The Comanche and His Tribe

The plains area of Central North America includes the greater portion of Central Canada, the states of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Western Texas. This great area was entirely devoid of trees, except for a few cottonwoods along the streams, and was covered by grass in the eastern section and by semidesert vegetation in the west. The life of the plains was adapted to the open country, for speed and endurance were developed to a surprising degree. The fauna was made up of such species as jack rabbit, coyote, antelope, deer in the hilly regions; birds, such as prairie chicken, quail, eagle, and Mexican pheasant, besides the chaparral hen, but the principal form of plains life was the bison. From the northern most part of Canada to the Rio Grande, these animals moved in large herds, sometimes numbering up in the thousands. The life of the carnivorous animals, such as the lobo wolves and coyotes was conditioned upon the hunting of these herds. Much more was the life of the Plains Indians conditioned and dictated by the movements, habits, and abundance of the bison.

When one speaks of a people's life being conditioned by environment, the problem of cultural areas at once arises. According to archeological data, the continent is divided up according to the life habits of the inhabitants. There is the Atlantic Coast, or fishing area; the Gulf Coast or timber, basket-making and reed area; the Mississippi Valley area, the Plains area, the Rocky Mountain and Plateau area, the Pacific Coast area, the Northwest area, the Aztec culture area, etc. These areas are not sharply defined, but the Indians, according to Wissler, in each area have a center where characteristics peculiar to the region develop and spread to the edges where they blend with those fusing from other centers of development. For example, the Pueblos wove cotton, made pottery, cultivated the soil, and maintained a highly ritualistic religion; the Apaches made some pottery of a poor sort, had a rather ritualistic religion, but they did not weave. In common with all other plains tribes, they wore skins and were hunters and nomads. Here, the essentially pueblo culture blended with the truly plains culture to form a sort of hybrid neither one nor the other, but partaking of both. It is necessary, therefore, to keep this fusing process in mind if we are to explain the varying customs of the Comanches.

One element which aided the development of the peculiarly plains life was the early mode of transportation. The rivers were, in most places, too shallow to be navigable for any distance. The Indians had no beasts of burden until the advent of the Spanish pony; hence they kept close to the flanks of the bison herds, living on them constantly. The Indian had domesticated the dog and used the travois, but the travois was, apparently, introduced from the Mississippi Dakotas. The dog was harnessed to two poles and the ends dragging behind him like a V with a cross bar in the middle for the burden. Such a method of carrying burdens necessitated slow movements, and thus the plains Indians were not much modified by outside cultures until comparatively recent time. At least, the modification was so slow that it is difficult to trace.

Besides the dependence on the bison and use of the travois, the plains area is significant for its stone and bone works. The Indians did not polish stone in many cases, merely chipping it by concussion and retouching by pressure. In the eastern portion, however, some polishing was done. The bow and arrow, of course, formed the basis of their hunting life; the lance and tomahawk were also extensively used. Ornaments and chipping tools as well as needles, so says one of Coronado's men, were used all over the plains.

The architecture of the plains area, in one form or another, was generally based upon the tipi, a tent made of sticks drawn over poles stuck in a circle and the tops fastened together. Some of the Dakotas used a kind of sod house, but the tipi was practically general.

Plains art took two principal forms, namely, the dressing of skins, and the decorating of them with beadwork. In most of the plains tribes, the beadwork was symbolic of religious ideas or of totemic significance. The skins were sometimes painted for this purpose with totemic symbols. The plains designs were geometric from the Canadian Indians to the Comanches and Navajos who were not plains Indians at all. This transfer of the geometric design is, probably, another example of the transfer of customs by transfusion.

The religious concepts of the plains present a mixture of animism, fetishism and worship of the Great Spirit. They believed in spirits in nearly everything animate and inanimate; they believed in carrying charmed objects about with them to protect them, and lastly they worshipped the Great Spirit, ruler of the world.

The Comanches were one of these great plains tribes, but they had many distinct characteristics which distinguish them from all the others.

