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A COMANCHE HISTORY
by Barbara Goodin
The Comanches were rulers of the Great Plains in
the 1700s and became known as the Lords of the Southern Plains. Renowned
for their horsemanship, they defended their land from all intruders. The
introduction of the horse to Comanche people enable them to travel
widely, striking terror into the hearts of their farthest enemy. It also
enabled them to provide the things necessary for their families -- food,
shelter and clothing.
Spaniards and Europeans were their first
outside contact, but that changed by the 1830s when white men pushed
westward towards a new frontier.
Comanche tribal government was a true democratic process, with organized
bands, led by Band Chiefs, coming together as needed to discuss
important issues. At one time there may have been as many as thirty five
Bands, but during the nineteenth century there were five outstanding
bands identified. They were the Penatuka, Yapaituka, Noyuka, Kwaharu and
Kuutsutuka. (*See more information on Comanche Bands at bottom of page.)
From the time white men pushed westward towards a new frontier in the
1830s, many events occurred that altered the way of life for this great
tribe. The Treaty of Medicine Lodge, the Battle of Adobe Walls, the
Jerome Agreement and the Oklahoma land openings were but a few of these
The Treaty of Medicine Lodge was signed in 1867 in Kansas with the
Comanche, Kiowa, Apache, Cheyenne and Arapaho. The tribes were promised
protection from the hunters who were killing off the buffalo. In return
they were to be provided schools, churches and annuities. The tribes, in
turn, were to permit railroads to be built through their lands, cease
raiding and agree to live on a reservation to be set up for them. In
addition, 38.5 million acres (60,000 square miles) were given up for a
reservation that contained just over three million acres (4,800 square
miles). Reservation life began for the Comanches in 1869.
The Battle of Adobe Walls took place in the panhandle of Texas in 1874.
Comanches, Kiowas and Cheyennes attacked the hunters who were using the
abandoned fort in their quest to kill the buffalo for their hides.
Although the hunters were greatly outnumbered, the Indians were defeated
because of the protection offered by the fort itself and the long range
buffalo rifles used by the hunters. The battle was disastrous for the
Indians. By 1880 both the buffalo and a way of life for the Comanches
The Jerome Agreement of 1892 was signed at Fort Sill between the United
States and the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache (KCA) Tribes. The Agreement
allotted each man, woman and child 160 acres which was to be held in
trust for them, free from taxation. In return the Indians gave up all
their lands with the exception of four tracts which contained over a
half million acres (862 square miles) and agreed to accept two million
dollars for the relinquished land. Bitterness resulted in that most of
the Indians did not want the Agreement at all. Indian leaders involved
in the negotiations asked for $2.50 an acre, but in the end they were
paid $1.25 per acre. By June 5, 1901, Indian land allotments were
completed and this nomadic tribe of the Plains settled into the life of
Exactly five years later, land-hungry "Boomers" forced the opening of
the last remaining land held by the Indians, an area that had come to be
known as "The Big Pasture." Before it was opened to white settlement,
the children born after the allotments of 1901 were given land. The
remainder was divided into tracts for the last big land opening in
Oklahoma's short history.
The Comanche Tribe now numbers almost 10,000 persons, with approximately
6,000 of them residing in this area of Southwest Oklahoma. The Comanche
Tribal Complex is located nine miles north of Lawton, Oklahoma, and
employs about sixty persons. Many services are available through the
Complex for tribal members.
The Comanche Tribe is headed by a Chairman, Vice-Chairman and
Secretary-Treasurer along with four business committee members. Jointly
the elected officials are known as the Comanche Business Committee, or
the C.B.C. These persons are elected by tribal members, who are the
supreme governing body of the Comanche Tribe. A constitution adopted in
1967 sets forth the conditions under which the tribe operates. The C.B.C
meets monthly to take care of business, with tribal members present and
offering input into decisions that affect all members.
The Comanche Tribe owns land jointly with the Kiowa and Apache Tribes
(known as the K.C.A.), but also owns land on its own.
Comanches are the best educated of all Indian tribes with more students
per capita enrolled in higher education. We have doctors, lawyers,
chiefs ("chief" executive officers!), teachers, principals,
superintendents, registered nurses, actors, authors, artists, craftsmen
-- people in all professions -- who do an outstanding job representing
themselves and the Comanche people.
