Comanche Warriors and Honor
Was watching a very good history channel program on the Comanches. A tribe of native americans in Texas. Bred on war, on the fight, the spirit of freedom and openess, as well as the fierce determination to defend their territory. They were the uncontested champions of war, no other tribe could challenge their dominance. Not the Apaches to the west, nor the tribe to the North and East.
I won’t bother describing the exact details the program showed, I will just list the facts and plot line, and then give my impressions.
You know how it started. Comanches saw mustang herds left over by Spanish conquistadors (amazingly enough) and used horse power to train themselves as expert hunters, raiders, warriors, herders, etc. They eventually met the white man settlers that were coming into Texas. And from that, history was made for better or worse.
The Comanches were a war like people. They prided themselves on their ability to fight, to be warriors, to protect and to provide. Protecting their “band”, meant defeating anyone that challenged them on their land. So when the white boys came to Texas, they saw that as a challenge, and therefore they treated them as any other tribe of native Americans would be treated.
They raided some farmsteads and single family holds, and captured the family of one settler after killing the men via a fake parley for trade. One girl captured was named Cynthia, and the Comanches took these womenfolk and children captive because they knew how high a price the white man would pay for them. What does that remind you of, need I ask?
But irregardless, Texas was annexed by the US and settlers poured into it. One leader of one band, a band being composed of a comanche group lead by an independent chief with no allegiance to any other comanche group, sought peace deals with the US military commander in Texas.
They brought along one captive to trade in for favorable terms, hoping to use the additional captives for better deals by holding them back. The Colonel in charge demanded that all white captives be released. After talking to the girl that they brought with them, and after she had been released, they had heard from her and seen in her the brutality with which she was treated. She was a slave after all. Slaves were treated no better than horses, in fact worse than horses, because horses were respected. She was only a menial worker that knew not the language or the customs, did not know how to fight, and therefore was not a warrior. So the Indian women punished her when the girl would not obey commands. She is a captive, they gave her no reason to work hard. They burned off her nose, as punishment. The Comanche men treated her as an object to be raped for their pleasure. She was not a warrior, not a Comanche. Humans don’t tend to treat foreigners as human unless they have a good reason. You’ve seen this in the Nazi and Arab treatment of Jews, but they could not have done what they did, if the basic trait wasn’t in humanity to begin with. She didn’t speak the language of the Comanches, she wasn’t a man and therefore in a warrior bred society had second place, and she also was a captive and not part of the band, therefore having slave status below second place status. The Comanches thought it was just natural punishment for anyone that encroached upon their lands. The white men thought otherwise.
The military commander when he heard this, was quite incensed. He demanded that all captives be released and that the Comanches move away from central Texas. The tribal leader could not agree because he did not represent all Comanche Tribes. He also didn’t want to agree to the release of all white captives, because he wanted a better deal. He did not know that the military officer was getting enraged to the point that if you did not give into his demands, he would escalate matters. And he did, the colonel demanded that they release the captives or they would be arrested. The Comanches saw this as an insult and said that they would fight before being captured. The interpreter gave the ultimatum or second clarficiation to the ultimatum and then ran for the door, because he saw what was going to happen .What was going to happen was that the US soldiers would start shooting at the comanches and the comanches would start hacking at the white men.
This is what is known as blood feud. And it began probably the first time the comanches attacked a settler. As it progressed through and past the American Civil War, people forgot who started it all, and they didn’t really care. All the federal troops cared about was ending the war, making the comanches surrender, unconditionally preferably. All the comanches cared after the Ami Civ War was to live free and as warriors. Kind of hard to live free and as warriors when the Americans are killing the comanches left and right.
Yes, comanche leaders did try to make peace deals, and they also went to Washington DC. One of their prime intellectual leaders, the ones interested in the survival and welfare of their people, said that “these people have so much, what would it hurt them to give up some land”. That was the wrong question, and the comanches (and the Americans as well) did not understand.
It was always about honor. Blood and honor. Do you understand this concept? To understand this concept is to understand why the blood feud between Americans and native Americans started. To understand this concept is to also understand why they continued to fight.
The tribal custom of native American scalpings, taking hostages for ransom, attacking settlers on farmsteads, raiding white settlements for captives and slaves. These things are not honorable by American standards, especially by American FRONTIERSman standards. Chivalry was alive and big back then. You wanted to fight, that’s okay, but leave the women and children alone. The comanches not only violated this principle but they kept on doing it because they just didn’t get it, and the language/cultural barrier prevented any further understanding. There weren’t people like me back then that understood cultures. You think the native americans living on buffalo hide and hunting could understand what the white man frontiersman was like, or vice a versa? Those two groups were too busy surviving and trying to make a living, to committ any serious energy to intellectual studies. A benefit, I say, of civilization for me, but not for them.