The earliest authentic reports of the Comanche region are found in the reports of Don Coronado to the viceroy of Mexico City. The documents describe the territory occupied by the Comanches as the land lying between the height of land which divides the rivers which run down to the south sea from the rivers which run down into the north sea, meaning the Colorado of the West, etc., and Rio Grande, Pecos, Colorado, Trinity and Red. The expedition first passed through the land of the Pueblos, for the documents tell of Indians who wove cotton, made pottery, and tilled the soil. When the Spaniards came out upon the plain, in eastern New Mexico and western Texas, the character of the Indians changed. Here the Indians lived with the cows as the Spaniards called the bison. They described the Indians as speaking a deep, rough language, having no beauty but very sonorous. The Indians, who might or might not have been Comanches, stalked the buffalo on foot. The warriors would cover themselves with the skins of the buffalo, two men to a skin, and secrete themselves among the herd. Then, they would proceed to kill all the buffalo they wished, often without the other members of the herd knowing what was taking place. The houses of the Indians of this section were of the time-honored tipi. The structures were very crude, but they were portable and in harmony with the life of the people.

The agriculture of the early Indians of the section was, apparently, in a very backward state. Most of the tribes did not cultivate the soil, for the climate was too arid, and the abundance of the bison herds made farming by irrigation unnecessary. Upon the lower and southern levels, the Indians grew small patches of corn. The corn growing may have been borrowed from the Indians of East Texas. Likewise, I find one mention of the cultivation of the tobacco plant by the central and southern tribes. This culture was not certain, for there is no general mention of it. The Indians had tobacco, that is certain, but they might easily have obtained it from East Texas tribes or the Pueblos.

The organization of the early tribes is as vague. The documents describe them as having a tribal organization based upon a war lord who was elected by the soldiers, so run the documents, and his power was almost absolute, especially in time of war. There seems to have been the conventional Indian council with powers varying with the character of the military chief. Their weapons consisted of the bow and arrow, the lance, and knife. I found no mention of the knife. The stone artifacts found in this region are tantamount to an assertion that they certainly used them. At any rate, they had them, very well perfected, some time later.

The wives of the braves were, of course, private property of their husbands, but there does not seem to have been any polygamy. As the families were usually small, the fact of the absence of polygamy is striking. There is no record, however, one instance of a chieftain who had three wives. I presume it depended upon the wealth of the man as to how many wives he could have.

The extent of the Comanche range, authoritatively known since 1700, was from the headwaters of the Guadalupe, Colorado, Trinity, Red, and Arkansas westward thence to the Rocky Mountains, and southward to the Bolson de Mapimi across the Mexican border. They were still hunters in Coronado's time, but their entire culture had undergone a radical change with the introduction of the horse.

With the exception of one or two tribes, the Comanches were very tall men. This belief is contrary to general opinion, but the Patagonians were the tallest men in the world; the Comanche and Iroquois came next. They were well built and inclined to be corpulent at times. The tribes living nearer the Rocky Mountains, however, were rather short of stature, with very broad chests. This condition was due, probably, to the excessive rarity of the atmosphere. Their heads were long and narrow, their faces well-formed, having rather high foreheads. Finally, they were a very splendid race physically.

To such a people, the introduction of the horse opened up entirely new prospects. Coronado and later Spaniards sold horses to the natives. Likewise, the Spanish ponies were admirably adapted to life on the great level plains and propagated with marvelous rapidity. The horses of North and South America had died out in Pleistocene times, and no horses had been known until they were reintroduced by the Spaniards under Cortez in 1520. The ponies soon spread through the northern and central portions of Mexico and entered Texas. When the Comanches and other prairie tribes began to use them is not exactly known, but by 1700 they had become herders so far as horses were concerned. There was an immediate and sweeping change in the life of the people. The use of the horse made possible the enormous range described above. Instead of stalking on foot, the Comanches and other tribes could now, if necessary, run down and kill the bison on the open plains. The introduction of the horse produced a duel complex, a bison-horse complex. The entire life and thought of the people was organized about these two animals. The horse was a necessity after this introduction; a wife was rather a luxury. The horse carried the Comanche in battle, carried his food, house, and personal belongings. The horse was even utilized for clothing, for horse hair garments were made, not by weaving for felting, but by platting the horse hair into ropes, bridles, robes, and skirts. The horse, possibly, became as fundamental in the life of the Comanche as was the buffalo. He lived in the saddle and soon became the best horseman of the plains.

The method of securing these horses was rather unique. A body of horsemen would secret themselves in a clump of chaparral or shinnery; another group would scatter out over the plain for miles. Gradually, they would close in fanwise, driving the horses before them. When the horses drew near to the thicket, the men concealed there would burst suddenly out into the midst of the horses, lassoing and throwing instantly. If any escaped, these were pursued by riders who were mounted on the swiftest steeds. James relates a story that a band of Comanches tamed a stallion caught in this manner in two hours. It took two hours to capture him and two hours to bring him into submission. The Comanches were, undoubtedly the best wranglers in the world, but I doubt this story. At least, other stories, not quite so fanciful, prove that the Comanches understood and managed their horses in a way in which a white man never comprehended.

