Most of the 10,000 members of the Comanche Nation — who refer to themselves as "Numunuu," meaning “the people" — live in Oklahoma, with the rest scattered in New Mexico, California and Texas. According to Crystal Links, the Comanche were fierce warriors who were the first to incorporate the horse into their culture. Like most Plains Indians, the Comanche were dependent on buffalo and many of their crafts were made from the skins and hides of the animal. As nomadic people, the Comanche had to be able to transport their crafts with them. So rather than art-for-art’s sake, the Comanche developed practical crafts they could easily carry when the tribe moved to a new camp.
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Drums and Rattles
Using a wooden frame, scrapped buffalo hide was stretched over the frame to make drums. Rattles — both as toys for children and for ceremonial purposes — were made in a similar way. The rawhide was stretched and stones were then sewn into the rattle. The items were light and easy to transport. Or if the items took up too much room, they could be abandoned and new ones made when the tribe needed drums or rattles for ceremonial occasions.
Using sinew from the buffalo, the Comanche women made designs for bags, pouches and knife holders. Prior to the arrival of the white traders, decorations were made with porcupine needles and claws from small animals. After trading started, women preferred to use the glass beads sold in the forts as they were easier to work with. Each tribe has its own distinct designs, and they tended to be passed down from generation to generation. Girls learned to bead about the same time they learned to walk.
The Comanche were known as warriors and frequently battled with other tribes and white settlers. Men would fashion the thick neck skin of the buffalo — an old bull was ideal — into a shield that could deflect both arrows and bullets. The shield was then decorated with feathers hanging from cords of hide.
The Comanche — considered the fiercest of the Plains Indians — wore eagle feather war bonnets into battle. These bonnets were prized possessions and took a long time to make. The feathers were stitched into rawhide and then fitted to the head. The men wore their hair long and in two thick braids that helped keep the bonnet in place. Some of the war bonnets reached the ground.
The tribal designs of the Comanche were beaded onto clothing items such as moccasins and belts. Scraping the hair from the buffalo, the women tanned the hides over a smoking fire. The soft hide was used for shirts and dresses, while the tougher skin was used for moccasin bottoms and the tops of the shoes were beaded.