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. See the articles on the Apaches and Jumanos. To drive out the
Apaches they must have been very fierce fighters. This area is now part
of the Texas Panhandle and Northwest Texas. You can find this on a map.
Look on a map around the modern cities of Abaline
and Amarillo. This is the area were the Comanches first lived in 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. If you dont know what I am talking about
or are confused by this you should have read "Read
Me First" first. 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.
We now have some Comanche languages (names). Look at the
last part of the Comanche story /page.
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. Read
about the great raid of 1840 and the Battle of Plum Creek for and example
of how well the Comanches were when on horseback. 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.
Go to the Indian Horse page to learn more about
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
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.
Here is a good Comanche myth. Thanks to
Jane Archer and Wordware Publishing for sharing it with us. This is Jane's
favorite Indian myth. She calls it Indian fast food!!! Read it and see
from Texas Indian
Myths and Legends
by Jane Archer
One time the People camped at
the base of a mountain near a rushing stream. Over time a person disappeared,
then another. The band grew troubled and took their worries to their medicine
makers. After sweat lodge purification, after sage and sweet grass cleansing,
the medicine makers held council.
"I do not trust those deer," Medicine Man said.
"I trust them less than you." Medicine Woman looked up at the
mountain where the deer lived near a large cave.
"I suspect they are stealing our people."
"And keeping them in their cave."
"To eat," Medicine Man said.
"Our people depend on us to care for them."
"And we must do so.
Medicine Man and Medicine Woman walked up the mountain to the cave of the
Guard Deer stood near four sticks at the dark hole of an entrance.
"Good morning," Medicine Woman said. "How are you?"
"You look plump and well," Medicine Man said.
"What food do you eat?" Medicine Woman asked.
"We eat good food," Guard Deer said. "Would you like to
"Yes, we would."
Guard Deer picked up one of the sticks and knocked on the entrance. "One
A buffalo trotted out.
"That is impressive," Medicine Woman said.
"Watch this." Guard Deer hit the entrance again. "One buffalo
A buffalo calf walked out.
"I am really impressed," Medicine Man said.
"Now you know how we get our food," Guard Deer said. "You
may see no more."
"Thank you," Medicine Woman said.
As the medicine makers walked away, they whispered to each other.
"I do not believe that is all in their cave," Medicine Man said.
"I agree. We must find out what else is in there."
They hid behind a large rock while they considered their problem.
"Maybe we could change the sticks when Guard Deer looks the other
way," Medicine Man said.
"Guard Deer is too sharp."
"That is true."
"They must change guards soon and the entrance will be unguarded for
a brief time," Medicine Woman said.
"We must strike then."
Without making a sound, they worked their way back to the entrance. Concealed
behind rocks and plants, they watched and waited. Soon Guard Deer stepped
away to consult the next Guard Deer.
They raced to the entrance.
Medicine Woman grabbed a stick and hit the cave. "Two people."
Two warriors walked out.
Medicine Man placed his hand on the stick, and they struck again. "More
Many men ran out of the cave. All of them carried bows with arrows in quivers
on their backs.
Deer erupted from all directions, but the warriors fought together to drive
them back. When the battle was won by the People, most of the deer lay
dead. The medicine makers turned to the deer still alive.
"We are the strongest so hereafter we will eat you," Medicine
"Your skin and bones, all of your body, will be used to help the People,"
Medicine Woman added.
Guard Deer raised a head. "So be it."
Copyright, 2000, Jane Archer
If you enjoyed this myth, read more in Texas Indian Myths and
Jane Archer. Ask your librarian to order Texas Indian Myths and Legends
for your school.
Did you like that myth? To learn more
about Indian myths and for activities using myths check out our Indian Myths page.
When the Spanish tried to settle in Texas in
the 1700s it was the Comanches who kept them in the south of Texas. After
conquering so many other Indian cultures the Spanish could not defeat the
Comanches and move farther north. When the Germans and Americans started
moving near and into Comanche territory they were asking for trouble and
they got it. The Comanches attacked settlers and stole horses and cattle
from settlers just like they did from other Indian cultures and the Spanish.
The Comanches would take captives whom they would offer to return for a
price. The Comanches were not very good to have as neighbors.
The early Texans were not such nice guys either.
At the Council House fight in San Antonio in 1840 the Texans used a flag
of truce to lure 33 Comanche chiefs into town to talk and make peace. They
then made demands the Indians could not meet or agree to. One of the goals
of the meeting was to get captive whites back from the Comanche. The Comanche
brought one captive to the meeting. They held others back to have something
to negotiate with. Also, some white captives were under the control of
bands of Comanche who did not come to the meeting. The Texans demanded
that the Comanche turn over all the captives right away. When the Indians
did not immediately give in to the demands, instead of honoring the white
flag of truce, the Texans started shooting the surprised unarmed Indians.
The Comanches fought back, but all of them were killed. Even the Comanches
camped outside of town were attacked by surprise and many were killed.
Everyone knows that white flag means a truce and not dirty tricks like
that. After that the Comanches had a hard time trusting the word of any
European. Recall in all of this that the Comanches had been taking captives
from everyone around them and then negotiating and trading for goods to
give them back for 200 years. The Texans either knew this or should have
known. The Texans probably would have gotten the captives back without
bloodshed if they had just negotiated in good faith.