The Comanche was, probably, one of the greatest horsemen in the world. Many authentic statements of their endurance and skill are on record. It is said that a Comanche could ride 120 miles per day and keep it up for several days. This story is, also, an exaggeration, but there are reports from army officers that a Comanche could easily make 75 miles a day. An American cavalryman could get twenty-five or thirty miles a day; a Texas cowboy could get fifty miles a day; but a Comanche could take the same horse and ride him twice as far without killing him. The horse, therefore, was the basis of Comanche culture.

There was an accompanying improvement in the use of weapons and their construction. The typical Comanche weapons were the bow and arrow, the lance or spear, the knife, and axe. The bow and arrow were made of some hard wood; the arrows were smoked over a slow fire and straightened under pressure. The bows were boiled or steamed until they became pliant. The arrowheads, spearpoints, knives, and axes were, generally, chipped out. The beds in which good native flint was found exist near Austin, Round Rock and Gatesville. The arrows, many of them, had swallowtailed tangs on the heads. This custom was not entirely confined to the Comanche, for some East Texas tribes grooved their tangs also. Some men mentioned polished knives of some hard, black stone. This stone might have been iron pyrites or some other hard stone. Pyrite is found in the gypsum beds in the Panhandle but the Comanches were not in the habit of polishing stone.

The flint of the Comanche region was so fine in its concoidal fracture that polishing and grinding were not necessary. The axes, in common, with most Indian axes, were hafted on a groove on the outside of the blade instead the handle being put inside the axe head as was done in Europe.

The tools of the Comanches were skin dressers like an adz, buffalo horns for drinking, sharp, hard, straight, sticks for planting corn, bones for chipping, and needles. These tools are, most of them, women's tools. (He, probably, invented most of them.) Then, too, in place of making pottery for containing liquids, the Comanches made skin bags for carrying water over long journeys. This bag may represent the first canteen.

The Comanches were, relatively, highly developed and it would be natural to suppose a rather highly developed government existed among them. The gentile system seems to have been entirely unknown among them. The sign of the entire tribe, however, was the snake, made with the head turned toward the body instead of away. The Comanches had twelve fairly well defined tribes in the nation. These tribes were Kwahasi, Penateka, Detsana, Yuka, Detsakana, Widyu, Yapa, Kewat, Kewatsana, Kotsai, Kotsoteka, Motsai, Pagatsu and Pohoi. There are three others which are rather doubtful; they are Lanima, Tenawa, and Waaih. Of these groups, the Kwahasi and Penateka were the most important. The Comanche was an offshoot of the Shoshonean stock and retained a close linguistic similarity with the Shoshones. The Comanches were the only Shoshonean group living entirely on the plains. Their language was the trade language of the district, and it was characterized by its sonorous quality and an excessive rolling of the R's.

The internal government of the tribes was elective instead of hereditary. There were two chiefs, a civil chief and a war lord. The civil chief has great power during peace, but in war the war chief has almost absolute power. Connected with the chiefs was a council consisting of the warriors and the old men. The council with the civil chief, who presided, settled all disputes, disposals of personal property, heart petitions of young men for wives, and deliberated upon the movements of the tribe as to hunts, winter quarters, and war. Outside these matters, the chiefs and council had no power over the individual.

In the Comanche town, there were certain definite social groups. The civil chief had four wives, the war chief had three, the subalterns had two, and the common Indian had only one. Then, too, the houses were arranged according to rank. The town was ranged in a square with a plaza in the center. The chiefs, civil and military, the chief officers, and powerful warriors had houses facing on the square, the subordinates came next, and so the gradual rank went down until the common men lived on the outskirts of the village. There seems to have been another type of Camp arrangement, the camp circle. The tipis were placed in a circle opening to the east, for they worshipped the sun. The chief's lodge was at the extreme west end, and the fire was always burning in the center of the circle. This arrangement was not so common; these camps were smaller and not so comprehensive as were the towns laid out in squares. There was some evidence of the dog soldier system among the Comanches. The war lord controlled the young men, and although they performed the work of the dog soldiers, they did not have their separate organization.

