The Comanches, exceptional horsemen who dominated the Southern Plains, played a prominent role in Texas frontier history throughout much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Anthropological evidence indicates that they were originally a mountain tribe, a branch of the Northern Shoshones, who roamed the Great Basin region of the western United States as crudely equipped hunters and gatherers. Both cultural and linguistic similarities confirm the Comanches' Shoshone origins. The Comanche language is derived from the Uto-Aztecan linguistic family and is virtually identical to the language of the Northern Shoshones. Sometime during the late seventeenth century, the Comanches acquired horses, and that acquisition drastically altered their culture. The life of the pedestrian tribe was revolutionized as they rapidly evolved into a mounted, well-equipped, and powerful people. Their new mobility allowed them to leave their mountain home and their Shoshone neighbors and move onto the plains of eastern Colorado and western Kansas, where game was plentiful. After their arrival on the Great Plains, the Comanches began a southern migration that was encouraged by a combination of factors. By moving south, they had greater access to the mustangs of the Southwest. The warm climate and abundant buffalo were additional incentives for the southern migration. The move also facilitated the acquisition of French trade goods, including firearms, through barter with the Wichita Indians on the Red River. Pressure from more powerful and better-armed tribes to their north and east, principally the Blackfoot and Crow Indians, also encouraged their migration. A vast area of the South Plains, including much of North, Central, and West Texas, soon became Comanche country, or Comancheria. Only after their arrival on the Southern Plains did the tribe come to be known as Comanches, a name derived from the Ute word Komdnteia, meaning "enemy," or, literally, "anyone who wants to fight me all the time." The
Spaniards in New Meadco, who encountered the Comanches in the early eighteenth century, gave the tribe the name by which they were later known to Spaniards and Americans able. Although the tribe came to be known historically as Comanches, they called themselves Nermernuh, or "the People."
The Comanches did not arrive on the South Plain...
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...orld War ll. accelerated the breakup of Comanche society as members of the tribe left to find jobs in the defense industry or join the military service. In the postwar years, the Comanche population continued to disperse in search of economic opportunity.
In the 1960s the Comanches, encouraged by a resurgence of Indian nationalism, began to work together to rebuild their society. They underwent important political changes because of that initiative. They seceded from the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Intertribal Business Committee, which had served as their government since passage of the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936. Although they maintained ties with the Kiowas and Apaches, the Comanches established their own tribal government, which operates in a bustling complex near Lawton, Oklahoma. In 1995, the Comanches had an enrolled tribal population of 9,722 scattered across the United States. For them the pow-wow, or dance gathering, had become an important method of maintaining Comanche kinship. The People are also united by pride in their rich Comanche heritage, an element that has remained constant through years of tumultuous change.