• external image CIMG3209.JPGComanche, Native North American tribe, a southern branch of the Shoshone, of Uto-Aztecan language family, and of the Plains culture area.
  • The Comanche left their original arid territory west of the Rocky Mountains to move to the southern Great Plains around the 15th century. Here they drove out the Apache people and dominated a vast area during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
  • The Comanche were the most skillful equestrians of the Plains. The pinto ponies they preferred were originally acquired by raiding the Spanish and later were bred by the tribe.
  • Extremely warlike, the Comanche made frequent raids on both European and Native American settlements over a wide area. They extended their forays as far south as Mexico and kept settlers out of their territory for more than a century.
  • They made peace with the United States government in 1875. The Comanche probably numbered about 30,000 in the early 1800s but shortly thereafter an epidemic reduced their population to fewer than 10,000.
  • A nomadic people, the Comanche lived by hunting bison, commonly called buffalo.
  • Families dwelt in tepees and were organized socially into patrilineal bands.
  • Tribe members wore buckskins, with fur hats in the winter. The Comanche war helmet was brashly impressive: a bison scalp complete with horns. Both men and women practiced tattooing.
  • Comanche religion stressed visionary experiences, which an individual deliberately sought out in isolated situations of privation. Animal spirits were believed to favor particular individuals and to render aid to them; protective spirits were also believed to dwell in rocks and thunder.
  • Comanche descendants numbered 11,456 in 1990. Some live on private landholdings in Oklahoma.
  • One of the southern tribes of the Shoshonean stock, and the only one of that group living entirely on the plains. Their language and traditions show that they are a comparatively recent offshoot from the Shoshoni of Wyoming, both tribes speaking practically the same dialect and, until very recently, keeping up constant and friendly communication. Within the traditionary period the 2 tribes lived adjacent to each other in south Wyoming, since which time the Shoshoni have been beaten back into the mountains by the Sioux and other prairie tribes, while the Comanche have been driven steadily southward by the same pressure. In this southerly migration the Penateka seem to have preceded the rest of the tribe. The Kiowa say that when they themselves moved southward from the Black hills region, the Arkansas was the north boundary of the Comanche.
  • In 1719 the Comanche are mentioned under their Siouan name of Padouca as living in what now is west Kansas. It must he remembered that from 500 to 800 miles was an ordinary range for a prairie tribe and that the Comanche were equally at home on the Platte and in the Bolson de Mapimi of Chihuahua. As late as 1805 the North Platte was still known as Padouca fork. At that time they roamed over the country about the heads of tile Arkansas, Red, Trinity, and Brazos rivers, in Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. For nearly 2 centuries they were at war with the Spaniards of Mexico and extended their raids far down into Durango. They were friendly to the Americans generally, but became bitter enemies of the Texans, by whom they were dispossessed of their best hunting grounds, and carried on a relentless war against them for nearly 40 years. They have been close confederates of the Kiowa since about 1795. In 1835 they made their first treaty with the Government, and by the treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867 agreed to go on their assigned reservation between Washita and Red rivers, south west Oklahoma; but it was not until after the last outbreak of the southern prairie tribes in 1874-75 that they and their allies, the Kiowa and Apache, finally settled on it. They were probably never a large tribe, although supposed to be populous on account of their wide range.