The land system of the Comanches was very general in its provisions, but they had certain fairly defined divisions. Each tribe had a certain portion of the range for its hunting ground. Of course, there were certain hunts, like the fall buffalo hunt, the spring hunting and the like, in which the entire tribe partook, but the small daily excursions were executed in specific areas. There was no idea of personal ownership of land; the range belonged to the tribe as a whole. Then, too, the various tribes of the nation had permanent headquarters where their few crops were grown. These permanent residences were, also, the property of the entire tribe and no individual owned any of the land himself. Each squaw had a little patch in the general field of her family. These simple arrangements sufficed to regulate their occupation of the territory. The divisions were settled in a grand council of chieftains of all the twelve or fifteen tribes. The civil chief, the war chiefs and medicine men also had a seat in the council. In the absence of the civil chief, the war chief was in charge. If he also went, the best warrior or the best councilor took the civil chief's place. The grand council of the Comanche Nation decided all tribal disputes over land, tribal movements, and declarations of war and treaties of peace. The small divisions had the right to make war on their own part, but the great wars of the Nation were decided by the grand council.

The marriage regulations of the Comanches were unique and simple. The young man went to the council of his tribe or village and made application for the wife he had chosen. If her father or older brothers made no objection, the brave took his wife to his tipi. The couple were allowed to live together for one moon; if no friction developed between them, they were permitted to live together another moon. After another moon, if no trouble had arisen, the two were irrevocably wedded and the bride-price paid. The price was sometimes paid when the girl first left home and returned if she proved unsatisfactory. However, the price was usually paid when the final marriage took place. The wife, then, became the exclusive property of her husband; he could do with her as he liked. The trial marriage, so much discussed by advanced intellectuals, was quite an old device after all.

The Comanches had an odd form of the ordeal connected with the sex relations. If two braves could not compromise their differences and the mediation of the council proved useless, the decision was left to the Great Spirit. The two youths were escorted into a ring of the assembled tribesmen by their younger brother. The medicine man made a long speech describing the history of the case and the inability of the council to mollify the antagonism of the two warriors. They were then lashed firmly together left arm to left arm. Each was given a knife of flint, later steel, about nine inches long with a horn handle specially prepared for the occasion. At a signal from the medicine man, the two youths cut each other to pieces. If one of the combatants survived the other, he was instantly dispatched by his brother who stood ready with drawn knife for the purpose. This represents the extreme form of belief in spirit-world. These men were supposed to go to the Great Spirit to settle their differences justly. The girl, probably, married another brave and forgot them promptly. This ceremony was a very unique form of the ordeal, for neither of the participants were allowed to survive.

As I have said, the women were the absolute property of their husbands. These women tilled the fields, dressed the skins, dyed the feathers for the men's head dresses, and did all the beadwork to trim the moccasins, shirts, and blouses. When the man killed a deer, he brought it in across his horse; but, when he killed a buffalo or antelope the squaw went out and carried it back piece by piece. The woman had practically no rights as against her husband. Apparently, they had the old Common law attitude that the two were one. Of course, the man was the one. He could beat her if she displeased him; he could sell her into slavery if he chose. The women did all the work; hence the Comanche arts save that of war and hunting, belonged to the women.

Comanche agriculture was very primitive. Mooney says that there was no agriculture, but he, probably, meant this was true of the tribes living nearer the Rocky Mountains. The planting implement consisted of a straight stick. They grew crops of tobacco and corn. There is one instance of a traveler saying that they grew beans, but if this were true, they borrowed this vegetable from East Texas tribes. The plowing was done with a stick and the seed was planted by hand. The squaw tended the crop from planting to harvest.

The next important Comanche art was that of skin-dressing. The skin was drawn over drying poles shaped something like an H. When the skin was dried it was stretched on a flattened log and fleshed. The scraper was of flint and shaped like an adz. If the skin was that of a buffalo, the portion around the neck was scraped down to a level with the rest of the skin. Then the skin was treated with a mixture of boxwood, mesquite, and deer's brains. This composition was knocked or rubbed into the hide until it became soft and pliant. The hair, being left on the outside, these soft robes were splendid substitutes for blankets. They were used in the Comanche commerce with the Spanish and American traders. The clothes and most other articles of use were made of skin.

The beadwork of the Comanches, in common with the other plains tribes, was based upon the triangle. The figures were very intricate and minutely worked out. The beads were sewn on the skin with fine strands of deer tendon. The painting on skins was crude and more or less meaningless. The designs on the skins were totemic, symbolic or merely ornamental. The totemic devices were generally confined to the snake, as that was the sign of the tribe. This beadwork was done on skin from which the hair had been removed by hot water and careful scraping.