The Comanches have not been "reservation" Indians since 1901. Many still
live on their family's allotted land, with others living in cities all
over the country and overseas. Some choose to lease their land, either
to cattlemen or oil companies. A few are wealthy, most are making ends
meet, some struggle through each day. Many work 9 to 5 jobs, with others
owning and operating their own business.
The Comanches were once known as the Lords of the Southern Plains, and
it is our vision to again be considered as such. The Comanche Tribe as a
whole and the Comanche people as individuals have gone through some very
difficult times, but we are survivors. We are the Numunuu.
Hanitaibo – Corn People
Kuhtsutuuka – Buffalo Eaters Band
Kwaharu – Antelope Eaters Band
Kwahihuu ki – Back Shade Comanche Band
Kwaru / Kwa?aru Nuu -- Loud Speaking People
Nokoni / nokoninuu – “They Travel Around”
Noyuhkanuu / Noyukanuu – Wanderers Band
Ohnonuu / Ohnononuu / Onahununuu – Comanche
Clan from Cyril area
Parukaa / Padouka – name given the
Comanches by the Sioux people
Pekwi Tuhka – Fish Eaters Band
Penatuka / Penanuu / Pihnaatuka / Penatuka Nuu
– Honey Eaters Band, also known as Quick Striking
Pikaatamu – Buckskin Sewing Band
Saria Tuhka / Sata Teichas – Dog Eaters
Taninuu – Liver Eaters Band living south of
the Peace River in Texas
Tutsanoo Yehku – Comanche Band
Wianu / Wianuu / Wia?nuu – Comanche Band
from the Walters OK area
Yaparuhka / Yapai Nuu / Yapainuu / Yapuruhka
– Root Eaters Band
Numunuu – Comanche People (plural),
“crawling on belly like a snake”
Numu – Comanche Person (singular)
*from Our Comanche Dictionary, published by the Comanche Language and
Cultural Preservation Committee
THE COMANCHE TIMELINE:
Comanche separate from Eastern Shoshone near Wind River
Expedition into the Southern Plains
1540 Comanches known to be using
dogs for transport.
1598 Spain builds colony in New
Mexico and starts enslaving Indians.
Juan de Onate encounters Plains Apache at Canadian River while looking
for the Seven Cities of Gold (Cibola).
1680 Pueblo Rebellion, Comanches
1687 Sieur do La
Sill encounters Comanche near Trinity River.
1692 Picuris relocates with
Plains Apache in West Kansas.
1700 Comanches and Utes trade at
Taos, New Mexico.
1706 Picuris return
to the Rio Grande Valley Area.
Apache forced into mountains of New Mexico by repeated Comanche and
1716 During summer
Comanches and Utes trade at villages in New Mexico.
1716 Spanish attack Comanche/Ute
Village north of Santa Fe; prisoners were taken and sold as slaves.
1719 First recorded
Comanche raids in New Mexico for horses.
1719 Spanish send soldiers as
far north as Pueblo Colorado only to find abandoned campsites.
1720 Apache bands retreat into
Mexico from repeated Comanche attacks.
1720 Spanish send
military expedition to investigate rumors of French trade and are
destroyed by the Pawnee.
1723 War between
Comanche and Utes and Plains Apache explode, two military expeditions
sent to help the Apache fail to locate Comanche and Ute Tribes.
Comanche fight a nine-day war at Great Mountain of Iron, it results in
major defeat for the Apache.
1724 French Trader
Bourgmont trades with Padoucah in Kansas.
1725 Last Apache
settle on upper Arkansas River and disappeared.
1728 Plains Apache
settle on Rio Grande with Pueblo Tribes.
1730 Comanches control Texas
Panhandle, Central Texas, and Northeastern New
1730 Comanche/Ute alliance
collapse, 50-year war begins between Comanches and
1740 Comanche obtain firearms
from French traders.
1742 Spanish send another failed
expedition as far as Wichita Villages without
1743 Comanches visit San Antonio
1745 Comanches force Utes from
the plains and Utes run and hide in the mountains.
1745 Kotsoteka Comanches cross
Arkansas River and move into New Mexico.