The Council House fight led to the Great Raid
of 1840. In August of 1840 the Comanches, led by war chief Buffalo
Hump, raided all the way to the Texas coast. This was revenge for the
Council House fight. They raided and burned the towns of Victoria and Linnville.
They stole hundreds of horses and mules and as much stuff as they could
carry. They then returned to their own lands. On the way back they fought
the battle of Plum Creek near Lockhart.
In 1846 Buffalo Hump signed a treaty with the
US government at Council Springs. He led the Comanches to the Brazos river
reservation in 1849. In 1856 he led the Comanches to the Oklahoma reservation
at Ft. Cobb. In 1892 the reservation was dissolved. Each family was given
160 acres. This was called an allotment. Allotment means dividing something
up and allotting (giving parts) the parts to individuals. An allotment
is like a share. The US Government got all the land that was not given
to Comanche families and that was a lot of land. This land was sold to
white settlers in 1901. 500,000 acres of Comanche land was held back, but
it was leased to white ranchers in 1906. The Comanches still live in the
area around the town of Lawton.
This was the time period of tribal enrollment.
To get an allotment an Indian had to be enrolled in the tribe. Enrollment
means they registered with the United States Government as a member of
the tribe. Many Indians did not register for many reasons. This has caused
trouble ever since. The Indians who did register say the Indians who did
not are not really Indians anymore.
One reason many Indians did not enroll is because
some of them were passing as white people. Many Indians were and are part
white and look enough like a white person to mistaken for white. Being
seen as white was important back in the 1890s because of the racism back
| For you younger readers, there were many laws
and customs in the 1890s and later that discriminated against what were
called "persons of color" or colored persons. Persons of color
were Africans, Mexicans, Chinese and of course Indians. Of course the term
colored means their skin was not white. There were laws back then called
Jim Crow laws that banned colored persons from sitting in or eating in
white only restaurants. Persons of color were not allowed in the city limits
of many towns after dark. Businesses could refuse to do business with them
and did so. In some places Jim Crow laws required persons of color to always
be employed or be sent to prison to work on convict labor gangs. Persons
of color or "coloreds' as they were called by whites were not allowed
to vote, could not hold elected office, and were not allowed to sue or
use the court system. Their children had to go to substandard colored schools
and often had no schools. Many jobs and professions were forbidden to coloreds.
Most colleges in the south refused colored students by law. In most towns
they had to live in colored sections of town and could not buy or live
in white only parts of town. So, if an Indian could pass as being white
they did. Many did not want to enroll and come under the Jim Crow laws.|
Life on the reservations was very hard on all
the Indians. Often the U S government did not honor its promises to provide
food and shelter. As time went on the better land on the reservation was
taken away and given to whites. But the worst part was the racial discrimination.
Indians were treated the way black and Hispanic people were treated and
often worse. They had few or no rights. They were not allowed to have good
jobs or a good education. Indian children were often taken away from their
families and sent to far off schools. Schools where the boys were trained
to be farm hands and laborers for white people and the girls were taught
to be maids and cooks. For many years they were not allowed to have good
jobs . All of this forced the Comanches to live in poverty for many years.
Much has changed for the Comanche and now they
are doing much better. They have much better schools and many of them now
got to college. There are Comanche doctors, lawyers and teachers now. Most
of them live in decent houses and own cars or trucks.
There are quite a few Comanches living today
and they are all proud of their culture. Comanches today live in houses
like everyone else. They drive cars and the kids go to schools on busses.
They can get a burger down at McDonalds if they want. They also still get
together and do the old dances and sing the old songs in Comanche. Elders
still tell the old stories about Comanche heroes and the old days when
the Comanches ruled the southern plains.
Names from Comanches
Americans : pabotabeb
Arrow : pacande
Arrowhead : tahka
Bear : guasape White bear : tosaguara
Bird : juhtzu
Black : tuhubit
Brave : teconiuap
Buffalo : cuhtz
Butterfly : ueyahcora
Cardinal bird : ecjuhtzu
Chewing gum : sanahco
Clothing : nenamuiecap
Colt : pucurua
CORN : janib
Cougar : toyarohco
Coyote : tzena
Dance : nihcaro
Dawn : nabuni
Deer : areca
Dream : nabusiaep
Drink : jibito
Drum : sabahpaqui
Eagle : piajuhtzu
Flea : ecapusia
Flint : tetecae
Flower : sahtotzip
Gold : oaui
Gourd : oteauh
Grandfather : roco
Grandmother : caco
Hand : moo
Hat : suparello
Honey : uobipihuab
Horse : puc ; Mustang horse cobe
Hummingbird : temuqit
Jaguar : naboroya
Kiss : murrae
Knife : ui
Leather : taibobicap
Man : tenahpua
Meat : tehcap
Morning star : tahtatzi-nupi
Mother : pia
North Star : tatzinupi-puetuh-catutamiae
Old : puetep
Owl : mupitz neminoet
PayPal : PayPal see Gold : auui
Rabbit : tabo
Rainbow : paracoa
Rattle Snake : uehquetzutzu
Skunk : nabohcutz
Sky : tomobi
Spider : tatetz
Sun : taabe
Thunder : tomoyaque
Turkey : cuyon
Turtle : uacani
Ugly : ayaquia ayo
Warbonnet : tunahuasa
Water : uahpahcaep
White : tosabite
Wolf : piasa
Woman : guahpe
Wood : juhpi
Worm : uoabi
Yellow : ojapite
Yes : jaa
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