The Comanche were a loosely organized Native American group who, before their confinement to reservations, occupied the southern Great Plains grasslands across southeastern Colorado, eastern New Mexico, western Oklahoma, and western Texas. Their subsistence centered around bison hunting and the seasonal movements of the bison herds determined camp sizes and locations. The Comanche had large herds of horses and they used them for hunting, raiding, trade, and occasionally for food in difficult times. The headquarters of the Comanche Nation is in southwest Oklahoma, centered around Lawton. It is a center of community life for many Comanche who live both in the vicinity and in several U.S. cities.
Select the Culture Summary link above for a longer description of the culture.
North America --Plains and Plateau
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Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.
In addition to this culture summary, the NO06 Comanche collection consists of 16 documents, all of them in English except Canonge (1958, No. 12) which also includes stories and folktales in the Comanche language. The documents provide a variety of cultural, historical and environmental information from two widely contrasting historical periods, except DeMallie (2001, no. 38) which lists all references cited or consulted by scholars involved in the “Handbook of Native Americans” book project. The first is the period covering Comanche’s long history from antiquity to their first contact with Europeans in 1701 and finally to their defeat by the US army in the 1870s. The second is from 1875 to the 1990s, and includes important bench marks like the 1875 when the Comanche were finally confined to a reservation, and 1901-1906 when that reservation was broken into scattered allotments and the remaining land was opened to Anglo homesteads. Hoebel (1940, no.1) and Wallace and Hoebel (1952, no.3) provide a thorough description of pre-reservation Comanche culture and society, but mostly on materials collected in the 1930s and 1940s. Information from these two works can be supplemented by other documents which focus on a specific theme including the Sun Dance (Linton, 1935, no. 6, and Hoebel, 1941, no. 8), law (Hoebel, 1969, no. 29), kin behavior (Gladwin, 1948, no.9), language, stories and folktales (Casagrande, 1965, no, 17, and Canonge, 1958, No. 12), medicine women (Jones, 1972, no. 31), and traditional uses of plants (Carlson and Jones, 1939, no. 5). The remaining 6 works discuss changes and continuities that occurred after the Comanche were confined to a reservation. Brief overviews of these changes can be found in Wallace (1953, no. 20) and Kavanagh (2001, no. 37). For analysis and critical discussion of earlier interpretations of these changes, however, one has to consult the works of Foster (1991, no. 39) and Gelo, 1986, no. 39) which are highly informed by recent theoretically advances in anthropology relating to “ethnicity” and “identity.” Materials used in these last two works came from a decade of ethnographic fieldwork carried out by the authors in the 1980s.
Church denominations – use "MISSIONS (797)" and "RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS (795)"
Community gathering - use "COUNCILS (623)"
Dancing societies - use "DANCE (535)" and "SODALITIES (575)"
Interband relations – use "INTER - COMMUNITY RELATIONS (628)", possibly with "SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS AND GROUPS (571)"
Peyote (a hallucinogenic cactus used in peyote religion) - use "RECREATIONAL AND NON - THERAPEUTIC DRUGS (276)", possibly with "CONGREGATIONS (794)"
Peyote men (medicine men, power possessor men) – use "SHAMANS AND PSYCHOTHERAPISTS (756)", possibly with "MAGICIANS AND DIVINERS (791)"
Peyotism (adherence to peyote religion) – use "GENERAL CHARACTER OF RELIGION (771)", possibly with "CONGREGATIONS (794)" and "RELIGIOUS DENOMINATIONS (795)"
Puha (spirit) – use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)"
Powwow (celebration featuring dancing, singing, feasting and gift-giving) - use "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)", possibly with "ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)"
Reservation – use "PUBLIC WELFARE (657)", and "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)"
Sun dance – use "DANCE (535)", possibly with "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)" and "ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)"
Tipi (also spelled as Teepee, small buffalo skin-covered lodge) – use "DWELLINGS (342)"
War Chief – use "MILITARY ORGANIZATION (701)"
Wokwikahni (peyote house) – use "RELIGIOUS AND EDUCATIONAL STRUCTURES (346)"
This culture summary is from the article, "Comanche" by Daniel Gelo, in the Encyclopedia of World Culture Supplement, 2002. Melvin Ember, Carol Ember and Ian Skoggard, eds. MacMillan Reference, USA. The synopsis and indexing notes were written by Teferi Abate Adem in July 2006.