The Comanche tribe


The Comanches were fierce warriors who lived on the Southern Plains.   The Southern Plains extend down from the state of Nebraska into the north part of Texas.   The Comanches are one of the most historically important Indian cultures from Texas.   The Comanches were much more than just warriors.  According to the old Spanish records and other sources they were also very good traders.

The Spanish used to hold trade fairs in the city of Taos and in Santa Fe in what is now New Mexico.  Records from trade fairs in old Taos and Santa Fe describe the Comanches at the trade fairs.  They were well dressed.   The Comanche leaders often wore fine European clothes, with many silver conchos and fine leather boots.  And they had money.   They would come to trade in organized groups.  There was always one Comanche in these groups who could speak Spanish, French, and four or five Indian languages.

The group always had a leader who was very skilled as a trader and diplomat.  The problem was most of what they had to sell or trade was stuff they had stolen.  They sold the stolen horses and women and children they had kidnapped.   The relatives of the women and children would come to these fairs to buy them back.  This kidnapping for ransom would later get the Comanche in big trouble with the American settlers who were much less tolerant of it than the Spanish or Pueblo Indians were.


The Comanches were almost as new to Texas as the Spanish.   They came from way up north from Wyoming.  The Comanches were once part of the Shoshone Indians.  The Comanche language and the Shoshone language are still almost the same.  Bands of Comanches began moving south a long time ago.  By the early 1700s they showed up in the Texas panhandle and in New Mexico.

Before the Comanches arrived, the Jumano Indians and some Pueblo Indians and some Apache Indians had lived in the Southern Plains.  To move into this area the Comanches first had to drive these other tribes out.   To drive out the Apaches they must have been very fierce fighters.

This area is now part of the Texas Panhandle and Northwest Texas.  Later, they kept moving south.   By the middle 1700s they had come almost down to where Kerrville is now and over to near Austin.  This is where the first German and American settlers found them, and where most maps show them to be - from around Kerrville all the way up to Amarillo and the western part of the state of Oklahoma and in eastern New Mexico.   The city of Lubbock is in the middle of the old Comanche territory.

The Comanches were organized as bands.  They are not really a tribe.   The only time there were leaders over more than one band was when two or three bands joined to fight a common enemy or to go on a very big raid.   Then a temporary war chief would be named to lead the war parties.  After the war or raid the chief would quit and each band would go back to its own leaders.

There were about 12 bands of Comanches, but this number probably changed.   The most famous band was the Penatekas.  Penateka means honey eater in Comanche.   Some other band names were;  The Quahadies, Quahadie means antelope, the Buffalo -eaters, and the Yap-eaters, yap is the name of a plant root.

When the Comanches first started moving south they came one or two bands at a time.  Tradition says the Penateka band was the first to move south.  Other bands soon followed.   They moved from an environment of mountain valleys with limited food resources and harsh winters out onto the great plains.

On the plains they hunted buffalo and elk and learned to live like other plains Indians.   Remember that they did not have any horses back then, so they had to walk to get around and hunt.  The plains gave them more food, but they had to compete with the other Indian tribes who already lived on the plains.   This may be where and when they learned to fight so well and steal from other tribes around them.

The Comanche got their first horses around 1680 from the Spanish and Pueblo Indians.  Once they had horses they learned to use them.

Many experts have said that the Comanche were the finest light cavalry in the world.  When it came to riding and fighting on horseback only the Cheyenne Indians came anywhere close.  The Comanches used this skill with horses to win many battles and overcome their opponents.  The Comanche could do things on and with horses that amazed other people who were also good with horses.  They could ride faster and farther and get more out of a horse than any of their competitors could.   On foot they were not such good fighters.

They lived in tee-pees, like most plains Indians, and they were nomadic.  Each band would move around from place to place to hunt and trade.  Often they would cover hundreds of miles in one year.  While the men fought, and hunted, the women gathered the plants and other foods they ate.   This way of living is called being "hunter - gatherers".   Because they moved all the time they are nomadic.  So they were nomadic hunter gathers.

The food the women gathered made up much more of the food they had than the hunting by the men.  Of course, when the men killed many buffalo there was plenty to eat.   But, on a day to day basis the women gathered most of the food.  The women also cooked the food and kept the tee-pee clean.  They also looked after the kids.  When they moved it was the women who took down and put up the tee- pee.  That is quite a bit of hard work.

Because they moved around so much they liked things that were light weight and that did not break easily.  This is why they did not make or use much pottery.   They made and used baskets and leather to make containers.   They also used animal skins and woven grass mats on the floors of their tee pees.



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