock from Spanish and American
settlers, as well as the other Plains tribes, often led to
The Comanche also had access to vast numbers of feral horses, which
numbered approximately 2,000,000 in and around Comancheria. In the
late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Comanche lifestyle required
about one horse per person. With a population of about 30,000 to
40,000 and in possession of herds many times that number, the
Comanche had a surplus of about 90,000 to 120,000 horses.
They were formidable opponents who developed strategies for using
traditional weapons for fighting on horseback. Warfare was a major
part of Comanche life. The dreaded Comanche raids into Mexico, going as
far south as Central America,
traditionally took place during the full moon, when the Comanche
could see to ride at night.
This led to the term "Comanche
Moon," during which the Comanche raided for horses, captives,
weapons, and simply to spread terror.
was the primary social unit of
the Comanches. A typical band might number about one hundred
people. Bands were part of larger divisions, or tribes. Before the
1750s, there were three Comanche divisions: Yamparikas
, and Kotsotekas
. In the 1750s and 1760s, a
number of Kotsoteka bands split off and moved to the southeast.
This resulted in a large division between the original group, the
western Comanches, and the break away Kotsotekas, the eastern
Comanches. The western Comanches lived in the region of
the upper Arkansas
River, Canadian River, and
River, and the Llano Estacado. The eastern Comanches lived on the Edwards
Plateau and the Texas plains of the upper Brazos River and Colorado River, and east to the Cross Timbers.
Over time these divisions were altered in various ways. In the
early 1800s the Jupes vanished from history, probably merging into
the other divisions. Many Yamparikas moved southeast, joining the
eastern Comanches and becoming known as the Tenewas
(or Naishans) moved to northern Comancheria and became
closely associated with the Yamparikas. A group of Arapahos
, known as the Chariticas
into Comancheria and joined Comanche society. New divisions arose,
such as the Nokonas
, closely linked with the Tenewas; and
, who emerged as a new faction on the southern
. The western-eastern distinction changed in
the 1800s. Observers began to call them northern and southern
Comanches. One of the southernmost groups became known as the
All these division names were spelled in many different ways by
Spanish and English writers, and spelling differences continue
today. Large-scale groupings became unstable and unclear during the
1800s. The Comanche society was slowly overwhelmed and ultimately
subjugated to the United States.
Texas-Indian Wars 1820-1875
Relationship with settlers
Comanche braves, c.
The Comanche maintained an ambiguous relationship with Europeans
and later settlers attempting to colonize their territory. They
were valued as trading partners but were feared for their raids.
Similarly, the Comanche were, at one time or another, at war with
virtually every other Native American group living in the Great
Plains, leaving opportunities for political maneuvering by European
colonial powers and the United States. At one point, Sam Houston
, president of the newly created
Republic of Texas
succeeded in reaching a peace treaty
with the Comanche. His efforts were thwarted when the Texas legislature
refused to create an
official boundary between Texas and the Comancheria
Comanche had many violent clashes with the Republic of Texas, they
agreed to a peace treaty with the City of Fredericksburg, Texas.
Both sides honored the treaty for over a
century and a half into the present day, making it one of few
While the Comanche managed to maintain their independence and
increase their territory, by the mid-nineteenth century they faced
annihilation because of a wave of epidemics due to Eurasian
diseases to which they had no immunity,
such as smallpox and measles
. Outbreaks of
(1817, 1848) and cholera
(1849) took a major toll on the Comanche,
whose population dropped from an estimated 20,000 in mid-century to
just a few thousand by the 1870s.
