Comanche Lance

Only the bravest warriors carried lances into battle

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This Comanche lance, made in the mid 1800s, reused a Spanish lance point from around 1775 for its tip. In 1968, the lance body was restored by Rocky Stallings (Comanche and Tonkawa) of the Institute of Texan Cultures. The hand wrap is made from buffalo hide and the feathers are replica Red-tailed Hawk.

Before rifles became easily accessible through trade, Comanche warriors typically fought and hunted with either a bow or 14 foot lance. Even after the introduction of rifles, some warriors preferred to use lances as they were indicators of bravery. Only the bravest of Comanche warriors carried a lance into battle as they required very close contact with an enemy. Feathers hung from a lance were visible reminders of the bravery of a warrior.

The Numunuu (Comanche), or “The People,” began as a migratory group skilled at hunting and superior horsemanship. They expanded from the northern Plains into western Oklahoma and Texas by the early 1700s, eventually ruling a 240,000-square-mile territory called Comanchería. The various Comanche bands, who rarely gathered together, collectively controlled this expanse of land as they moved seasonally throughout Comanchería hunting bison and deer, trading with their neighbors, and raiding their enemies’ settlements.

Over the 150 years they controlled this region, the Comanche relationship with European, Mexican, Texan, and American leaders shifted. Comanche bands were able to make relative peace with the Spanish and Mexican governments. However, in the years leading up to the U.S.-Mexico War, American Indian raids, particularly by Comanches, had left the region sparsely populated, which weakened Mexico’s hold on their northern territories and provided the United States with a reason to claim those territories. After Texas won its independence in 1836, the conflict escalated further when Texas joined the United States and more Anglo settlers moved in, squeezing Comanche bands into a smaller and smaller territory. By the 1870s, the Comanche had been weakened by disease and decades of war. Unable to fight any longer, Chief Quanah Parker surrendered and led his people to a reservation in present-day Oklahoma in 1875. The Comanche population, once estimated at 200,000, shrank to less than 2,000.

Today, members of the Comanche Nation number over 16,300 with nearly half the population residing in Oklahoma.

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