Published on March 12, 2014 by Amy
The Comanche Indians of Texas were a fierce, nomadic tribe known for their use of horses to spread and control their domination of the north, west and central regions of the state. During the 1700s and throughout much of the 1800s, the Comanche Indians of Texas thrived as they acquired weapons and horses to fight off the Spanish, other Indian tribes and eventually white settlers. However, by the 1870s the once powerful Comanche of Texas were forced into reservations.
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An offshoot of the Northern Shoshone tribe of the western United States, the Comanche Indians were introduced to horses at some point in the late 1600s. Horses enabled the Comanche to migrate south to find large herds of buffalo, their primary source of food, shelter and clothing. The Comanche Indians of Texas were able to prosper in part due to their excellent skills as traders, exchanging horses, prisoners and items fashioned from buffalo for food and manufactured items like guns. Throughout the 1700s, the Comanche sparred with Apache Indians and the Spanish in Texas.
By the early 1800s, white settlers were arriving in Texas. When Texas gained independence from Mexico in 1836, Texas settlers began moving farther west to settle the land that the land Comanche considered their own. The Comanche attempted to thwart white settlement throughout the mid to late 1800s, but the tribe was weakened by disease, fighting and the decimation of the buffalo herds. The Comanche Indians of Texas finally surrendered to the U.S. Army in the 1870s and were put on reservations.
Horses were an instrumental part of the Comanche culture. The Comanche Indians of Texas were known for their incomparable skills as horsemen, allowing them to follow the Plains buffalo herds, hunt more successfully and attain a huge advantage in fighting their enemies.
The Comanche Indians of Texas were not a singly united tribe but rather an association of several bands of Comanche. Each band had its own chiefs who were only able to reach chiefdom and stay in that position by consent of the tribal members in a pseudo-democratic governing structure.
First and foremost, the Comanche Indians of Texas were nomads. Their reliance on the buffalo as a source of food and hides for clothing and shelter demanded that the Comanche continually follow wherever the herds might lead. As nomads, the Comanche lived in buffalo hide tepees that were easy to set up and take down.
The Comanche Indians of Texas played a pivotal role in the struggle by Native Americans to resist Anglo settlement. Initially, the Comanche and white settlers in Texas maintained a stable trade relationship, but as the white population grew, the Comanche began to perceive the settlers as enemies intent upon their land. For decades the Comanche Indians of Texas were able to impede settlement of their lands by the whites through successful raids on white communities. Most white settlers feared the devastating violence and destruction the Comanche were capable of committing, causing numerous attempts to establish peace with the Comanche Indians of Texas.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Native Americans is that all of the different tribes were inherently the same, and Hollywood has helped fuel this generalization. The Comanche Indians of Texas were indeed excellent horsemen and warriors as romanticized in westerns filmed in the 1950s and 1960s, but they are not representative of all Native Americans. All tribes have their own cultural identity, tribal history and valuable role in the history of the United States.
Today the Comanche population in the United States is estimated at 15,000 to 20,000, and the tribe has re-established a governing council in Lawton, Oklahoma.