Of this dressed skin the clothing was made. The men wore moccasins, leggings, and a hunting shirt which came to the knees, all of buffalo hide. The women wore leggings, moccasins, a skirt of soft hide or plaited hair, and a blouse of ornamented skin. The lassos, saddles, water-bags, and bowstrings were all made of this dressed skin. Part of the dress of the men consisted of a head dress of feathers. This garment was only ceremonial, however, and was not worn on the hunt. Only a few feathers were worn in daily life. These articles made up the list of the Comanche art except for their musical instruments. These consisted of a drum, a buffalo hide drawn over a wooden hoop, and castanets made of buffalo bones. The Comanche have few songs of their own; they borrowed their wit largely from other tribes as of the Kiowa.

Another of the duties of the women was in reference to the houses. The tipis were made of undressed buffalo hide with the hair turned out to shed the water. The poles were about fifteen feet long; they were thrust into the ground and their tops tied together. This arrangement gave approximately twenty-five feet of floor space. A fire burned in the middle of the tipi, and a hole was in the middle of the roof to allow the smoke to escape. These tipis were cared for by the women; they put them up when a halt was made and dug a ditch around them to shed off the water; thus the floor was kept dry. They pulled them down and packed them on the mules when the tribe was ready again to take the march. The hunting tent was a few buffalo skins sewed together. The skins were drawn over a forked stick supporting a long stick thrust in the ground. These two structures made up the entire architecture of the Comanches.

The Comanche family, like the general Indian family, was rather small. The family rarely exceeded five when a man had only one wife. The chiefs, of course, who had more than one wife had more children. The wives of the chief did not sleep in his tent; they each had a small tent opening on the main tent, and he also had a separate chamber made by a screen of hides. There was a long buckskin string attached to the buffalo hide mattress of each squaw; these strings passed under the fold of the tent into the chief's sleeping quarters. In this way he could summon any one of them without any particular exertion. The common Indian had no such elaborate arrangement, for he either shared his hair mattress with his squaw or she slept on a buffalo hide close by.

The father of the family had almost absolute power over the children. He ruled them in everything and profited by their labor. The girls were a kind of asset, for he could determine whom they should marry and what price should be paid. The girls were completely under the rule of their father until they were married; they then passed under the control of their husbands. The boys were not so absolutely dominated by the will of the father, but they too were forced to give obedience to his commands. The boys passed out of the control of their parents so soon as they married or went on the warpath for the first time. After the initiation into the warrior group and his first foray, the boy was considered to be a man and no one had any right to rule his actions. If, by any chance, the young man married before he went on a war party he was likewise considered to be a man, for the bride's family would not allow her to marry a coward or a weakling.

The care of women in child birth was relatively undeveloped among the Comanches. It is said that, when on the march, a woman often laid down by the roadside and borne her child attended only, perhaps by an old woman (and the medicine man). The child having been born, the umbilical cord was cut, the child hastily washed, and the mother would remount her mule or pony and proceed with the journey. At any rate, they had few superstitions connected with birth. Twins, if they were boys, were highly welcomed. It was thought to be an evidence of a woman's virtue and desirability. This attitude probably grew out of the paucity of numbers among the Comanches and their constant warfare with all comers. Warriors were needed, hence the honor bestowed on a woman who bore twin sons. Such a cordial welcome, however, was not accorded girls; immediate infanticide was sometimes practiced, but I could not determine that this elimination was habitual.

Infanticide was practiced regularly by the Comanches in the case of deformed, diseased, or sickly babies. The old women and the medicine man generally decided. If the child was not fit to live it was left out on the plains. If the tribe was ready to move, it was left near the campsite; perhaps this place was chosen in order that the coyotes or other carnivorous animals lurking near the camp to eat the scraps, would soon end the baby's suffering. If the tribe meant to halt for some time, the medicine man carried the child far into the plain and left it to die. Why exposure should have been chosen as a means of eliminating the unfit is not easily explained. Probably, the Comanches did not fancy killing their own children outright. In this way, the race was kept up to par, physically, and no misfits developed among them.