The US began efforts in the late 1860s to move the Comanche into
reservations, with the Treaty
of Medicine Lodge
(1867), which offered churches, schools, and
annuities in return for a vast tract of land totaling over 60,000
square miles (160,000 km²). The government promised to stop
hunters who were decimating the
great herds of the Plains, provided that the Comanche, along with
, and Arapahos
, move to a reservation totaling less than
5,000 square miles (13,000 km²) of land. However, the
government did not prevent slaughtering of the herds. The Comanche
Eagle)retaliated by attacking a group of hunters in the Texas
Panhandle in the Second
Battle of Adobe Walls
(1874). The attack was a disaster for the
Comanche, and the US army was called in to drive the remaining
Comanche in the area into the reservation. Within just ten years,
the buffalo were on the verge of extinction, effectively ending the
Comanche way of life as hunters. In 1875, the last free band of Comanches,
led by Quahada warrior Quanah Parker,
surrendered and moved to the Fort Sill reservation in Oklahoma.
with life on the reservation, 170 warriors and their families, led
by Black Horse, left the reservation in
late 1876 for the Llano
Attacks on buffalo hunters' camps led to the Buffalo Hunters' War
In 1892 the government negotiated the Jerome Agreement
, with the Comanches,
Kiowas, and Apaches, further reducing their reservation to 480,000
acres (1,940 km²) at a cost of $1.25 per acre ($308.88/km²),
with an allotment of 160 acres (0.6 km²) per person per tribe
to be held in trust. New allotments were made in 1906 to all
children born after the Jerome Agreement, and the remaining land
was opened to white settlement. With this new arrangement, the era
of the Comanche reservation came to an abrupt end.
Comanches were ill prepared for life in a Western economic system,
and many of them were defrauded of whatever remained of their land
and possessions. Elected chief of the entire tribe by the United
States government, Chief Quanah Parker
campaigned vigorously for better deals for his people, meeting with
Washington politicians frequently; and helped manage land for the
tribe. Parker became wealthy as a cattleman. Parker also campaigned
for the Comanches' permission to practice the Native American Church
rites, such as the usage of peyote
, which was
condemned by European-Americans. Before the first Oklahoma
legislature, Quanah testified:
"I do not think this legislature should interfere with
a man's religion, also these people should be allowed to retain
this health restorer.
These healthy gentleman before you use peoti and those
that do not use it are not so healthy."
During World War II
, many Comanche left
the traditional tribal lands in Oklahoma in search of financial
opportunities in the cities of California and the Southwest
. Today they are among
the most highly educated native groups in the United States. About
half the Comanche population still lives in Oklahoma, centered
around the town of Lawton.
Uwat - Comanche, 1930.
Comanche groups did not have a single acknowledged leader. Instead,
a small number of generally recognized leaders acted as counsel and
advisors to the group as a whole. These included the "peace chief,"
the members of the council, and the "war chief."
The peace chief was usually an older individual, who could bring
his experience to the task of advising. There was no formal
inauguration or election to the position, it was one of general
The council made decisions about where the band should hunt,
whether they should war against their enemies, and whether to ally
themselves with other bands. Any member could speak at council
meetings, but the older men usually did most of the talking.
In times of war, the band selected a war chief. To be chosen for
this position, a man had to prove he was a brave fighter. He also
had to have the respect of all the other warriors in the band.
While the band was at war, the war chief was in charge, and all the
warriors had to obey him. After the conflict was over, however, the
war chief's authority ended.
The Comanche men did most of the hunting and all of the fighting in
the wars. They learned how to ride horses when they were young and
were eager to prove themselves in battle. On the plains, Comanche
women carried out the demanding tasks of cooking, skinning animals,
setting up camp, rearing children, and transporting household
If a woman started
while the band was in camp, she was moved to a tipi
, or a brush lodge if it was summer. One or more of
the older women assisted as midwives
. If a
woman went into labor while the band was on the move, she simply
paused along the trail and gave birth to her child. After a few
hours of rest, she would take the baby and catch up with the group
again. Men were not allowed inside the tipi during or immediately
after the delivery.
First, the midwives softened the earthen
of the tipi and dug two holes. One of the holes was for
heating water and the other for the afterbirth
. One or two stakes were driven into the
ground near the expectant mother's bedding for her to grip during
the pain of labor.After the birth, the midwives hung the umbilical cord
on a hackberry
tree. The people believed that if the
umbilical cord was not disturbed before it rotted, the baby would
live a long and prosperous life.
The newborn was swaddled
and remained with
its mother in the tipi for a few days. The baby was placed in a
, and the mother went back to
work. She could easily carry the cradleboard on her back, or prop
it against a tree where the baby could watch her while she
collected seeds or roots. Cradleboards consisted of a flat board to
which a basket was attached. The latter was made from rawhide
straps, or a leather sheath that laced up the front. With soft, dry
moss as a diaper, the young one was safely tucked into the leather
pocket. During cold weather, the baby was wrapped in blankets, and
then placed in the cradleboard. The baby remained in the
cradleboard for about ten months; then it was allowed to crawl
Both girls and boys were welcomed into the band, but boys were
favored. If the baby was a boy, one of the midwives informed the
father or grandfather, "It's your close friend". Families might
paint a flap on the tipi to tell the rest of the tribe that they
had been strengthened with another warrior.
Sometimes a man named his child, but mostly the father asked a
(or another man of
distinction) to do so. He did this in hope of his child living a
long and productive life. During the public naming ceremony, the
medicine man lit his pipe and offered smoke to the heavens, earth,
and each of the four directions. He prayed that the child would
remain happy and healthy. He then lifted the child to symbolize its
growing up and announced the child's name four times. He held the
child a little higher each time he said the name. It was believed
that the child's name foretold its future; even a weak or sick
child could grow up to be a great warrior, hunter, and raider if
given a name suggesting courage and strength.
Boys were often named after their grandfather, uncle, or other
relative. Girls were usually named after one of their father's
relatives, but the name was selected by the mother. As children
grew up they also acquired nicknames at different points in their
lives, to express some aspect of their lives.
A 19th century Comanche child.
The Comanche looked upon their children as their most precious
gift. Children were rarely punished. Sometimes, though, an older
sister or other relative was called upon to discipline a child, or
the parents arranged for a boogey man to scare the child.
Occasionally, old people donned sheets and frightened disobedient
boys and girls. Children were also told about Big Cannibal Owl
) who lived in a cave on the south side of the
and ate bad
children at night.
Children learned from example, by observing and listening to their
parents and others in the band. As soon as she was old enough to
walk, a girl followed her mother about the camp and played at the
daily tasks of cooking and making clothing. She was also very close
to her mother's sisters, who were called not aunt but pia
meaning mother. She was given a little deerskin doll, which she
took with her everywhere. She learned to make all the clothing for
A boy identified not only with his father but with his father's
family, as well as with the bravest warriors in the band. He
learned to ride a horse before he could walk. By the time he was
four or five, he was expected to be able to skillfully handle a
horse. When he was five or six, he was given a small bow
Often a boy was taught to ride and shoot by his grandfather, since
his father and other warriors were on raids and hunts. His
grandfather also taught him about his own boyhood and the history
and legends of the Comanche.
As the boy grew older, he joined the other boys to hunt birds. He
eventually ranged farther from camp looking for better game to
kill. Encouraged to be skillful hunters, boys learned the signs of
as they learned to patiently and
quietly stalk game. They became more self-reliant, yet, by playing
together as a group, also formed the strong bonds and cooperative
spirit that they would need when they hunted and raided.
Boys were highly respected because they would become warriors and
might die young in battle. As he approached manhood, a boy went on
his first buffalo hunt. If he made a kill, his father honored him
with a feast. Only after he had proven himself on a buffalo hunt
was a young man allowed to go to war.
When he was ready to become a warrior, at about age fifteen or
sixteen, a young man first "made his medicine" by going on a
(a rite of passage
). Following this quest, his
father gave the young man a good horse to ride into battle and
another mount for the trail. If he had proved himself as a warrior,
a Give Away Dance might be held in his honor. As drummers faced
east, the honored boy and other young men danced. His parents,
along with his other relatives and the people in the band, threw
presents at his feet – especially blankets and horses symbolized by
sticks. Anyone might snatch one of the gifts for themselves,
although those with many possessions refrained; they did not want
to appear greedy. People often gave away all their belongings
during these dances, providing for others in the band but leaving
themselves with nothing.
