The Comanche people are federally recognized as the Comanche Nation, headquartered in Lawton, Oklahoma. They were once part of the Shoshone peoples.
Official Tribal Name: Comanche Nation
Address: The Comanche Nation Complex, 584 NW Bingo Rd., Lawton, OK 73507
Phone: (877) 492 4988
Fax: (580) 492 3796
Official Website: www.comanchenation.com
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning: Numunu
Common Name: Comanche
Meaning of Common Name:
The name “Comanche” is from the Ute name for them, kɨmantsi, meaning “anyone who wants to fight me all the time.”
Alternate names: Padouca
Alternate spellings / Mispellings:
Name in other languages:
Region: Great Plains
State(s) Today: Oklahoma
The Comanche historic territory, known as Comancheria, consisted of present day eastern New Mexico, southeastern Colorado, southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and most of northwest Texas, which endured until the mid-nineteenth century.
Tribal Headquarters: Lawton, Oklahoma
Population at Contact: There may have been as many as 40,000 to 45,000 Comanches in the late 18th century.
Registered Population Today:
Today, the Comanche Nation has 15,191 members, approximately 7,763 of whom reside in tribal jurisdictional area around the Lawton, Fort Sill, and surrounding areas of southwest Oklahoma.
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
Membership in the tribe requires a 1/8 blood quantum (equivalent to one great-grandparent).
Name of Governing Body:
Number of Council members:
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers:
Language Classification: Uto-Aztecan->Shoshonean->Numic
Language Dialects: Numic, a Shoshone dialect.
Number of fluent Speakers: About 1% of Comanches speak their language today.
The Comanche emerged as a distinct group shortly before 1700, when they broke off from the Shoshone people living along the upper Platte River in Wyoming. The Comanche language and the Shoshone language are still almost the same.
Their original migration took them to the southern Great Plains, into a sweep of territory extending from the Arkansas River to central Texas. They reached present-day New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle by 1700, forcing the Lipan Apache people southward, defeating them in a nine-day battle along the Rio del Fierro (Wichita River) in 1723.
By 1777, the Lipan Apache had retreated to the Rio Grande and the Mescalero Apache to Coahuila, Mexico.
During that time, their population increased dramatically because of the abundance of buffalo, an influx of Shoshone migrants, and their adoption of significant numbers of women and children taken captive from rival groups.
Bands, Gens, and Clans
The Comanche Indians were organized as bands, not as a collective tribe. Each band had its own name. Each Comanche band had its own leader. There were groups of families in the bands. In the Comanche culture, groups or families could leave one band and join another. But, there was no one leader or chief over all the Comanche bands.
Each band did what it wanted to when it wanted to. The bands might join together to fight a common enemy too big for just one band to fight. Sometimes several bands would camp together for a while to hunt or hold ceremonies.
Before the 1750s, there were three Comanche divisions: Yamparikas, Jupes, and Kotsotekas. In the 1750s and 1760s, a number of Kotsoteka bands split off and moved to the southeast. This resulted in a large division between the original group, the western Comanches, and the break-away Kotsotekas, the eastern Comanches.
There were about 12 bands of Comanches, but this number probably changed. The most famous band was the Penatekas. Penateka means honey eater in Comanche. Some other band names were; The Quahadies, Quahadie means antelope, the Buffalo -eaters, and the Yap-eaters, yap is the name of a plant root.
For more information, see Comanche Divisions and Bands.
Related Tribes: Shoshone – The Comanche split from the Shoshone about 1500 A.D.
Traditional Allies: Kiowa and Apache
Traditional Enemies: Ute
Ceremonies / Dances:
Modern Day Events & Tourism:
The Comanche Nation Homecoming Powwow is held annually in Walters, Oklahoma in mid-July. This is the biggest event of the year. The Comanche Nation Fair is held every September. The Comanche Little Ponies host two annual dances—one over New Year’s and one in May.
Legends / Oral Stories:
Art & Crafts:
The Comanche got their first horses around 1680 from the Spanish and Pueblo Indians. Many experts have said that the Comanche were the finest light cavalry in the world. When it came to riding and fighting on horseback only the Cheyenne Indians came anywhere close.
The Comanche may have been the first group of Plains natives to fully incorporate the horse into their culture and to have introduced the animal to the other Plains peoples.
Housing: The Comanche lived in they typical Plains hide tipi.
Subsistance: The Comanches were hunter-gatherers with a horse culture. Buffalo was their principal food.
The tribe operates its own housing authority and issues tribal vehicle tags. They have their own Department of Higher Education, primarily awarding scholarships and financial aid for members’ college educations. Additionally, they operate the Comanche Nation College in Lawton, Oklahoma. They own ten tribal smoke shops and four casinos. The casinos are Comanche Nation Games in Lawton; Comanche Red River Casino in Devol; Comanche Spur Casino, in Elgin; and Comanche Star Casino in Walters, Oklahoma.
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Education and Media:
Tribal College: In 2002, the tribe founded the Comanche Nation College, a two-year tribal college in Lawton.
Catastrophic Events: The Comanches were stricken by a smallpox epidemic from 1780 until 1781. As the epidemic was very severe, the Comanche temporarily suspended raids, and some Comanche divisions were disbanded. A second smallpox epidemic struck during the winter of 1816–1817. The best estimates are that more than half the total population of the Comanche were killed by these epidemics.
The Comanches were the dominant tribe on the Southern Plains and often took captives from weaker tribes during warfare, selling them as slaves to the Spanish and later Mexican settlers. They were estimated to have taken captive thousands of people from the Spanish, Mexican and American settlers in their lands.
By the mid-19th century, the Comanche were supplying horses to French and American traders and settlers, and later to migrants passing through their territory on the way to the California Gold Rush, along the California Road. The Comanche had stolen many of the horses from other tribes and settlers; they earned their reputation as formidable horse thieves, later extended to their cattle rustling. Their stealing of livestock from Spanish and American settlers, as well as the other Plains tribes, often led to war.
The Comanche also had access to vast numbers of feral horses, which numbered approximately 2,000,000 in and around Comancheria, and which the tribe was particularly skilled at breaking to saddle. In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Comanche lifestyle required about one horse per person (though warriors each possessed many more). With a population of about 30,000 to 40,000 and in possession of herds many times that number, the Comanche had a surplus of about 90,000 to 120,000 horses.
They were formidable opponents who developed strategies for using traditional weapons for fighting on horseback. Warfare was a major part of Comanche life. Comanche raids into Mexico traditionally took place during the full moon, when the Comanche could see to ride at night. This led to the term “Comanche Moon”, during which the Comanche raided for horses, captives, and weapons. The majority of Comanche raids into Mexico were in the state of Chihuahua and neighboring northern states.
In the News: