Tribal Origin: Shoshone
Native Name: Numunuu, means 'the People'
Home Territories: New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas
Alliances: Apache and Kiowa
Enemies: American settlers at times
The Comanche are a Native American ethnic group whose historic lands (the Comancheria) consisted of present-day eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado, northeastern Arizona, southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas.
The Comanches were hunter-gatherers, with a typical Plains Indian culture, including the horse. There may have been as many as 45,000 Comanches in the late 18th century.
The Comanche were 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.
The Comanche speak the Comanche language, a Numic language of the Uto-Aztecan family, sometimes classified as a Shoshone dialect.
Within the traditional period the two tribes lived adjacent to each other in southern Wyoming, since which time the Shoshoni were 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 northern 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 be 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.
They have been close confederates of the Kiowa since about 1795. 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 two centuries, the Comanche people 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. The Comanche warriors were known for attacking on nights with a full moon and for their skills of fighting while on horseback. They were known as the most skilled horsemen of the Plains.
In 1835 they made their first treaty with the Government, and by the treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867 agreed to go onto their assigned reservation between the Washita and Red rivers in 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.
The Comanche were probably never a large tribe, although supposed to be populous on account of their wide range.
In the mid 1850s, the population was drastically reduced by war and disease. They numbered 1,400 in 1904, and were attached to the Kiowa Agency in Oklahoma.
Today, the Comanche Nation consists of 14,700 members (2010 enrollment figures), about half of whom live in Oklahoma. The remainder are concentrated in Texas, California, and New Mexico.
The tribe is headquartered in Lawton, Oklahoma.