1746 Comanche raids Pecos, New
Mexico under siege, for the next 40 years,
Comanches attack virtually all places in Spanish New Mexico.
1746 Major war between Comanche
and the Osage and Pawnee.
1747 French barter peace between
Comanche and Wichita.
1749 The French barter peace
between the Comanche and Wichita, Comanche break
alliance with the Utes.
1749 Utes beg Spanish for
protection from Comanches.
1750 Comanches settle in the
Llano Estacado or Staked Plains of Texas Panhandle.
1750 French trade for horses
increase with the Comanches for Firearms.
1750 Utes make alliance with the
Jicarilla against the Comanches.
1750 Comanches raid Pecos again.
1750 Wichita barters peace
between the Comanche and the Osage and Pawnee.
1750 Comanches drive Apaches out
of Southern plains, Jicarilla, Carlanas,
Mescaleros, Faraones, and Lipans.
1751 Comanche and Pawnee defeat
1751 Pawnee leave the Plains and
settle in the Platte Valley.
1754 Blackfeet Tribe acquires
horses from Comanche.
1757 Lipan Apaches ask Spanish
to build a mission on Comanche Territory to result
in war between the Spanish and Comanche.
1758 Comanche and Wichita attack
San Saba Presido and missions and kill all.
1759 Spanish army defeated by
Comanche and Wichita at Red River.
1760 Crow tribe acquires horse
1760 Taos attacked by Comanches.
1761 Comanches attack Lipan
mission on Nueces River.
1763 France transfers Louisiana
to Spanish control.
1765 Prior to this date the
Kiowa lived in the Black Hills, driven out by Lakota Sioux
moving westward from Minnesota.
1768 Ute/Jicarilla alliance
defeated by Comanches.
1773 Comanches raid Pecos 4th
1774 Spanish soldiers, with help
of Pueblo Indians, attack a Comanche village near
Raton and capture over 100 Comanches Prisoners.
1775 Yamparika Comanches
fighting Lakota and Cheyenne in the Black Hills.
1777 New Spain holds council of
war and seeks alliance with Nations of the North,
Comanche and Wichita.
1779 Spanish send 500-man army
with 200 Utes and Apache attack a large
Comanche village and kill Chief Green Horn.
1780 Due to the Kiowa being
forced to move south by the Lakota, war breaks out
between the Comanche and Kiowa.
1781 Smallpox decimates both
Wichita and Comanche Tribes, many people die.
1785 Spanish propose treaty with
Texas Comanche, signed in the fall.
1786 Kotsoteka kill Chief White
Bull in New Mexico because of his stance against
peace, his followers scattered.
1786 Spanish barter a peace
between the Comanche and Ute tribes, and sign
treaty with Comanche.
1789 Spanish and Comanche defeat
1790 Comanche and Pawnee war for
3 years, Pawnee defeated.
1791 Comanche and Osage War,
Osage again defeated by Comanches.
1797 Comanches destroy entire
Osage village near the Kansas Missouri border.
1803 Comanche and Pawnee war, Pawnee again defeated by
1805 Comanches and Kiowa make
peace after a Kiowa warrior lives among the
Comanche for a summer.
1807 Dr. John Sibley has a
meeting with Comanche Chief.
1810 Approximate time of peace
with the Kiowa Apache.
1810 Hidalgo Revolt occurs.
1811 Comanche Chief El Sordo
visits Bexar and is imprisoned in Coahuila.
1811 Relations between Texas and
Comanches break down due to the
imprisonment of El Sordo.
1813 American traders trade with
Comanches for horses.
1816 John Jamison meets with
Comanche Chiefs for trade.
1821 Spanish rule replaced by
1821 Santa Fe Trail opened.
1822 Mexico makes treaty with
Texas band of Comanches.
1825 Mexico does not honor
treaty with Comanche and the Rio Grande War breaks
1825 Comanches raid Chihuahua.
1825 United States begins
construction of Ft. Gibson in Oklahoma.
1826 Mexico makes treaty with
the Texas band of Comanches again.
1829 Comanches and Kiowa battle
U. S. Infantry on the Santa Fe Trail.
1830 Comanches war with Cheyenne
and Arapaho alliance.
