Native North Americans belonging to the Shoshonean group of the Uto-Aztecan branch of the Aztec-Tanoan linguistic stock. They originated from a Basin-type culture and eventually adopted a Plains culture. They separated from the Shoshone and migrated southward in the late 1600s, appearing in New Mexico around 1705. In the late 18th cent. and early 19th cent. their range included SE Colorado, SW Kansas, W Oklahoma, and N Texas. The Comanche were excellent horsemen and inveterate raiders, often pushing far S into Mexico. They were extremely warlike and effectively prevented white settlers from passing safely through their territory for more than a century. They are said to have killed more whites in proportion to their own numbers than any other Native American group. They were associated with the Kiowa, the Cheyenne, and the Arapaho in a loose confederacy. The Comanche, however, considered themselves superior to their associates, and their language served as the trade language for the area. The sun dance, a common feature in the Plains culture area, was not an important part of Comanche culture; they probably introduced the peyote ritual to the Plains tribes. Never a large group despite their wide range, they were greatly reduced by warfare and disease. See Ernest Wallace and E. A. Hoebel, Comanches, The Lords of the South Plains (1952); J. E. Harston, Comanche Land (1963); A. C. Greene, The Last Captive (1972); T. R. Fehrenbach, Comanches: the Destruction of a People (1974).
The Comanche people call themselves Numunuh , meaning "The People." Early French and American explorers knew the Comanches by their Siouan name, Padouca. The Spanish actually gave the Comanche their present name, suing a word that comes from the Ute term Komantcia that refers to "enemy" or more accurately to "anyone who wants to fight me all the time."
The first real inroads to settlement on the Llano Estacado by
Anglo-Americans began with the explorer-mapmakers. The first of these was
Major Stephen H. Long. He is credited as probably the first Anglo-American
to make contact with the Kiowa Apaches. His experiences with the Llano
Estacado and it's barren landscape probably had a lot to do with him marking
"Great American Desert" across the entire expanse of the Texas Plains.
Future maps would have this designation for about 38 years.
In 1840, Josiah Gregg was determined to establish a better route from Santa
Fe to the eastern part of the United States. A veteran trader, Mr. Gregg
began his journey with 28 wagons, two cannons, 47 men, 200 mules, 300 sheep
and goats, and an Indian guide. At San Miguel, New Mexico, he loaded 600
bushels of corn for the animals. His march took him over the Llano Estacado.
On March 10 they set up camp on the Trujillo Creek in present Oldham County.
There ensued that night an Indian battle with the Pawnees repeatedly
attacking his wagon train and scattering their sheep. Later, they would lose
the remainder of the sheep when a great Northwesterly wind blew up.
The company re-entered US territory on March 23 and reached Fort Smith,
Arkansas on April 15, 1840. With a detailed journal of his route, he is
credited with establishing the famous Santa Fe Trail across the dreaded
Llano Estacado. When the California gold rush started in 1848, over 2,000
people traveled the route prior to 1849. Later still, the trail would be
used by the old Tascosa to Mobeetie stagelines. The trail was used to such
an extent that today, ruts from the wagons can still be seen from highways
and are designated as such by historical markers.
The Comanche Hay Days
In the 1600s, the name Comanche was a generic Ute term which was used for
any warlike tribe. However, by the 1700s, the name Comanche was applied to a
specific tribe, but they called themselves the Nern, or Nim-ma, meaning "The
The Comanches originally came from Idaho, Wyoming, and the neighboring
states. Around 1700 they moved into the southern Great Plains area. There,
they found the Apaches, the same tribes that Coronado had met in 1541.
Having adopted Spanish ponies, the Comanches drove the Apaches out by 1725
and established control of a 240,000 square mile area which came to be known
as the Comancheria. This area was bounded on the North by the Arkansas
River, on the west by the Pecos, on the east by the Cross Timberland, and on
the southwest by the Balcones Escarpment. It included all of the Llano
By 1790, the Comanches became willing to form alliances with other Indian
tribes to combat the appearance of the Anglo-Americans. In that year, they
formed a pack with their arch enemies, the Kiowas and Kiowa-Apaches. As the
American pressure on the eastern tribes grew, those tribes moved into the
Comanche territories and were met with war by the Comanches. By the mid
1800s, the increasing influx of white settlers caused the Comanches to form
further packs with the Osages, the Cheyennes, and even the hated Apaches. By
then, Texas was the 28th state of the United States and that government now
inherited the Indian problems.
By 1858, the newly elected Governor of Texas, Sam Houston, had run on a
political platform of quieting the frontier Indians. He launched a vigorous
attack on the Indian problem and by 1860, there was a sizable number of men
available to fight Indians, including the rangers, minute men, and federal
troops. With such forces available, it looked like the end of the Indians.
But then came the Civil War.
Both the North and South made treaties with the Indians in order to free up
fighters for the War. However, the Indians had no intention of holding
themselves to these agreements as long as there were buffalo on the ranges
and unprotected farms and ranches to raid. First the South made a treaty
which failed and in 1863 the North made treaties which it failed to honor.