It wasn’t the comanches alone either. But every native american tribe from sea to shining sea. They were not civilized, and yet they were not Noble Savages either.
This is the stuff from which tragedies are made from. But history is irrevocable and almost inevitable. Meaning, even if disease had not weakened the comanches, the simple economic facts of life would have done them in. If not in this century, then the next or the next one after that. The settlers had huge immigrant populations to draw from, advanced technology which got more and more advanced as time went on. The comanches way of life was being steadily and quickly outpaced. Their buffalo herds were being decimated and annihilated by hunters and trappers using Sharpes .50 caliber rifles on Scottish bypod sticks.
I say tragedy, not in general, but in the specific. You know that girl Cynthia I mentioned above? Well, she was not repatriated. So when a US Texas Ranger company/battalion (Texas Rangers founded to protect against comanche warrior raids) found a comanche camp and annihilated it to the last man and child, they spared this blond woman. She had been held captive for 25 years, starting from childhood. She was Cynthia Parker, of the Parker clan.
She had a son, named Qana, as well as a comanche husband. The US Rangers took her and returned her to the Parker clan. But of course, Cynthia had made a life for herself amongst the Comanche. They were all that she had probably remembered and known. Her friends, people she saw as her family. To be thrust back into the alien hold of a vaguely remembered society, from which she felt separate and strange. No wonder she starved herself to death.
And her son? He lived. Qana renamed himself Qana Parker, and came to lead all of the Comanche bands and warriors. The son of a native american and a white female captive, leading the comanche against federal troops from the white nation. I don’t think Qana ever forgave the white man for destroying his home and family.
Fate is strange and fickle. Stranger still is that these native american warriors, who prided themselves on their ability to fight and hunt and be warriors without peer, had to surrender or be annihilated in the end. And Qana Parker did surrender, after US cavalry leader found his camp, destroyed his food supplies and shot his horse herds. Qana fought a long war, a guerrila war, like his fellow comanches. Focusing on night raids, stealth, the silent and quick kill. They were only beaten by the same tactics. Remember this. The white man did not beat the comanches through superior firepower, but through the tactics of the comanches themselves, by having Apache scouts and other native american scouts who knew the lay of the land. Remember this, for it is important. To forget, is to suffer the pain of defeat.
I say fate is strange, because the commanches even though they surrendered the life of the warrior to life in a enclosed reservation and farm for a living (they would rather die than farm but even still, their leaders decided that living and farming was better. Remind you of the Japanese perhaps? Death before surrendering, then surrendering?), continued to fight on. A commanche company was at Utah beach on D-Day. They are in the American military forces, i.e. Iraq and Gulf War 1.
The warrior blood of the comanches were not exterminated, but incorporated within the greater United States union. And this is why America is strong, not because of a bunch of white men with bombs and superior guns destroying all opposition. Because nature decided that only the strong shall survive and be deserving of leadership. We may only obey nature’s dictates, although we may fight to our last breath against it. The weak perish and the strong survive. Not all the time, but all the time for your people. And it is also why we are in Iraq. How do we exterminate terrorism? We learn from the terroists, and we get terroists to kill terroists. Or rather, Arabs allied with the US, to kill Arabs allied with our enemies.
When facing a dishonorable enemy, to defeat him, you must learn from him. To be inflexible, is to be dead in war.
We name our helicopters the Comanche, the Apache. Why? Because humanity is stronger as a team than as disparate individuals fighting over the crumbs of life. It took generations of warfare for the native americans to realize this. When we think of guerrila warfare, we tend to think that the US isn’t good in, that we can’t beat it, that it is superior. It is not superior. Not if you know of history in the macroscopic scale.
The Comanches and the Apaches, if they truly understood their enemies, would have realized this. The way of buffalo hunting and what not, was over. Times were changing, globalization, agriculture, technology. Either you flow with the times, or you shall be destroyed by the stream of progress. The Arabs are fighting this as well, you know. Progress.
The solution for the native americans was simple, if not easy to see or contemplate. Accept integration into American society, either in the reservations or as American citizens with a background in Amerindian tradition. Join the US military and fight as a coherent force in America’s wars to protect your lands. They had a chance in the Ami Civil War. To fight and bleed with the Union or the Confederacy. Americans respect honorable opponents, like Lee or Grant. In the long term, honorable opponents make for an honorable peace (Japan). They had to make themselves an asset to America. If they were ever going to get what they wanted, land or freedom or whatever, they had to have ALLIES in America, Texas, and various other places. They could talk all they want, raid all they want, acquire as many slaves as they want, torture and scalp as many settlers as they want, but without American allies to smooth the way for them politically and culturally, they were not going to get anywhere in peace. And even their days of being warriors will be cut off by the indomitable might of the US military eventually. The Arabs have learned this well, which is why they manipulate American divisions very adeptly. From CAIR to ACLU, the Arabs have many American allies in America. Something the Native Americans never exploited in large numbers. They didn’t have the technology, the training, the historical knowledge/precedence, and they didn’t have the help of the USSR either. Let’s not forget that.
