Literary Frolic Fridays: August, 2019 Edition. Alan LeMay’s The Searchers. The Comanche.

The Comanche

The Comanche—or more properly, the Nermernuh, “the People,” the collective noun to which they traditionally identify —are an off-shoot of the Wyoming Shoshone. Following their indoctrination to the horse, the Comanche separated themselves from the Shoshone and moved away from the upper stretch of the Platte River in east Wyoming and down into the plains, displacing the Indian nations they encountered (i.e. the Apache). The proper noun Comanche was probably derived from the corruption by the Spanish of the Ute-Aztecan word Komántcia, a proper noun interpreted in English as “enemy,” or, more literally, “anyone who wants to fight me all the time.”

The Comanche empire, Comancheria, encompassed approximately 250,000 square miles and covered present-day eastern New Mexico, southern Colorado, southern Kansas, all of Oklahoma, and most of northern Texas. Though dwelling together within this general area, the Comanche had no overarching unity or homogeneity. Each tribe was autonomous: sometimes they could cooperate with one another and at other times they would wage war against one another.

Tough minded and practical, lacked an ordered theology, had no religious ceremonies or official medicine men: believed that particular wild animals (except dogs or horses) took a shine to them and imparted special spirit medicine: they either became medicine men (to keep evil away) or sorcerers (to direct it towards others, even from afar).

Indians rode in single file to mask/disguise their exact numbers (the hooves of the horses in back would obliterate the tracks of those horses preceding them). To facilitate speed and maneuverability on guerrilla raids, Indians rode small, unshod ponies. Accustomed to companionship and conviviality, Whites rode side by side-by-side.

Comanche were masters of the lance—capable of delivering a death blow to cattle while mounted and at speed.

Comanche taught their steeds to maintain silence: “They wove egg-size knots into their rawhide hackamores, so placed that the pony’s nostrils could be pinched if he so much as pricked an ear.”

Significance of scalping: the dead who have been scalped condemned to eternal wandering.

“In war, no Indian band slacked its pace for the dying. Squaws were known to have given birth on the backs of traveling ponies with no one to wait for them or give help.”

The Comanche murdered their captives if pursuers attacked them.

The Comanche communicated to each other via mimicry of animal sounds.

The “Comanche Wheel:” While on horseback, the Comanche circled around their adversaries, keeping their ponies loosely spaced; screamed their war cry; warriors reloaded as they swung away then fired and they came past. With each circuit they cut the distance.

According to Amos, the Comanche ran only so far as they believe their adversary is willing to follow then stop: they hadn’t accounted for a searcher who wasn’t prepared to stop following.

They would dress up and impersonate those who they kidnapped to trick/lure their pursuing loved ones into the Comanche camp.

Forbade speaking the names of the dead (people, places and things named after someone who died would need to be renamed).

Attacking whites began taking their toll – more and more were being killed (including the sons of chiefs): to assuage their grief, they tortured their white captives all the more heinously.


LeMay, Alan. The Searchers. New York: Leisure Books, 2009.