These southern tribes, with the alliance of the northern tribes, consisting
of the Cheyennes, Arapahoes and Sioux, began in 1964 attacking on the
frontier heavier than ever. They stole thousands of horses, selling them to
the army through Comancheros or Yankee traders. In fact, the attacks where
so heavy that much of the emigration was stopped, and the country was
Just before the Civil War, a son was born by a white captive, Cynthia Ann
Parker, to the Comanche chief, Peta Nocona, of the Wanderers band of
Comanches. The son, Quanah, was just 14 when the Civil War began, and would
probably have not become the most famous Indian on the plains were it not
for the war.
Just after the Civil War, the Government fluctuated with it's Indian
polices. Administered by Quaker Indian agents, the Quakers believed that
honesty and kindness could solve the problem. This did not work, with Quanah
and his Comanches roaming the Llano at will and causing havoc. By this time,
Quanah was the chief of a band of Comanches called the Kwahadis. Finally,
the government, encouraged by the Quaker Indian agent himself, decided to
In the late 1860s, Fort Sill in Oklahoma and a string of other forts were
established in order to keep the Comanches in check. Two years later in
1871, Colonel R. S. Mackenzie was sent from Camp Cooper northwest of Blanco
Canyon was sent after Quanah. The ensuing battle of Blanco Canyon was not a
great success because the Indians retreated to the Llano Estacado and cold
weather prevented the army from pursuing. However, when raiding continued
the next year, McKenzie was again sent against the Comanches and Quanah.
This time, on September 29th, 1872, Mackenzie surprised and destroyed a
Comanche camp, taking horses, mules, and a large number of prisoners. During
the winter of 1872-1873, the Kwahadis band camped on the reservation near
Lawton, Oklahoma, while they negotiated the return of their people in
exchange for white hostages held by them. It was a peaceful time on the
Things where not completely quite, however, for in 1872, Mackenzie had to
pursue a band of New Mexican cattle rustlers, masquerading as Indians. While
Mackenzie did not catch the thieves, he did rediscover an earlier route
across the South Plains which had been discovered in 1541 by the Spanish.
This was a safer route with watering holes which could be approached either
up the Yellow House (Lubbock) or the Blanco canyons. The two routes came
together near Sod House Spring in Lamb County and continued up the Black
Water and Portales Draws to Fort Sumner in New Mexico.
No sooner had the prisoners been released in June of 1873, that the
Comanches renewed their raids in the Texas Panhandle. There were several
factors driving the Plains Indians.
First, the Texans were taking over their lands and attempting to banish them
to small reservations, far from the Buffalo Plains. Military posts were
established to keep them away from their land. Also, every Indian wanted the
glory of killing and looting the white intruders and they wanted revenge for
their brothers that were killed by the whites in the raids. In addition, on
the reservations, they were literally besieged by white thieves. White
thieves from Texas and Kansas had depleted their livestock, white traders
kept them in a constant state of poverty, befuddled with whisky so that they
were easy marks for shysters. Government contractors were growing rich on
the shoddy clothing and scanty, low-grade rations given the Indians.
Finally, the railroads were cutting off the plains buffalo herds from their
normal rangelands and bringing settlers and hunters who were rapidly
depleting the buffalo herds with high powered rifles, leaving all but the
So it was after the hard winter of 1874 on the reservations of Oklahoma,
when the Indians were forced to kill their own horses for food, that the
tribal leaders began talking about a last-ditch combined effort to drive the
white men from their land.
Assembling away from the reservation in June of 1874, the southern tribes
met in a great and unprecedented effort to oppose the white man. The
meeting, led by Quanah Parker of the Comanches consisted of the Kiowas, the
Arapahoes, and Cheyennes. Notable Indian leaders included Lone Wolf, Stone
Calf, Satanta, Gray Beard, Big Bow, White Shield, White Horse, Mow-way,
Tai-hai-ya-tai, Wild Horse, Isa-habeet, Howling Wolf, and others. Many of
these leaders had their own agendas for revenge. What would follow would be
one of the most amazing Indian battles in the history of the U. S., the
Second Battle of Adobe Walls.
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, most of them under the age of 40. Nearly half of this population is living in Oklahoma with other large groups in Texas, New Mexico and California.
The Comanche have been called the "Lords of the Plains". At their height, they dominated an area that all, or parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and northern Mexico. They were the fiercest of fighters and one of the last to submit to the United States policy of reservations (ENAT, 68-71). They were excellent horsemen, keeping large herds and introducing the horse to neighboring tribes after acquiring it from the Spaniards.
Today the Comanche Nation is centered on Lawton, Oklahoma where the modern Comanche engage in farming and earn income from the lease of mineral rights.
The flag of the Comanche Nation celebrates their past status as the dominant tribe of the south central United States. That flag is divided vertically with blue at the viewers left, red at the right. The usual terms of hoist and fly cannot be used in this instance since two versions of the flag exist and one is double sided.
