The historical range of the Comanche Indians included Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas and Oklahoma. The Comanche Indians became a distinct group when they broke away from the Shoshone Indians in late 1600s. At this same time, the Comanche Indians acquired horses.
This allowed them to migrate and gave them better mobility in hunting. While the Comanche never did form one tribal unit – the dozen or so Comanche groups shared the same culture and language. However, they did occasionally fight amongst themselves.
It is said the Comanche Indians were the first Indian group that fully emerged horses into their culture. The Comanche introduced horses to other Plain Indians and traded horses with American traders. The Comanche Indians had a reputation for being horse thieves, yet their adept strategies for fighting and their access to traditional weapons made battling the Comanche a hard endeavor. War became a part of Comanche life.
It should be noted that as the Comanche migrated south they had conflicts with the Apaches. Despite the Spanish helping the Apache in the war with the Comanche, the Comanche soon dominated the area known today as the Texas panhandle, western Oklahoma and the northeastern areas of modern day New Mexico.
The Comanche Indians made annual raids into Mexico. They stole slaves, goods, women, horses, livestock and weapons. The Comanche were fierce and nearly unstoppable. They were greatly feared and the raiding went unstopped until the Comanche was defeated by the United States.
It should be noted that the Comanche were valued as great trading partners for settlers. However, they were always feared. It seemed that the Comanche were always at war with one group or another that lived on the Plains – including other American Indians.
The smallpox outbreak of 1817 and 1848, along with the cholera striking in 1849, killed many Comanche. It is said their numbers reduced from nearly 20,000 to just a few thousand in under 50 years. With the near extinction of buffalo, the Comanche way of life was coming to an end.
Joseph Paige © 2006