1831 Mexico bans trading with
1832 Comanches catch Pawnee
horse stealing raiders and kill them all.
1832 Construction of Bent’s Fort
on Arkansas River.
1833 Sam Houston barters peace
with Comanche becoming friends to many.
1834 Mexico makes treaty with
1834 Mexico again dishonors
peace treaty and Comanches resume raids on
1835 Sonora, Chihuahua and
Durango re-establishes bounties for Comanche
1835 American Treaty made at
Camp Holmes, with Comanche, Wichita, Osage
Quapaw, Seneca, Cherokee, Choctaw, and Creek.
1836 Cynthia Ann Parker captured
at Ft. Parker Texas.
1836 Texas wins independents
from Mexico; Sam Houston becomes president of
1837 Texas Cherokee Chief Diwali
makes peace and trades with 16 different
bands of Comanches.
1838 Texas and Comanches make
1839 Texas force out Cherokee,
Shawnee and Delaware from Texas.
1839 Smallpox epidemic.
1840 Comanches meet Texans for
council in San Antonio, 12 Comanche Chiefs
are killed and 27 women and children taken prisoner.
1840 Peace is made between
Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Comanches. Comanche
give massive gifts of horses to their new allies.
1840 Chief Potsana Kwahip
(Buffalo Hump) takes warriors against Texas on a
thousand mile raid. Homes are burned. Hundreds of Texans killed.
1840 Texas with Tonkawa warriors
attack Comanches at Plumb Creek.
1840 Texas Rangers formed to
1841 Texas has second war with
1843 Colonel J.C. Eldridge meets
with Chief Pahayuco of the Tenawa at Pecan
River, near the Red River.
1844 Sam Houston meets with
Chief Tseep Tasewah along with other Indian
1845 Quannah Parker born near
Laguna Sabinas (Cedar Lake).
1845 Treaty between Republic of
Texas and Texas band of Comanches is
1846 United States annexes
1846 Butler-Lewis Treaty made
with Comanche, Anadarko, Caddo, Lipan,
Wichita, and Waco.
1846 Comanche delegation meet
with President Polk.
1847 German Treaty signed at
Fredericksburg with Comanche, this treaty is still
1848 Smallpox epidemic strikes
1848 Between 1848 and 1853,
Mexico filed 366 separate claims for Comanches
and Apache raids originating from North of the border.
1849 Gold seekers traveling
along Canadian River bring smallpox to the
1851 Comanche population drops
from 20,000 to 12,000 due to smallpox.
1851 Ft. Laramie Treaty with
Plains Indian Tribes.
1851 Epidemic breaks out among
the Comanches and Kiowa.
1852 Comanches raid Coahuila,
Chihuahua, Sonora, and Durango and Tepic in
Jalisco, 700 miles south of the Border.
1853 Kiowa and Yamparika sign
Ft. Atkinson Treaty.
1854 Texas Congress provides
23,000 acres and establishes three reservations
on the upper Brazos River for the Texas tribes, Caddo, Cherokee,
Delaware, Shawnee, Wichita and Tonkawa.
1854 Penateka Tribe moves to
1856 Robert E. Lee becomes in
charge of Texas Indian Reservations.
1858 Due to Indian raids, the
Army abandons Camp Cooper.
1858 Texas Rangers attack
Comanche village at Little Robe Creek in Indian
1858 Captain Earl Van Dorn
attacked a Comanche village at Rush Springs
1858 Van Dorn strikes the
Comanches at Crooked Creek in Kansas.
1859 Settlers attack reservation
in Texas and are repelled by Indians.
1859 Indians on Texas
reservation forced to leave Texas.
1860 Calvary sends 3 columns on
expedition battle fought with Comanches,
Kiowa, Cheyenne, and Arapaho.
1860 Cynthia Ann Parker
re-captured by Texas Ranger Sul Ross.
1861 Confederate signs two
treaties with Comanche bands.
1861 Confederate fail to make
good on treaty and Comanches push the Texas
frontier back over 100 miles, forts are abandoned and raids increase.
1861 Santa Fe Trail closed down
by Comanches, Kiowa, Cheyenne, and
1862 Smallpox epidemic from New
1862 Comanches and Pro-Union
Delaware and Shawnee from Kansas attack
the Tonkawa agency on revenge raid and kill 300 Tonkawa for helping
white men track and fight other Indian tribes.
