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Comanche

Comanche (kəmănˈchē) [key], Native North Americans belonging to the Shoshonean group of the Uto-Aztecan branch of the Aztec-Tanoan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). They originated from a Basin-type culture and eventually adopted a Plains culture. They separated from the Shoshone and migrated southward in the late 1600s, appearing in New Mexico around 1705. In the late 18th cent. and early 19th cent. their range included SE Colorado, SW Kansas, W Oklahoma, and N Texas. The Comanche were excellent horsemen and inveterate raiders, often pushing far S into Mexico. They were extremely warlike and effectively prevented white settlers from passing safely through their territory for more than a century. They are said to have killed more whites in proportion to their own numbers than any other Native American group. They were associated with the Kiowa, the Cheyenne, and the Arapaho in a loose confederacy. The Comanche, however, considered themselves superior to their associates, and their language served as the trade language for the area. The sun dance, a common feature in the Plains culture area, was not an important part of Comanche culture; they probably introduced the peyote ritual to the Plains tribes. Never a large group despite their wide range, their numbers were greatly reduced by warfare and disease. In 1990 there were about 11,500 Comanche in the United States.

See E. Wallace and E. A. Hoebel, Comanches, The Lords of the South Plains (1952); J. E. Harston, Comanche Land (1963); A. C. Greene, The Last Captive (1972); T. R. Fehrenbach, Comanches: The Destruction of a People (1974); P. Hamalainen, The Comanche Empire (2009); S. C. Gwynne, Empire of the Summer Moon (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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