COMANCHE GREEN T-Shirt
The Comanche are a Native American ethnic group whose range (the Comancheria) consisted of present-day Eastern New Mexico, Southern Colorado, Southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of Northern and Southern Texas. There might once have been as many as 20,000 Comanches. Today, the Comanche Nation consists of approximately 10,000 members, about half of whom live in Oklahoma (centered at Lawton), and the remainder are concentrated in Texas, California, and New Mexico. The Comanche speak an Uto-Aztecan language, sometimes classified as a Shoshone dialect.**********The Comanches emerged as a distinct group shortly before 1700, when they broke off from the Shoshone people living along the upper Platte River in Wyoming. This coincided with their acquisition of the horse, which allowed them greater mobility in their search for better hunting grounds. Their original migration took them to southern plains, from where they moved southward into a sweep of territory extending from the Arkansas River to central Texas. During that time, their population increased dramatically due to the abundance of buffalo, an influx of Shoshone migrants, and the adoption of significant numbers of women and children taken captive from rival groups. Nevertheless, the Comanches never formed a single cohesive tribal unit but were divided into almost a dozen autonomous groups. These groups shared the same language and culture but may have fought among themselves just as often as they cooperated.*****************The horse was a key element in the emergence of a distinctive Comanche culture, and there have been suggestions that it was the search for additional sources of horses among the Mexican settlers to the south (rather than the search for new herds of buffalo) that first led the Comanches to break off from the Shoshone. The Comanches 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. By the mid-nineteenth century, they were supplying horses to French and American traders and settlers, and later to migrants passing through their territory on their way to the Californian Gold Rush. Many of these horses were stolen, and the Comanches earned a reputation as formidable horse and later cattle thieves. Their victims included Spanish and American settlers, as well as the other Plains tribes, often leading to war. They were formidable opponents who developed strategies for fighting on horseback with traditional weapons. Warfare was a major part of Comanche life.******************The emergence of the Comanche around the turn of the eighteenth century and their subsequent migration southward brought them into conflict with the Apaches, who already lived in the region and themselves began migrating to Spanish-dominated Texas and New Mexico. In an attempt to prevent Apache incursions, the Spanish offered them help in their wars with the Comanches, but these efforts generally failed and the Apaches were finally forced out of the Southern Plains by mid-century. The Comanche now dominated the area surrounding the Texas Panhandle, including western Oklahoma and northeastern New Mexico. Comanche raids into Mexico were a yearly event for many decades, with the warriors seeking weapons, cattle, horses, mules, women, goods and slaves. At least one such raid went so far south into Mexico that the returning raiders spoke of seeing "little men in the trees who would not speak to us", referring to monkeys. The Comanche raids were greatly feared. The Comanche mobility on horseback made these raids unstoppable until their final defeat by the United States. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War, addressed the issue of Comanche raids, and the United States promised to stop the raids, but was not able to do so for many years.***************The Comanches maintained an ambiguous relationship with the Europeans and later Americans attempting to colonize their territory. They were valued as trading partners, but they were also feared for their raids. Similarly, the Comanches were at war at one time or another with virtually every other Native American group living in the Great Plains, leaving opportunities for political maneuvering by the European colonial powers and the United States. At one point, Sam Houston, president of the newly created Republic of Texas, almost succeeded in reaching a peace treaty with the Comanches, but his efforts were thwarted when the Texas legislature refused to create an official boundary between Texas and the Comancheria. While the Comanches managed to maintain their independence and even increase their territory, by the mid-nineteenth century they faced annihilation because of a wave of epidemics introduced by white settlers. Outbreaks of smallpox (1817, 1848) and cholera (1849) took a major toll on the Comanches, whose population dropped from an estimated 20,000 in mid-century to just a few thousand by the 1870s.****************Efforts to move the Comanches into reservations began in the late 1860s with the Treaty of Medicine Lodge (1867), which offered them churches, schools, and annuities in return for a vast tract of land totaling over 60,000 square miles (160,000 km²). The government promised to stop the buffalo hunters, who were decimating the great herds of the Plains, provided that the Comanches, along with the Apaches, Kiowas, Cheyennes, and Arapahos, moved to a reservation totaling less than 5,000 square miles (13,000 km²) of land. However, the government failed to prevent the slaughtering of the herds, which provoked the Comanches under Isa-tai (White Eagle) to attack a group of hunters in the Texas Panhandle in the Second Battle of Adobe Walls (1874). The attack was a disaster for the Comanches and the army was called in to drive all the remaining Comanche in the area into the reservation. Within just ten years, the buffalo were on the verge of extinction, effectively ending the Comanche way of life as hunters. In 1875, the last free band of Comanches, led by Quahadi warrior Quanah Parker, surrendered and moved to the Fort Sill reservation in Oklahoma. In 1892 the government negotiated the Jerome Agreement, with the Comanches, Kiowas, and Apaches, further reducing their reservation to 480,000 acres (1,940 km²) at a cost of $1.25 per acre ($308.88/km²), with an allotment of 160 acres (0.6 km²) per person per tribe to be held in trust. New allotments were made in 1906 to all children born after the Jerome Agreement, and the remaining land was opened to white settlement. With this new arrangement, the era of the Comanche reservation came to an abrupt end.***********The Comanches were ill-prepared for life in a modern economic system, and many of them were defrauded of whatever remained of their land and possessions. Elected chief of the entire tribe by the United States government, Chief Quanah Parker campaigned vigorously for better deals for his people, he met with Washington politicians frequently and helped manage land for the tribe. He himself became independently wealthy as a cattleman. Quanah also campaigned for the Comanches' permission to practice the Native American Church religious rites, such as the usage of peyote,which was condemned by whites. During World War II, many Comanches left the traditional tribal lands in Oklahoma in search of financial opportunities in the cities of California and the Southwest. Today they are among the most highly educated native groups in the United States. About half the Comanche population still lives in Oklahoma, centered around the town of Lawton. This is the site of the annual pow-wow, when Comanches from across the United States gather to celebrate their heritage and culture. Many Comanches, especially those living in and around Lawton, Oklahoma, claim descent from Quanah Parker.