Girls learned to gather healthy berries, nuts, and roots. They
carried water and collected wood, and when about twelve years old
learned to cook meals, make tipis, sew clothing, prepare hides, and
perform other tasks essential to becoming a wife and mother. They
were then considered ready to be married.
Boys might boldly risk their lives as hunters and warriors, but,
when it came to girls, boys were very bashful. A boy might visit a
person gifted in love medicine, who was believed to be able to
charm the young woman into accepting him. During courtship, the
girl often approached the boy. Boys mostly stayed in their tipis,
so it was up to the girl to go to the tipi. A boy, however, might
approach a girl as she went for wood or water. Since they were not
allowed to see each other, they met in secret.
When he wished to marry, a boy offered a gift. The gift was usually
one or more horses for the girl's father or guardian. The young man
might also agree to work as a hunter or trader for the family, to
convince the girl's family that he would be able to provide for
her. Usually a young man asked an uncle or friend to make the offer
for him. This messenger brought horses and other goods, spoke
briefly with the parents, and left. To avoid embarrassment, he did
not immediately receive an answer. If the proposal was turned down,
the horses were simply released and driven back to the suitor's
herd; if accepted, the horses were taken into the father's herd,
thereby announcing the engagement. Sometimes a marriage was
arranged with an older man of wealth, but girls resisted such
unions, often eloping with the young men they truly loved .
Old men who no longer went on the war path had a special tipi
called the Smoke Lodge, where they gathered each day. A man
typically joined when he became more interested in the past than
the future. Boys and women were not allowed inside, and new members
underwent an initiation.
A very old and ill person was left behind, or abandoned by everyone
other than close family. This was not because they lacked sympathy,
but because they were afraid that evil spirits were invading his
body. As death approached, the old person gave away his belongings.
He made his last medicine, then found a quiet place to lie down and
waited to die. After he died, the Comanches immediately buried his
body by piling rocks on top. His knees were folded, bound in this
position with a rope, and then bathed. The face was painted red and
the eyes sealed with clay.
The deceased was attired in the finest available clothing and then
laid upon a blanket. Loved ones took a final look at the deceased,
and then the body was wrapped in another blanket and tied with
buffalo-hide rope. Placed in a sitting position on a horse, the
body was taken to the burial place, which was usually a cave, a
deep ravine, or a crevice high among the rocks.
The body was placed in a sitting position, or on its side, in a
hole, or on the ground, around stacked rocks and wooden poles.
late nineteenth century, some Comanches, especially those living
along the Red River, built tree or scaffold
burial structures like those used by the Cheyenne and other
The Comanche did not fear death, but death
worried them. They often broke camp after a burial to get away from
the place of death.
There was little mourning for the old people who died, but intense
mourning for a young man who died.
When they lived with the Shoshone, the Comanche mainly used
for transportation. Later
they acquired horses from other tribes and from the Spaniards.
Since horses are faster, easier to control and able to carry more,
this helped with their hunting and warfare and made moving camp
easier. Being herbivores, horses were also easier to feed than
dogs, since meat was a valuable resource.
The Comanche were initially hunter-gatherers
. When they lived in the
migration to the Great Plains, both men and women shared the
responsibility of gathering and providing food. When the Comanche
reached the plains, hunting came to predominate. Hunting was
considered a male activity and was a principal source of
For meat, the Comanche ate buffalo, elk, black bears, pronghorn,
and deer. When game was scarce, the men hunted wild mustangs,
sometimes eating their own ponies. In later years the Comanche
raided Texas ranches and stole longhorn cattle. They did not eat
fish or fowl, unless starving, when they would eat virtually any
creature they could catch, including armadillos, skunks, rats,
lizards, frogs, and grasshoppers.
Buffalo meat and other game was prepared and cooked by the women.
The women also gathered wild fruits, seeds, nuts, berries, roots,
and tubers — including plums, grapes, juniper berries, persimmons,
mulberries, acorns, pecans, wild onions, radishes, and the fruit of
the prickly pear cactus. The Comanche also acquired maize
, dried pumpkin, and tobacco through trade and
Most meats were roasted over a fire or boiled. To boil fresh or
dried meat and vegetables, women dug a pit in the ground, which
they lined with animal skins or buffalo stomach and filled with
water to make a kind of cooking pot. They placed heated stones in
the water until it boiled and had cooked their stew. After they
came into contact with the Spanish, the Comanche traded for copper
pots and iron kettles, which made cooking easier.