1863 Full scale war in the Great
Plains by an alliance for Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche,
1864 Colonel Kit Carson sent to
deal with Comanches at first battle of Adobe Walls with Ute and
Jicarilla scouts, Carson left after 4 days battle and never again
returned to Texas to fight Comanches.
1864 Five days after Carson’s
battle, Chivington’s Colorado volunteers attack a sleeping Cheyenne
village on Sand Creek in southern Colorado mutilating 300 Cheyenne,
mostly women and children.
1865 Council held with
Confederate and Plains Tribes at Wichita River two weeks after Lee had
1865 Little Arkansas Treaty
signed with the Comanche and other Plains Tribes.
1867 Cholera epidemic strikes
1867 Medicine Lodge Treaty
signed by Comanche Tribes, Kwahada band refuses to sign.
1868 Comanche bands that signed
treaty moved to Ft. Cobb only to leave again in summer to return home
to the plains.
1868 Comanche raids target Texas
and Kansas, all tribes are then ordered to Oklahoma.
1868 George Armstrong Custer and
the 7th Calvary attack a southern village on the Wichita in November.
1868 Major Andrew Evans attacks
a Comanche village at Soldiers Spring on Christmas Day.
1869 Comanche-Kiowa agency was
relocated to Ft. Sill and the Cheyenne-Arapaho agency to Darlington.
1870 Comanche population
estimated around 8,000.
1871 Kiowa raids General William
Sherman’s wagon train and almost kills the Supreme Commander of the
1871 A raid by the Kwahada band
of Comanches stole 70 horses from the Army at Rock Station.
1871 General Randall Mackenzie
and his black buffalo soldiers fight the Kwahada band of Comanches for
2 years on the Plains.
1872 Combined Comanche and Kiowa
raids in Texas kills 20 in Texas, at the same time Texans steal 1,900
horses from tribes at Ft. Sill, OK.
1872 Mackenzie attacks a
Comanche village at McClellan Creek; he takes 130 women and children
hostage and imprisons them at Ft. Concho. 200 more lodges are
1873 Comanche hostages are
released and forced to go to Ft. Sill, OK.
1874 Cheyenne hunters report
that there are dead buffalo all over the Plains. Violence erupted at
Wichita and Darlington Agencies and put down by federal troops.
1874 Large groups of Cheyenne
leave the reservation to the Plains.
1874 A large Comanche-Cheyenne
war party attacked 23 buffalo hunters camped in the Texas Panhandle at
the site of Carson’s 1864 battle of Adobe Walls.
1874 Red River War or Buffalo
War begins; this is the last Great Indian War in the Plains.
1875 General Miles attacks a
group of Cheyenne near McClellan Creek.
1875 General Mackenzie attacks
and burns five Comanche villages in Palo Duro Canyon and massacres
women and children and destroys over 1400 Comanche horses.
1875 Winter time brings
starvation to the Indians and they start to return to the reservation
after relentless pursuit by Federal Troops.
1875 In April, 200 Kwahada, who
had never submitted, surrendered at Ft. Sill. In June the last 400
Kwahada with Quanah Parker surrendered.
1879 The Buffalo of the Great
Plains were gone, over 65 million were destroyed by white hunters.
Estimation taken this year was less than 1500 buffalo left in the
1901 The Comanche reservation is broken up due to Government
pressure to open the land for settlement.
1905 Quannah Parker rides in
President Roosevelt’s Inaugural parade in Washington, D.C.
1905 President Theodore
Roosevelt visits Quannah to Star House. Quannah and the President go
on a wolf hunt in April.
1910 Quannah buries his mother
Cynthia Ann Parker on December 4 at Post Oak Cemetery.
1911 Quannah Parker dies. Over
2000 attends his funeral.
1916 Comanche warriors volunteer
for service in Europe, Code Talkers are utilized by United States
1941 Comanche warriors again
volunteer for service in Europe, Code Talkers use the Comanche
language in D-Day Invasion and Patton’s tank battalion to secure
victory for allied forces during WWII.
1989 France recognizes Comanche
warriors for bravery and awards them the highest honor it can bestow
for esteemed service in having saved France for German occupation.