Even after countless atrocities by the Comanches, the US still accepted their surrender. They appointed Qana Parker as the chief of all Comanche bands. And it was him, that lead the Comanches from a nomadic hunter life to a farming life on reservations. I say history is ironic, because it is either that or it is a tragedy.
Understand this. You may think you have one up on America. You may think you have the upper hand, with the many hostages you have taken and the many scalps you have carved from American heads. But understand this as you die, ever pathetic fools. American power is legion, because we are the compressed strength and history of many many peoples and cultures. Some of them don’t even like us, certainly don’t even like the “White Man” and have had a history of blood feuds. But that doesn’t sap our unity and strength. Our nature is manifold, our strength therefore is diverse and unquantifiable. Our core pillars yet untapped. We have defeated the mightiest warriors and soldiers on this earth, and integrated their skills, their souls, their honor and valor, into our own. From Sun Tzu to the Prussian general Von Clausewitz. You will have to bring harsher methods than beheading to destroy us. You have to weaken us from within, have us commit suicide because we no longer believe in our values if you wish to defeat us. And you had better do this fast before we do you in.
We do not exterminate our enemies or even our perceived enemies as Germany and the Arabs did and do with Jews. We integrate them into our fold, and make ourselves stronger for it. Resistance is futile, because only Honor and Blood matters in the End. For he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother, be he ne’er so vile.
Comanche war parties usually found easy victims in Texas, and when Americans began to settle there after 1821, Comanches did not distinguish between Anglo and Hispanic. In 1833 Sam Houston arrived in Texas as a United States representative to arrange a treaty with the Texas Comanches. There were some meetings, but Mexican officials began to wonder what he was doing in their country arranging a treaty with their Comanches, and he was asked to leave. Soon after Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, Houston became president of the new republic. In May, 1838, a treaty of peace and friendship was signed with the Texas Comanches but did not address the Comanches’ main concern, a line between Comancheria and the white settlements. In the absence of an agreement on this, the whites steadily encroached, and the Comanches still raided. Houston wanted to set a line but was replaced in December by Mirabeau Lamar, a man determined to deal with Indian problems by war. One of his priorities was the return of Anglo prisoners taken by Comanches during the previous ten years of Mexican rule. Mainly women and children, the Texans were understandably anxious to get them back. In March, 1840 a meeting, under a flag of truce in San Antonio, was held with the Comanches to negotiate their release.
If the Texans had any illusions [as to] the fate of these people, they were about to be shattered. Rape was one of the kinder things Comanches did to women, and many of the children had grown-up as Comanche and had no wish to return [cultural assimilation, not just a white man thing]. The twelve Comanche leaders who attended the meeting expected trade and ransom, but when the Texans saw the condition of a captive they had brought with them, they asked questions about others still in the Comanche camps. They were outraged by what they learned, and the negotiations collapsed. Rather than send the Comanches away, soldiers surrounded the council house to take them hostage to exchange for the white captives still held. The stunned Comanches tried to escape, and the Texans killed them. 27 women and children were taken prisoner. One woman was released to bring in the other captives. She returned with five, and the Texans released five more. No others were exchanged. It was now the Comanches’ turn to be outraged by the killing of their chiefs under a flag of truce. Hundreds of warriors approached San Antonio screaming their rage, but remained just beyond rifle-range. Then suddenly they were gone, and the Texans thought the crisis had passed.
The Comanches had left to plan retaliation. When they got back to their camps, they killed the white prisoners they were planning to exchange. In August, Buffalo Hump led a 500-warrior raid straight into the heart of eastern Texas. Homes were burned, hundreds killed, and before they stopped, the Comanches had reached the Gulf of Mexico near Victoria. Then, loaded with loot, the war party began an unusual slow retreat to the north. Perhaps because of their numbers, the Comanches were overconfident, but this gave the Texans time to organize. With the help of Tonkawa scouts, Texas militia ambushed the main body at Plum Creek (Lockhart, Texas). Abandoning most of their spoils, the surviving Comanches escaped north. Afterwards, they would never again give the Texans such a easy target.
Some more historical sources and background information, in more detail, on the incident I was writing about above. [Correction, it does not necessarily have to be the same incident. The plot seems to be same, but I warrant such prisoner exchanges happened more than once and probably led to the same result.]