Women used berries and nuts, as well as honey and tallow
, to flavor buffalo meat. They stored the
tallow in intestine casings or rawhide pouches called parfleches
. They especially liked to make a
sweet mush of buffalo marrow mixed with crushed mesquite
The Comanches sometimes ate raw meat, especially raw liver flavored
with gall. They also drank the milk from the slashed udders of
buffalo, deer, and elk. Among their delicacies was the curdled milk
from the stomachs of suckling buffalo calves. They also enjoyed
buffalo tripe, or stomachs.
Comanche people generally had a light meal in the morning and a
large evening meal. During the day they ate whenever they were
hungry or when it was convenient. Like other Plains Indians
, the Comanche were very
hospitable people. They prepared meals whenever a visitor arrived
in camp, which led to outsiders' belief that the Comanches ate at
all hours of the day or night. Before calling a public event, the
chief took a morsel of food, held it to the sky, and then buried it
as a peace offering to the Great Spirit. Many families offered
thanks as they sat down to eat their meals in their tipis.
Comanche children ate pemmican
, but this
was primarily a tasty, high-energy food reserved for war parties.
Carried in a parfleche pouch, pemmican was eaten only when the men
did not have time to hunt. Similarly, in camp, people ate pemmican
only when other food was scarce. Traders ate pemmican sliced and
dipped in honey, which they called Indian bread.
the area inhabited by the Comanches was flat and dry, with the
exception of major rivers like the Cimarron
River, the Pecos River, the
Brazos River, and the Red River.
The water of these rivers was often too dirty to drink, so the
Comanches usually lived along the smaller, clear streams that
flowed into them. These streams supported trees that the Comanche
used to build shelters.
The Comanche sheathed their tipis with a covering made of buffalo
hides sewn together. To prepare the buffalo hides, women first
spread them on the ground, then scraped away the fat and flesh with
blades made from bones or antlers, and left them in the sun. When
the hides were dry, they scraped off the thick hair, and then
soaked them in water. After several days, they vigorously rubbed
the hides in a mixture of animal fat, brains, and liver to soften
the hides. The hides were made even more supple by further rinsing
and working back and forth over a rawhide thong. Finally, they were
smoked over a fire, which gave the hides a light tan color.
To finish the tipi covering, women laid the tanned hides side by
side and stitched them together. As many as twenty-two hides could
be used, but fourteen was the average. When finished, the hide
covering was tied to a pole and raised, wrapped around the
cone-shaped frame, and pinned together with pencil-sized wooden
skewers. Two wing-shaped flaps at the top of the tipi were turned
back to make an opening, which could be adjusted to keep out the
moisture and held pockets of insulating air. With a fire pit in the
center of the earthen floor, the tipis stayed warm in the winter.
In the summer, the bottom edges of the tipis could be rolled up to
let cool breezes in. Cooking was done outside during the hot
weather. Tipis were very practical homes for itinerant people.
Working together, women could quickly set them up or take them
down. An entire Comanche band could be packed and chasing a buffalo
herd within about twenty minutes. The Comanche women were the ones
who did the most work with food processing and preparation.
Comanche clothing was simple and easy to wear. Men wore a leather
belt with a breechcloth — a long piece of buckskin that was brought
up between the legs and looped over and under the belt at the front
and back, and loose-fitting deerskin leggings. Moccasins
had soles made from thick, tough buffalo
hide with soft deerskin uppers.
The Comanche men wore nothing on the upper body except in the
winter, when they wore warm, heavy robes made from buffalo hides
(or occasionally, bear
, or coyote
knee-length buffalo-hide boots. Young boys usually went without
clothes except in cold weather. When they reached the age of eight
or nine, they began to wear the clothing of a Comanche adult.