  • Within the last 50 years they have been terribly wasted by war and disease. They numbered 1,400 in 1904, attached to the Kiowa agency, Okla.
  • Asa Havi (The Milky Way)
    Asa Havi (The Milky Way)
    The Comanche were nomad buffalo hunters, constantly on the move, cultivating little from the ground, and living in skin tipis. They were long noted as the finest horsemen of the plains and bore a reputation for dash and courage. They have a high sense of honor and hold themselves superior to the other tribes with which they are associated. In person they are well built and rather corpulent. Their language is the trade language of the region and is more or less understood by all the neighboring tribes. It is sonorous and flowing, its chief characteristic being a rolling r. The language has several dialects.
  • The gentile system seems to be unknown among the Comanche. They have, or still remember, 12 recognized divisions or bands and may have had others in former times. Of these all but 5 are practically extinct. The Kwahari and Penateka are the most important. Following, in alphabetic order, is the complete list as given by their leading chiefs: Detsanayuka or Nokoni; Ditsakana, Widyu, Yapa, or Yamparika; Kewatsana; Kotsai; Kotsoteka; Kwahari or Kwahadi; Motsai; Pagatsu; Penateka or Penande; Pohoi (adopted Shoshoni); Tanima; Tenawa or Tenahwit; Waaih. In addition to these the following have also been mentioned by writers as Comanche divisions: Guage-johe, Keaston, Kwashi, Muvinabore, Nauniem, Parkeenaum.
  • 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. See the map. 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 ( look those cities up on a map ) 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.
The Comanche were a Native North American tribe,
a southern branch of the Shoshone, of Uto-Aztecan language family, and of the Plains culture area. The Comanche left their original place west of the Rocky Mountains to move to
the southern Great Plains around the 15th century. They drove out the Apache people and rules a large area during the 18th and 19th centuries. The Comanche were the most skillful horsemen of the Plains.
The ponies that the Comanche had, were attained from the Spanish settlers who lived in the area.
They were very warlike and raided many other settlements, both European and Native American. They raided all the way to Mexico and kept settlers from their own territory for about a 100 years. They made agreement with the United States government in 1875. In the early 1800's there were about 30,000 Comanche, but shortly after that a huge plague reduced their population to fewer than 10,000.
The Comanche Indians, a nomadic offshoot of the Eastern Shoshoni Indians, lived on the North-American Southern Great Plains during 1800-1900s. The name "Comanche", a household word found in many works of fiction, TV shows, videogames etc., is believed to come from from the Spanish "interpretation" of their Ute name "Kohmahts", meaning: those who are against us, or want to fight us. The Comanche People call themselves "Numunuh", which means: The People. Early explorers knew them as "Padouca"; their Siouan name.
The Comanche language, Uto-Aztecan (Numic), is closely related to the Shoshoni (Ute) linguistic stock.
Prior to their acquiring the horse and gradually migrating to the Southern Great Plains around the 1700s, The Comanche had primarily been a hunter-gatherer people. They moved, attacking and taking over territory occupied by other tribes including the Crow, the Cherokee, the Creek, the Choctaw, and the Apache. The area they controlled became known as "Comancheria".
It is believed the Comanche were the first people of the Plains to use horses in their travels and conquests; they even supplied Americans with horses to reach California during the Gold Rush of 1849. The Comanche were also dependant on the Buffalo for food and clothing.

