North American Indian tribe of equestrian nomads whose 18th- and 19th-century territory comprised the southern Great Plains. The name Comanche is derived from a Ute word meaning “anyone who wants to fight me all the time.”
The Comanche had previously been part of the Wyoming Shoshone. They moved south in successive stages, attacking and displacing other tribes, notably the Apache, whom they drove from the southern Plains. By the early 1800s the Comanche were very powerful, with a population estimated at 7,000 to 10,000 individuals. Their language, of the Shoshonean branch of the Uto-Aztecan linguistic stock, became a lingua franca for much of the area.
Like most other tribes of Plains Indians, the Comanche were organized into autonomous bands, local groups formed on the basis of kinship and other social relationships. Buffalo products formed the core of the Comanche economy and included robes, tepee covers, sinew thread, water carriers made of the animal’s stomach, and a wide variety of other goods.
The Comanche were one of the first tribes to acquire horses from the Spanish and one of the few to breed them to any extent. Highly skilled Comanche horsemen set the pattern of nomadic equestrian life that became characteristic of the Plains tribes in the 18th and 19th centuries. Comanche raids for material goods, horses, and captives carried them as far south as Durango in present-day Mexico.
Early 21st-century population estimates indicated some 20,000 individuals of Comanche descent.
Released 2005. Director: Martha Sloan. TV documentary.