Turning to the purely domestic side of the Comanche family, the women, as has already been noted, did all the drudgery. This state of affairs was not so unjust or so unnatural that we should feel surprised. It was only a division of labor. The man had his work and did it; the woman had hers and did it; that was all. The Comanches ate bison, deer, antelope, small game and horses. The dog was eaten, but his flesh was only for ceremonial use. The principal delicacy was horse flesh; they prized it above all other meat. The preparation of the Comanche meal was simple. The corn was ground in a mortar or mill, and hot water poured over it. Sometimes the corn was parched before being ground up. These mortars, by the way, are the only evidence of any grinding of stone done by the Comanches. The meat was then hung on a forked stick and held over the fire. After the meat was partially cooked, it was carried into the lodge; everybody cut off a piece, the size of which was regulated by his appetite, and scooped up handfuls of the meal. With minor variations, this diet sufficed them the year round. The meat that could not be eaten was jerked. Meat-jerking consisted of thin slices of meat fastened down on pegs just off the ground. It was left to dry in the sunshine. The high altitude made this process easy. With the introduction of salt, jerking became much more common. Smoking of meat was also practiced but not so much as jerking.

Owing to the relatively small families, adoption was freely practiced. In raids, the most promising children were always spared and adopted into the tribe. In the case of children no particular ceremony was involved; they were merely taken into some family or supported by the tribe at large and taught and reared as true Comanches. There was another form of adoption in the case of adults. The person who was adopted, usually someone greatly loved or desired by the person performing the adoption, was taken into the family in place of some departed member. Ashes from a pipe were poured out on the ground after the two had smoked together. A small cake was then made of earth and spittle and patted down over the ashes with three pats. This operation was repeated three times. In this way, the dead member was symbolically buried. After the bereaved had wept or howled sufficiently, he would embrace the newly acquired brother or whatnot and all was well again. If the two were to become brothers, blood was often mixed or exchanged on such occasions. By these devices the fight force of the tribe was kept up or materially enhanced. The adoption ceremony was often used with prominent governmental officials.

Another phase of the family life of the Comanches has to do with slavery. However, the institution of slavery has to do more with their sense of property than it does with family life. Nevertheless, the slave did have a place in the Comanche lodge. There were two classes of slaves recognized by the Comanche, namely the slaves who were driven across the country from Mexico to Louisiana, or vice versa, and the few personal slaves held by blood covenant by individual warriors. The personal slave was the individual property of his master as much as his weapons, his horses, or his wife. The master presented the slave with a small stick, about six inches long by two in thickness. On this stick was crudely carved various devices, such as skulls, hatchets, and arrows. The slave opened a vein on the back of his hand and dyed the stick with the blood. If the slave was sold, the same ceremony had to be performed again with the new master, the same stick serving. The slave had the right of life, food usually, and protection from his master, for no man dared molest the property of another. The master could sell the slave to whom and whenever he chose, and the tribe had no voice in the transaction whatsoever. The personal slave represented the Comanches closest approach to a definite sense of property other than as regarded the utensils of his daily life.

The other type of slave was captured from the Mexicans or Texans and sold in gangs to the various plantation owners. These slaves were community property, and each man shared in the profit. The slave trade and slavery in general was probably introduced to the Comanches by the Spaniards or the French and American planters in Louisiana. At any rate, slaves and buffalo hides made up the bulk of the Comanche trade. They also traded in horses, but they were only incidental to the main business of skins and slaves. The enslavement of inferiors is not uncommon with a warrior people, but the deliberate capture and sale of slaves is an art rarely practiced by primitive men. I am sure that the Comanches learned it from the Mexican coffee planters and the Louisiana rice and sugar cane planters.

In common with all men, the religion of the Comanches was expressive of their general economic status. The religion was a kind of animism plus a crude sort of pantheism. They believed that every living object had two beings, one inside the other. Hence, they were keen about placating the soul of the buffalo before they killed it, and duly honored the same spirit after the beast was dead. The Comanches also believed in fetishes, for they carried all sorts of charms about on their persons to aid them in battle or protect them against harm. Anyone becomes attached to any object, such as a knife, which he carries constantly. This attachment becomes very intense if the object has some mystic power to aid and protect. The crucifixes and medals, although merely symbolic of my own church, attain the status of true fetishes if carried on the person. Hence, the fetishes of the Comanches were not so much a part of the general scheme of religion as they were merely personal relations, each man to his personal fetish. The whole thing was an evidence of magical power gained by propinquity or analogy, that is either by being close to the organ that was supposed to possess the power, or by the wearing of something that looked like the real object power.

