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NATIVE AMERICAN FLAGS

The Comanche Nation

The Comanche have been called the "Lords of the Plains". At their height, they dominated an area that all, or parts of Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and northern Mexico. They were the fiercest of fighters and one of the last to submit to the United States policy of reservations (ENAT, 68-71). They were excellent horsemen, keeping large herds and introducing the horse to neighboring tribes after acquiring it from the Spaniards.

Today the Comanche Nation is centered on Lawton, Oklahoma where the modern Comanche engage in farming and earn income from the lease of mineral rights.

The flag of the Comanche Nation celebrates their past status as the dominant tribe of the south central United States. That flag is divided vertically with blue at the viewers left, red at the right. The usual terms of hoist and fly cannot be used in this instance since two versions of the flag exist and one is double sided.

The "official" flag of the Comanche Nation, the equivalent of a government flag for a country, always bears the blue to the viewer's left. That means that on the obverse, the blue is to the hoist, while on the reverse, the blue is in the fly. The shield that serves as the seal of the Comanche nation also appears with the blue portion always to the viewer's left. According to the Public Information Office of the Comanche Tribe, the flag dates back to somewhere around 1991.

The seal is a Comanche shield divided roughly in half (seal provided by "The Comanche News", newletter of the Comanche Nation, Box 908, Lawton, OK). The left portion is blue and has an undulating edge. The right portion is yellow and bears the red image of a Comanche warrior on horseback as it might have appeared when drawn on a tepee or actual shield.

The red horseman represents the name given to all Native Americans by the European settlers - the "red man" (Ms. Jamesena Stops, Editor, "The Comanche News") . The curved line represents a snake moving in a backward motion. According to the legends of the Comanche people, they were known as the "Snakes" in ancient times. The yellow portion of the battle shield recalls the brightness of the sun and a state of happiness, while the blue represents loyalty.

The blue and red colors are derived from what is called British wool 'trade' blankets, the preferred wraps used by the Comanche when riding the Plains over a century ago. This reference to the blankets recalls, for the Comanche their life without boundaries, and a time when they were the true rulers of the Plains. It also boasts of the prowess of the Comanche as horsemen and warriors. These blankets were a critical element in many Comanche ceremonies.

The four feathers used on the shield when appearing as the seal of the Comanche Nation, as with many other tribes, recall the sacred number four - four directions, four seasons, four stages of life, etc. Another element of the Comanche that is shared by many other tribes is their name for themselves - "Numunu", which means, "The People". In the native tongues of at least a dozen tribes, their term of self reference simply means "the people".

The Comanche use their seal and flag with increasing zeal. In April 1995, the Comanche became the second Indian nation known (to this author) to have issued automobile license plates for vehicles ("Comanche Tribal License Tags Are Here", The Comanche News, July, 1995, 1) registered to tribal members and based upon tribal lands (Since this was written, over a half dozen nations have been identified as using their oown license plates). The central element of the new plates is the seal of the Comanche Nation. In July, 1995, the Comanche officially opened their "Comanche Veteran's Memorial" in Lawton ("Comanche Veterans Memorial Dedicated", The Comanche News, Aug., 1995, 1). The memorial recognizes the Comanche veterans who served in the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam. Central to the memorial is a pair of flagpoles. One bears the flag of the United States, the other the flag of the Comanche.

A second version of the flag exists. Actually it is just a varient of the seal. As flown at the Flag Plaza in Oklahoma City which flies the banners of all the tribes extant in Oklahoma, the Comanche flag's seal differs in several ways from the "official" version. First, an most conspicuously, the serrated edge of the shield has been replaced by a yellow circle. On the circle, in black lettering is the legend "Comanche Nation" across the top while in slightly smaller letters on bottom is their nickname "Lords of the Southern Plains", while the seal is now divided equally in half, blue stillto the hoist, but red to the outside, not yellow! The "red man" on horseback is shown in yellow and greatly enlarged to provide more detail. Though different, this flag still evokes the image of the Comanche people and recalls their great history and their association with the entire image of the American West.

Don Healy, Bisbee, Az 85603