In the 19th century, men used woven cloth to replace the buckskin
breechcloths, and the men began wearing loose-fitting buckskin
shirts. The women decorated their shirts, leggings and moccasins
with fringes made of deer-skin, animal fur, and human hair. They
also decorated their shirts and leggings with patterns and shapes
formed with beads and scraps of material.
Comanche women wore long deerskin dresses. The dresses had a flared
skirt and wide, long sleeves, and were trimmed with buckskin
fringes along the sleeves and hem. Beads and pieces of metal were
attached in geometric patterns. Comanche women wore buckskin
moccasins with buffalo soles. In the winter they, too, wore warm
buffalo robes and tall, fur-lined buffalo-hide boots.
Unlike the boys, young girls did not go without clothes. As soon as
they were able to walk, they were dressed in breechcloths. By the
age of twelve or thirteen, they adopted the clothes of Comanche
Hair and headgear
Comanche people took pride in their hair, which was worn long and
rarely cut. They arranged their hair with porcupine
quill brushes, greased it and parted it
in the center from the forehead to the back of the neck. They
painted the scalp along the parting with yellow, red, or white clay
(or other colors). They wore their hair in two long braids tied
with leather thongs or colored cloth, and sometimes wrapped with
fur. They also braided a strand of
hair from the top of their head. This slender braid, called a scalp
lock, was decorated with colored scraps of cloth and beads, and a
Comanche men rarely wore anything on their heads. Only after they
moved onto a reservation late in the 19th century did Comanche men
begin to wear the typical Plains headdress
. If the winter was severely cold, they
might wear a brimless, woolly buffalo hide hat.
When they went to war, some warriors wore a headdress made from a
buffalo's scalp. Warriors cut away most of the hide and flesh from
a buffalo head, leaving only a portion of the woolly hair and the
horns. This type of woolly, horned buffalo hat was worn only by the
Comanche women did not let their hair grow as long as the men did.
Young women might wear their hair long and braided, but women
parted their hair in the middle and kept it short. Like the men,
they painted their scalp along the parting with bright paint.
Comanche men usually had pierced ears
with hanging earrings made from pieces of shell or loops of brass
or silver wire. A female relative would pierce the outer edge of
the ear with six or eight holes. The men also tattooed
their face, arms, and chest with geometric
designs, and painted their face and body. Traditionally they used
paints made from berry juice and the colored clays of the
Comancheria. Later, traders supplied them with vermilion (red
pigment) and bright grease paints. Comanche men also wore bands of
leather and strips of metal on their arms.
Except for black, which was the color for war, there was no
standard color or pattern for face and body painting: it was a
matter of individual preference. For example, one Comanche might
paint one side of his face white and the other side red; another
might paint one side of his body green and the other side with
green and black stripes. One Comanche might always paint himself in
a particular way, while another might change the colors and designs
when so inclined. Some designs had special meaning to the
individual, and special colors and designs might have been revealed
in a dream.
Comanche women might also tattoo their face or arms. They were fond
of painting their bodies and were free to paint themselves however
they pleased. A popular pattern among the women was to paint the
insides of their ears a bright red and paint great orange and red
circles on their cheeks. They usually painted red and yellow around
Arts and crafts
Because of their frequent traveling, Comanche Indians had to make
sure that their household goods and other possessions were
unbreakable. They did not use pottery that could easily be broken
on long journeys. Basketry, weaving, wood carving, and metal
working were also unknown among the Comanches. Instead, they
depended upon the buffalo for most of their tools, household goods,
and weapons. They made nearly 200 different articles were made from
the horns, hide, and bones of the buffalo.
Removing the lining of the inner stomach, women made the paunch
into a water bag. The lining was stretched over four sticks and
then filled with water to make a pot for cooking soups and stews.
With wood scarce on the plains, women relied on buffalo chips
(dried dung) to fuel the fires that cooked meals and warmed the
people through long winters.