The fundamental belief of the Comanches, however, had to do with the worship of the Great Spirit. This deity was sometimes merely a clever trickster. More often he was vague, omniscient, and all-powerful. The Indian could not come to him usually directly; he must have a mediator. The various spirits of animals, the spirits adhering in the powers of nature, and perhaps the spirits of departed ancestors might gain the ear of the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit ruled and was in all. In this particular, the omnipresence of deity, the Comanche seems to have differed slightly from the other Indians. He might have borrowed this notion of the all-pervading character of the deity from the Spaniards. It is for this reason that I call their religion a kind of crude pantheism.

Like all heavens, the Happy Hunting Ground of the Comanche was modeled after the rather imperfect reality of his everyday life with all the disagreeable things omitted. The heaven was also based on the buffalo just as was the life of the Comanches. It was in a valley immeasurably large and covered with groves, streams, meadows and abundance of game. It was never too cold or too hot, and there would be no more suffering or sorrow. There would always be plenty without the necessity of expending much energy or effort to obtain it. It seems odd that a plains people would have considered their heaven to be in a valley. However, the Comanches, being a Shoshonean group, had come originally from the Rocky Mountains and hills of Eastern Colorado. This fact may explain their preference for a valley as heaven rather than a plain.

A great portion of the religion of the Comanche, like other primitive peoples, was bound up with the dance. He had dances for nearly everything. The calendar was marked off by various ceremonial dances. The year was divided into four seasons, and these were divided into moons; the moons were subdivided into sleeps. The seasons were celebrated with regular festivals. The green corn dance was a thanksgiving fiesta and ended with the roasting of green corn. The corn was laid in piles in a circle, each family making a pile. The whole tribe assembled and the medicine man made an exhortation to the people and a prayer of thanksgiving. Then he took one ear from each pile and laid them on the fire to roast. When the ceremony had been performed, everybody roasted as much corn as he could eat. The dance was purely social after the medicine man had finished. All restrictions were broken down, and the youths and maidens could associate as freely as they chose. Another of the dances was performed for the other seasons, each in keeping with the particular season. The great hunting dance in the fall and such other characteristic ceremonies are examples of these season dances. Then, there were weekly dances so to speak. At every change of the moon, a solemn dance was held. At the new moon, the medicine man made a long harangue thanking the Great Spirit for granting a new luminary even though the old one had gone. The dance, especially the green corn dance, was enacted by both men and women. At each of the other quarters a similar dance was held. At the last change, they held the feast of the roasted dog. The dogs were fatted and carried a short distance from the village, killed, and roasted by the women. After much dancing, the tribe sat down and ate dog with much jollity. The hunting dances were more pantomimes of what was to be done during the hunt. This operation was thought to produce success in the actual business of taking game. After the warriors had gone the women performed a similar dance to insure success for the men. Apparently they had the idea that they were adding their strength to that of the men. The pipe dance was a dance of welcome and friendship; it was performed only by men. The chief of the tribe would stand with a lighted pipe in his hand, the men of his tribe plus those of the visiting party would dance in a circle with its outer edge close to the chief. After he had taken several whiffs, he would hand the pipe to the visiting chief or leader of the party as he passed. The recipient would smoke the pipe around the circle and hand it back to the host. This ceremony was repeated until everybody had had a chance to smoke. The pipes were made of red sandstone, and Lee says that the Comanches made them themselves. I do not think so, for there was practically no sandstone in the Comanche territory. The other pipe ceremony was performed without motion. The pipe was lighted by the chief of the village. He gave one puff to the earth and one to the sky and two to the wind and water. The puffs given to the wind and water were given to the left and right respectively. After giving a few more puffs to the good of the smokers, he handed the pipe to the most important visitor, who went through the same procedure, handing it back to the second in importance in the host's retinue. Thus, the pipe went down the whole scale to the last man.

All such dances were accompanied by the tomtom beaten with a small paddle and the bone castinets. There was a complimentary visitor's dance which was more social than religious, but it had some religious aspects. The chief and his most important warriors would dance, fully arrayed in all their finery, to the single accompaniment of bone discs, later Spanish coins, fastened to a wand carried by the chief. At the end of the dance, which lasted as long as the dancers saw fit, the chief drove them before him out of the circle formed by the hosts or from the square of the village. This dance was purely complimentary and social. It may be compared to the "bagging" dance of the north plains Indians.