1993 Comanche adopt official
alphabet, and Numu Tekwapuha Nomneekatu is formed to preserve Comanche
language and culture.
1999 Last Comanche Code Talker,
Charles Chibitty, received the Knowlton Award by the United States
Government for the Code Talkers help in WWII.
2000 Comanche Tribe attains a
herd of buffalo from Wichita Wildlife Refuge for culture
2001 Comanche attain herd of
wild mustangs from Pyramid Lake Piutes.
THE COMANCHE AND
The Spanish mustang was the original Indian pony.
Dubbed “mestenos” by the Spanish, stray horses came to be called
mustang, the name by which they are called today. Rustled from Spanish
settlements in the southwest, the pony gradually became crossed with
other breeds after the annexation of the Plains by the United States in
1803. By the end of the century it bore little resemblance to the early
The culture of the Plains Indians was so expanded after their
introduction to the horse that they were able to resist the encroachment
of the white intruders better than other Indian tribes.
Used only as a source of food at first, the Indians observed the Spanish
methods of training and handling domesticated horses and so began to
acquire horses as well as develop horsemanship. When riding, the
American Indian was the finest of horsemen. Then enabled the skilled
Comanche rider to carry out raids deep into Mexico.
1640 to 1880 has been called the period of the Indian Horse Culture.
Comanches acted as brokers to the Northern tribes, providing horses
already broken. The lives of the nomadic Plains tribes was
revolutionized by the use of the horse.
Before the acquisition of the horse, hunting was a necessity of life for
the Indian. With the Horse Culture came endurance, mobility and speed
that changed hunting to a sport. A sport the Indians responded to with
enthusiasm that enabled them to keep their camps supplied with food.
Following the herds of buffalo was simplified. Children and elders, who
in the past slowed the tribe’s progress, were mounted or tied onto
saddles. Belongings were loaded onto other horses and as many as fifty
miles could be covered in a day.
The size of the horse allowed the Indian to acquire larger lodges and
more possessions than was possible when dogs were used for
Parti-colored ponies created a flamboyant effect that the Indians liked.
A particular type of pinto was developed by them and known as the
Medicine Hat or War Bonnet because of the markings over its body. A
special mystique surrounded this horse and a Comanche warrior believed
himself invincible if he rode one into battle. A simple color phase of
the Spanish mustang, this war-horse was desired by all Comanches, who
considered them sacred and possessed them in great numbers.
The horse enabled the Indians to prevent the Spanish from colonizing the
Southwest and held back white settlement for two centuries.
Comanches perfected horse stealing to an art. They were the most
aggressive horse thieves in the Southern Plains. Known as the most
powerful warriors, their lust for horses made life along the border
perilous for all settlers. They even bragged that they only allowed the
Spanish to remain in their region to raise horses for them.
All efforts to negotiate peace with the Comanches by the Spanish
Government failed. The Indians’ terms were all the horses in Mexico.
Horses became a source of trade for the Comanches, who exchanged them
for such items as exotic furs and white buffalo skins from the Northern
tribes, to guns and powder from the first white traders and trappers
that entered the region. The Spaniards refused to trade with these
merchants, thereby putting the Comanche, who viewed the traders as
friends, in the role of middleman. Indian camps were surrounded by
horses of every shape, size and color. Their appetite for owning enough
horses was never satisfied.
In 1874 thousands of animals, considered by the southern Comanche as
their best horses, were slaughtered at Tule Canyon near the Texas
In 1876 General Sheridan sent a telegram to the War Department to
request permission to sell Indian ponies that had been either captured
or surrendered and the funds from the sale to be used to purchase cattle
for the Indians “at the proper time.” His objective was to get the horse
away from the Indians, as had been the government policy when horses
were confiscated illegally from several Northern tribes to bring these
tribes under control. This, along with the slaughter of the buffalo,
brought the Comanche Horse Culture to a halt and ended the spectacular
era of Comanche Rule over the Southern Plains.
(Source: Ryden, Hope, America’s Last Wild
Horses. Lyons & Burford, Publishers, 1990)
ARTICLE ABOUT THE COMANCHE AND QUANAH PARKER by Joyce Worley
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