Stiff rawhide was fashioned into saddles, stirrups and cinches,
knife cases, buckets, and moccasin soles. Rawhide was also made
into rattles and drums. Strips of rawhide were twisted into sturdy
ropes. Scraped to resemble white parchment, rawhide skins were
folded to make parfleches in which food, clothing, and other
personal belongings were kept. Women also tanned
to make soft and supple buckskin, which was used for tipi
covers, warm robes, blankets, cloths, and moccasins. They also
relied upon buckskin for bedding, cradles, dolls, bags, pouches,
quivers, and gun cases.
was used for bowstrings and sewing
thread. Hooves were turned into glue and rattles. The horns were
shaped into cups, spoons, and ladles, while the tail made a good
whip, a fly-swatter, or a decoration for the tipi. Men made tools,
scrapers, and needles from the bones, as well as a kind of pipe,
and fashioned toys for their children. As warriors, however, men
concentrated on making bows and arrows, lances, and shields. The
thick neck skin of an old bull was ideal for war shields that
deflected arrows as well as bullets. Since they spent most of each
day on horseback, they also fashioned leather into saddles,
stirrups, and other equipment for their mounts. Buffalo hair was
used to fill saddle pads and was also used in rope and
The language spoken by the Comanche
um u tekwap u
), is a Numic language
of the Uto-Aztecan language group
. It is
closely related to the language of the
, from which the Comanche diverged around 1700. The two
languages remain closely related, but a few low-level sound changes
inhibit mutual intelligibility. The earliest records of Comanche
from 1786 clearly show a dialect of Shoshone, but by the beginning
of the 20th century, these sound changes had modified the way
Comanche sounded in subtle, but profound, ways. Although efforts
are now being made to ensure its survival, most speakers of the
language are elderly, and less than one percent of the Comanches
can speak the language. In the late 19th century, Comanche children
were placed in boarding schools where they were discouraged from
speaking their native language and even severely punished for doing
so. The second generation then grew up speaking English, because it
was believed that it was better for them not to know
During World War II
, a group of
seventeen young men referred to as "The Comanche Code Talkers
" were trained and used by the
messages conveying sensitive information that could not be
deciphered by the Germans.
Comanche Nation today
headquarters of the Comanche Nation is Lawton, Oklahoma and their tribal jurisdictional area is within
Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Grady, Jefferson, Kiowa, Stephens, and Tillman Counties.
Michael Burgess is the elected Tribal
Chairman. The election for chairman is held every four years. The
Comanche Nation issues its own tribal vehicle tags. They operate
ten tribal smoke shops, a bingo hall, the Comanche Nation Water
Park, Comanche Nation Funeral Home, and four casinos. Specifically, the
tribe owns Comanche Nation Games in Lawton, Comanche Red River
Casino in Devol, Comanche
Spur Casino in Elgin, Comanche
Star Casino in Walters, and Comanche Smokeshop and Game Center, also in
Their annual economic impact is estimated
by the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commissions to be $18 million
In 2002, the tribe founded the Comanche Nation College
, a two-year
tribal college in Lawton.
Comanches from across the United States gather to celebrate their
heritage and culture in Walters, Oklahoma at the annual Comanche Homecoming powwow.
The Comanche Nation Fair is held every September. The Comanche
Little Ponies host two annual dances—one over New Years and one in
- Blackbear Bosin (1921-1980),
Kiowa-Comanche sculptor and painter
- Charles Chibitty (1921-2005),
World War II Comanche code talker
- LaDonna Harris (b. 1931),
political activist and founder of Americans for Indian
- Quanah Parker, chief, founder of
Native American Church, and
- Rudy Youngblood, actor, starred
in Apocalypto, not enrolled in
- Thomas Edison Ford, country
- George "Comanche Boy" Tahdooahnippah,
professional boxer and NABC super middleweight champion
- Frank McLynn, Review of Pekka Hämäläinen,
The Comanche Empire.
- Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2008
Pocket Pictorial. Page 11
- Meredith, Howard L. A Short History of the Native Americans
in the United States. Malabar, FL: Krieger Publishing Company,
2001. ISBN 1-57524-139-0.
- The Comanches: Lords of the Southern Plains.
