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Comanche, Native North American tribe, a southern branch of
the Shoshone, of Uto-Aztecan language family, and of the
Plains culture area. The Comanche left their original arid
territory west of the Rocky Mountains to move to the southern
Great Plains around the 15th century. Here they drove out the
Apache people and dominated a vast area during the late 18th
and early 19th centuries. The Comanche were the most skillful
equestrians of the Plains. The pinto ponies they preferred were
originally acquired by raiding the Spanish and later were bred by
the tribe. Extremely warlike, the Comanche made frequent raids
on both European and Native American settlements over a wide
area. They extended their forays as far south as Mexico and
kept settlers out of their territory for more than a century. They
made peace with the United States government in 1875. The
Comanche probably numbered about 30,000 in the early 1800s
but shortly thereafter an epidemic reduced their population to
fewer than 10,000.

A nomadic people, the Comanche lived by hunting bison,
commonly called buffalo. Families dwelt in tepees and were
organized socially into patrilineal bands. Tribe members wore
buckskins, with fur hats in the winter. The Comanche war
helmet was brashly impressive: a bison scalp complete with
horns. Both men and women practiced tattooing. Comanche
religion stressed visionary experiences, which an individual
deliberately sought out in isolated situations of privation. Animal
spirits were believed to favor particular individuals and to render
aid to them; protective spirits were also believed to dwell in
rocks and thunder.

Language Word Samples


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