The Comanche were not a unified tribe, and were divided into 8 to 12 autonomous Sub-Nations which lacked the usual government and millitary organization of the Other Plains Tribes. In turn this gave way to smaller bands and divisions. Comanche population was also in constant flux due to the numerous casualties resulting from conflict, so their numbers varied greatly. It is estimated there are presently over 11,000 people of Comanche descent living in the United-States.

Since the Comanche Indians were more involved in warfare than storytelling and keeping historical records, most of what we know of them is through often biased third party account.

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The Comanche War

Comanche Indian group
Comanche Indian group
The Comanches had commanded the high plains of Central and West Texas for more than a century and waged continuous warfare against white encroachment. President Lamar was determined to end the Comanche menace and clear the way for safe white settlement on the edges of the Texas frontier.
In early 1840, one band of the Comanches, the Penatekas, found themselves dealing with a smallpox epidemic, Texas Rangers, and war with the Cheyennes and Arapahos. At the urging of Colonel Henry W. Karnes, this band traveled to San Antonio to meet with commissioners of the Texas government to negotiate a peace settlement and the return of white captives. Unknown to the Comanches, the Texans had arranged to have a large force present at the meeting. If the Comanches balked at returning the kidnapped whites, this force would seize the Comanches and hold them hostage.
On March 19, 1840, the Comanches arrived at the meeting with only a few of the prisoners, including Matilda Lockhart, a 16-year-old who bore obvious signs of torture and mutilation. Angered at the treatment of the girl and what they perceived to be deliberate cruelty by the Comanches in failing to bring the rest of the captives, Texas soldiers entered the Council House to arrest the Indians. The Comanches immediately called for reinforcements from outside the house. A fight broke out in which seven Texans and thirty-five Comanches, including twelve chiefs, were killed, and thirty Comanche women and children were taken prisoner.
The Comanches believed they had been deliberately lured into an ambush and planned a revenge campaign of unprecedented scale. In August 1840, with Mexican and Kiowa support, about 500 Comanche warriors and an equal number of women and children followed Chief Buffalo Hump down the Guadalupe Valley near Gonzales. On August 6, the raiders struck Victoria and captured more than 1500 horses. On August 8, they attacked the small port of Linnville. Most of the citizens fled by boat into the bay and watched helplessly as the Indians plundered homes and businesses, slaughtered the livestock, and burned the town. In all, fourteen whites, eight blacks, and one Tejano were killed in the raids.
The Comanche triumph was short-lived. On August 12, at Plum Creek near present-day Lockhart, they were intercepted by Texan forces under Felix Huston and Edward Burleson. The Indians were caught by surprise and routed, with a loss of more than eighty men and most of their plunder. The Texans suffered one man killed and seven wounded.
In October 1840, Colonel John H. Moore led a force into Comanche territory and attacked their village on the Red Fork of the Colorado River. Moore's troops killed about 130 warriors and took 34 prisoners. With this devastating loss, the Comanches moved away from the Texas frontier and turned their raiding attentions to Mexico.
Karnes to Johnston, 1840
Karnes to Johnston, 1840

Colonel Henry Karnes to the Secretary of War, 1840

On January 9, 1840, a group of Comanches visited Colonel Henry W. Karnes in San Antonio and asked for peace negotiations in exchange for the return of American prisoners. Karnes, still convalescing from an arrow wound sustained in the Arroyo Seco fight in 1839, was suspicious of the Indians' motives but recommended to Secretary of War Albert Sidney Johnston that a commission be appointed to meet with the Indians.

Texas Indian Papers Volume 1, #74. Letter from Henry W. Karnes to Albert Sidney Johnston, January 10, 1840.

Colonel Hugh McLeod Describes the Council House Fight, 1840

The Comanches believed that the Texans were eager to buy peace and the return of white captives. They considered captives legitimate spoils of war and were oblivious to the rage that the Texans felt over the torture and humiliation suffered by their loved ones. When the Comanches realized they were to be taken hostage by the Texans, a furious melee broke out. To the Indians, the Council House Fight was a profound shock that proved the whites' treachery. Peace between the two peoples would prove impossible to find.

Appendix to the Journals to the House of Representatives, Fifth Congress.
McLeod Report on Council House Fight, 1840
McLeod Report on Council House Fight, 1840

Felix Huston to Branch Archer, 1840
Felix Huston to Branch Archer, 1840

Felix Huston's Report on the Battle of Plum Creek, 1840

In the past, Comanche armies had driven out the Apaches and the Mexicans. Now, Chief Buffalo Hump used the same strategy against the Texans. Buffalo Hump's huge raids on Gonzales and Linnville rocked the Texans as nothing had since Santa Anna's offensive four years earlier. But the Comanches had misjudged the response. Scores of Texas militiamen and rangers set off in pursuit of the Indians. The battle at Plum Creek was a total victory for the Texans and a disaster for the Comanches.

Andrew Jackson Houston Papers #1966. Felix Huston to Secretary of War Branch Archer, August 12, 1840.

"They Must Be Getting Very Tired of Such a War"

The news of the victory at Plum Creek spread quickly. Many Texans were energized and ready to move to annihilate the Comanches once and for all.

Andrew Jackson Houston Papers #1966. Newspaper clipping, Texas Sentinel, August 15, 1840.
Texas Sentinel, August 1840
Texas Sentinel, August 1840

Texas Sentinel, November 1840
Texas Sentinel, November 1840

"Severiest Chastisement the Comanches Have Ever Received"

After his defeat of the Comanches at the Red River, Colonel John H. Moore carved his name on the ruins of the old Spanish presidio at San Sabá, site of the notorious Comanche massacre in 1758.

Andrew Jackson Houston Papers #1966. Newspaper clipping, Texas Sentinel, November 14, 1840.