University of Oklahoma Press. 1952.
- Online at Google Books
- Swan, Daniel C. Peyote Religious Art: Symbols of Faith and
Belief. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1999: 19.
- McLaughlin, John E. (1992) "A Counter-Intuitive Solution in
Central Numic Phonology," International Journal of American
Linguistics 58: pp.158-81
- McLaughlin, John E. (2000) "Language Boundaries and
Phonological Borrowing in the Central Numic Languages" In
Casad, Gene and Willett, Thomas (eds.) (2000) Uto-Aztecan:
Structural, temporal, and geographic perspectives: papers in memory
of Wick R. Miller by the Friends of Uto-Aztecan Universidad de
Sonora, División de Humanidades y Bellas Artes, Hermosillo, Sonora,
Mexico, pp. 293-304, ISBN 970-689-030-0
Nation College. 2009 (16 Feb 2009)
- Comanche Nation Tourism Center. Comanche
Nation. (16 Feb 2009)
- Bial, Raymond (2000) Lifeways: The Comanche Benchmark
Books, New York, ISBN 0-7614-0864-9, juvenile audience
- Fehrenbach, Theodore Reed (1974) The Comanches: The
Destruction of a People Knopf, New York, ISBN 0-394-48856-3;
republished in 2003 under the title The Comanches: The History
of a People Anchor Books, New York, ISBN 1-4000-3049-8
- Foster, Morris W. (1991) Being Comanche: a social history
of an American Indian community Univ Of Arizona Press, Tucson,
Arizona, ISBN 0-8165-1367-8
Pekka (2008) The Comanche Empire Yale University
Press, New Haven, Conn., ISBN 978-0-300-12654-9; originally his
2001 thesis The Comanche Empire: A Study of Indigenous Power,
- John, Elizabeth A. H. (1975) Storms Brewed in Other Men's
Worlds: The Confrontation of the Indian, Spanish, and French in the
Southwest, 1540-1795 Texas A&M Press, College Station,
Texas, ISBN 0-89096-000-3
- Jones, David E. (1974) Sanapia: Comanche Medicine
Woman Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York, ISBN
- Kenner, Charles (1969) A History of New Mexican-Plains
Indian Relations University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Okla.,
- Lodge, Sally (1992) Native American People: The
Comanche Rourke Publications, Inc., Vero Beach, Florida, ISBN
0-86625-390-4, Juvenile audience
- Lund, Bill (1997) Native Peoples: The Comanche Indians
Bridgestone Books, Mankato, Minnesota, ISBN 1-56065-478-3, Primary
- Mooney, Martin (1993) The Junior Library of American
Indians: The Comanche Indians Chelsea House Publishers, New
York, ISBN 0-7910-1653-6, Juvenile audience
- Noyes, Stanley (1993) Los Comanches the horse people,
1751-1845 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico,
- Richardson, Rupert Norval (1933) The Comanche Barrier to
South Plains Settlement: A Century and a Half of Savage Resistance
to the Advancing White Frontier Arthur H. Clark Company,
Glendale, Calif., OCLC 251275170; reprinted in 1996 by Eakin
Press, Austin, Texas, OCLC
- Rollings, Willard (1989) Indians of North America: The
Comanche Chelsea House Publishers, New York, ISBN
1-55546-702-4, Juvenile audience
- Secoy, Frank (1953) Changing Military Patterns on the Great
Plains (17th century through early 19th century) (Monograph of
the American Ethnological Society, No. 21) J. J. Augustin, Locust
Valley, N.Y., OCLC 2830994
- Streissguth, Thomas (2000) Indigenous Peoples of North
America: The Comanche Lucent Books, San Diego, Calif., ISBN
1-56006-633-4, Juvenile audience
- Thomas, Alfred Barnaby (1940) The Plains Indians and New
Mexico, 1751-1778: A collection of documents illustrative of the
history of the eastern frontier of New Mexico University of
New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, OCLC
- Wallace, Ernest, and Hoebel, E.
Adamson (1952) The Comanche: Lords of the Southern Plains
University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Okla., OCLC