Comanche history

Comanche history /kəˈmæni/ is the story of the Native American (Indian) tribe which lived on the Great Plains of the present-day United States. In the 17th century the Eastern Shoshone people who became known as the Comanche migrated southward from Wyoming. In the 18th and 19th centuries the Comanche became the dominant tribe on the southern Great Plains. The Comanche are often characterized as "Lords of the Plains." They presided over a large area called Comancheria which they shared with allied tribes, the Kiowa, Kiowa-Apache, Wichita, and after 1840 the southern Cheyenne and Arapaho. Comanche power and their substantial wealth depended on horses, trading, and raiding. Adroit diplomacy was also a factor in maintaining their dominance and fending off enemies for more than a century. They subsisted on the bison herds of the Plains which they hunted for food and skins.

A Comanche warrior in 1835.

Although their extensive area of suzerainty has been called an empire, the Comanche were never united under a single government or leader, but rather consisted of several bands with a common language but which operated independently of each other. Estimates of the Comanche's total population in 1780, when they were most numerous, are usually around 20,000, although one estimate numbers them at 40,000.

The Comanche waged war on neighboring tribes, the Anglo-Americans encroaching on Comancheria, and especially the Mexicans. Although infamous for their unrelenting warfare and raiding, they also took thousands of captives from raids on Native American tribes, Mexicans, and Anglos and assimilated them into Comanche society. By 1875, decimated by European diseases, warfare, a tide of Anglo settlement, and the near-extinction of the bison, the Comanche had been defeated by the U.S. army and were forced to live on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma.

In 1920 the United States Census listed fewer than 1,500 Comanche. Tribal enrollment in the 21st century numbered 15,191, with 7,763 members residing in the Lawton-Fort Sill and surrounding areas of southwest Oklahoma. Of the three million acres (12,000 km²) promised the Comanche, Kiowa and Kiowa Apache by treaty in 1867, only 235,000 acres (951 km²) have remained in native hands. Of this, 4,400 acres (18 km²) are owned by the tribe itself.

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