The "official" flag of the Comanche Nation, the equivalent of a government flag for a country, always bears the blue to the viewer's left. That means that on the obverse, the blue is to the hoist, while on the reverse, the blue is in the fly. The shield that serves as the seal of the Comanche nation also appears with the blue portion always to the viewer's left. According to the Public Information Office of the Comanche Tribe, the flag dates back to somewhere around 1991.
The seal is a Comanche shield divided roughly in half (seal provided by "The Comanche News", newletter of the Comanche Nation, Box 908, Lawton, OK). The left portion is blue and has an undulating edge. The right portion is yellow and bears the red image of a Comanche warrior on horseback as it might have appeared when drawn on a tepee or actual shield.
The red horseman represents the name given to all Native Americans by the European settlers - the "red man" (Ms. Jamesena Stops, Editor, "The Comanche News") . The curved line represents a snake moving in a backward motion. According to the legends of the Comanche people, they were known as the "Snakes" in ancient times. The yellow portion of the battle shield recalls the brightness of the sun and a state of happiness, while the blue represents loyalty.
The blue and red colors are derived from what is called British wool 'trade' blankets, the preferred wraps used by the Comanche when riding the Plains over a century ago. This reference to the blankets recalls, for the Comanche their life without boundaries, and a time when they were the true rulers of the Plains. It also boasts of the prowess of the Comanche as horsemen and warriors. These blankets were a critical element in many Comanche ceremonies.
The four feathers used on the shield when appearing as the seal of the Comanche Nation, as with many other tribes, recall the sacred number four - four directions, four seasons, four stages of life, etc. Another element of the Comanche that is shared by many other tribes is their name for themselves - "Numunu", which means, "The People". In the native tongues of at least a dozen tribes, their term of self reference simply means "the people".
The Comanche use their seal and flag with increasing zeal. In April 1995, the Comanche became the second Indian nation known (to this author) to have issued automobile license plates for vehicles ("Comanche Tribal License Tags Are Here", The Comanche News, July, 1995, 1) registered to tribal members and based upon tribal lands (Since this was written, over a half dozen nations have been identified as using their oown license plates). The central element of the new plates is the seal of the Comanche Nation. In July, 1995, the Comanche officially opened their "Comanche Veteran's Memorial" in Lawton ("Comanche Veterans Memorial Dedicated", The Comanche News, Aug., 1995, 1). The memorial recognizes the Comanche veterans who served in the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam. Central to the memorial is a pair of flagpoles. One bears the flag of the United States, the other the flag of the Comanche.
A second version of the flag exists. Actually it is just a varient of the seal. As flown at the Flag Plaza in Oklahoma City which flies the banners of all the tribes extant in Oklahoma, the Comanche flag's seal differs in several ways from the "official" version. First, an most conspicuously, the serrated edge of the shield has been replaced by a yellow circle. On the circle, in black lettering is the legend "Comanche Nation" across the top while in slightly smaller letters on bottom is their nickname "Lords of the Southern Plains", while the seal is now divided equally in half, blue stillto the hoist, but red to the outside, not yellow! The "red man" on horseback is shown in yellow and greatly enlarged to provide more detail. Though different, this flag still evokes the image of the Comanche people and recalls their great history and their association with the entire image of the American West.
Comanche Code Talkers of World War II
Comanche Nation Tribal Home Page
On this personal website, Thomas LongHorn provides his own background, some
Comanche language, culture, history, and links to other relevant websites.
There is an imbedded, slow-to-load audio file, but it should be playing by
the time you've read all the information on this page.
Comanche - Part One
Check out this comprehensive coverage of all aspects of the Comanche Nation.
There's enough valuable information that it needs three pages to contain it
all. Part One starts before Europeans reached North America and the history
progresses through each page to 1901. You'll find the links for each part at
the bottom of the pages.
Domestic Architecture at the Comanche Village of Medicine Creek
Photographs of the late pre-reservation period in Comanche history are used
to give historians an idea of the layout and domestic architecture of the
standard Comanche village. See some great photos with analytical text, plus
one photo newly discovered and on public display for the first time.
Comanche Indian: Fierce Warriors of the Southern Plains - http://www.comancheindian.com
Extensive list of native radio and television outlets, and general interest links. Also referral for Numic language course at the University of Oklahoma.
Numuukahni/Comanche Lodge - http://members.tripod.com/~Quohadi
History, genealogy, stories, message board, chat room, and a virtual museum.
The Commanche Indians - http://or.essortment.com/commancheindian_rmlu.htm
Simple and misspelled article from PageWise. Will pop up more windows when you try to leave.
The Flag of the Comanche Nation - http://users.aol.com/Donh523/navapage/coman.htm
Picture and explanation of the flag, with some background about the people.
Comanche Lodge - Cedar Web Ring
Comanche Lodge - Newsroom
Comanche Lodge - BBS
Comanche Lodge - Discussion Group
Comanche treaty of 1835
Treaty with the Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache; July 27, 1853
The Comanche Language and Cultural Preservation Committee
Comanche Business Committee
Comanche Elder Doc Tate
Comanche Nation Games
Information about the Comanche tribe