Perhaps, the religion of men may be best shown by their treatment of the dead. The Comanches laid the body in full dress, hair bracelets and all, flat on the ground with the head to the west. Posts were driven securely down around the body until a closed stockade was formed. Then, all the personal property of the dead was piled in the grave with him. The body was covered with branches and dirt and stones were heaped upon the grave and tamped down firmly over the whole. The ponies, mules, and dogs of the dead man were then taken to the grave and killed. If a squaw died, her tools were put into the grave with her, and her mule, if she had one, was killed at her grave so that she could follow her husband quickly in the next world. All these practices are indicative of a profound belief in spirits and the afterlife. As for the custom of burying the bodies with their heads to the west, they did it in order that when the Great Spirit willed, the Comanche might arise and march eastward to conquer the lands which he had lost to the white man. The relentless warfare of the Comanches is explained by this belief in an ultimate defeat of the whites. Perhaps the idea of a resurrection and a reconquest was borrowed from the Spanish missionaries, but most downtrodden peoples have some legend of a savior who will someday come to redeem his people and right their wrongs. It was only natural, therefore, that the Comanches should have developed some such notion with reference to their white enemies. Here again, they seem to differ essentially from the other plains tribes in that they believed in a day of resurrection. Whether they borrowed the idea or not, it profoundly effected their attitude toward the white man and was the principal cause for their unyielding hostility towards him for more than three hundred years.

There are two other semi-religious dances of which I am not so sure. The Comanche war dance or torture dance is described by Lee as being exceedingly horrible. For this reason, they are not to be taken too seriously. The war dance was merely a pantomime of a surprise and massacre; the child of the war dance, the scalp dance, was a similar enactment of taking a scalp. The peculiar attitude toward the scalp was that held by most Indians. The scalp was a token of great bravery and military prowess. Then too, a man who had been scalped was not likely to be allowed to enter the Happy Hunting Ground; hence many an Indian cut off a friend's head to prevent an enemy from scalping him. The body was left on the field, but the head was taken to the brave's native village and buried with due ceremony.

In the torture dance, the victims were stripped and strung up with their arms and legs stretched out and tied to upright poles. The warriors moved slowly about them. At definite intervals they stopped and gave a terrific warwhoop. The captives were ritualistically killed by slow degrees. They were first scalped, usually by the youngest members of the warrior group. Then the warriors cut them to pieces with flint knives shaped much like spearheads. I am not sure just how true is this account, but the Comanches did have a dance in which the captives were killed. These dances and festivals made up the greater part of their religious observances.

In common with nearly all the plains Indians and others in the west and northwest, the Comanches venerated the Thunder Bird. The lightning was its eyes, the black cloud its wings, and the thunder was the snapping of its beak. On the upper stretches of the Red River there was a level place destitute of all vegetation. In this spot, the Thunder Bird was supposed to have lighted. Though the Thunder Bird was worshiped by most all of the Indians, the Comanches localized it by giving it a local character and a specific spot in which to alight.

Thus nearly all of his acts were regulated with reference to the spirit world. Even the naming of the children was, in a measure, determined by omens. In ordinary times, the medicine man attended on the woman. The first significant object which he saw after the child was born became the child's sponsor so to speak, for the child was named for it. Often however, the child was named for its likeness to some natural object. The name was supposed to enhance this quality. Hence, all life was subjective and ruled by spirits.

The Comanches, from the foregoing, were much like the other plains tribes, but in other respects they differed markedly from their nearest neighbors. This situation may be explained from the Shoshonean origin and immigration from Wyoming. The pressure of the Sioux and other prairie tribes probably drove the Comanches southward while the Shoshones were pressed farther north and west. Until recently the Comanche and Shoshone kept up communication, and their tongues were much alike. The Comanches had no Indian allies except the Kiowa, with whom they were confederated since 1795. They were at war with all the tribes to the north, west, east and south. Their special enemies were the Apaches and their hostility towards these tribes never abated.

For more than two hundred years, they fought the Spaniards, and then maintained a life and death struggle with the Texans for over forty years. Their first treaty with the Texas government was made in 1835. They made the Treaty of Medicine Lodge, but it was soon broken. Later, in 1867, they made a second treaty, agreeing to accept a reservation between the Washita and Red Rivers in southwestern Oklahoma, but it was not until after the outbreak of 1875-78 that they and their allies, the Kiowa, finally settled upon it.

When first authentically encountered by the whites, the Comanches numbered about 40,000, but they have been terribly wasted by disease and their relentless war with the whites. In 1899, they had dwindled to the small number of 1,553 on their reservation in Oklahoma. Thus the most dashing, picturesque, and unafraid of the western tribes has almost passed out of existence.

Lee E. Mahoney, Frontier Times, April, 1928