They were originally Siberian nomads. Some 8 thousand years ago, they crossed the Bering Strait into North America. The Nemeruh – “the people” – came to live a primitive hunting and gathering life in eastern Wyoming . They had no pottery, no farming, no priests. They were Stone Age hunters.
In the early 1600’s, Spaniards from Mexico brought Arabian-bred desert horses to the Americas. . . Mustangs. Some of them got away. Within a few decades there were . . .millions. . . wild, roaming the plains and canyons of western North America, all the way into Canada.
In those times, on the Great Plains, buffalo herds as large as 4 million strong grazed the rolling fields of grass, in groups as large as 50 miles long and 25 miles wide.
The Nemeruh became highly skilled horsemen. Horses greatly empowered hunting, but also war, territorial war between the native peoples. The Nemeruh relentlessly fought their way south, displacing the Apache’s, the Ute’s and others, and conquered the greatest buffalo country of all, the Llano Estanto – the lands of northern Texas and Oklahoma.
They became known as the Comanches, so named by the Ute’s as “those who are always against us”.
“A Comanche brave who captured a live Ute would torture him to death without question. A Comanche captured by a Ute would expect to receive exactly the same treatment.
The Nemeruh, and all the Plains peoples, lived ”immersed in the elemental world” of the “endless, trackless, and mostly waterless expanse of undulating grass” – the “oceanic” plains that were filled with natural fires, sudden storms, blizzards, venomous snakes, and ravenous predator beasts.
Their life was “ceaseless toil, hunger, constant war, and early death”, but also PURE MAGIC, with “spirits everywhere, in rocks, trees, and in animals” and nights filled with dancing and singing. The raw liver of a freshly killed buffalo was a delicacy, as was the curdled milk form the stomach of a still nursing bison calf. They never ate the buffalo heart. They lived intensely alive.
”virtually all the Indian tribes waged war against their neighbors and practiced deeply sickening torture. Prisoners who weren’t tomahawked on the spot could expect to be disemboweled and tied to a tree with their own intestines, roasted to death over a slow fire, or simply hacked to pieces and fed alive to the dogs.”
Once, they captured and adopted Daniel Boone’s grand daughter. but after a raid against them by settlers, they tied her high in a tree, alive, and shot her full of arrows.
The Comanches . . . ‘stopped cold’ . . . the northern advance of the Spaniards and the western advance of the Americans. . . for 150 years. They were the very last holdout of native people against the tide of settlers in North America. Only the deliberate slaughter of the buffalo could bring them to submission.
”The strength of their attachment to each other, and the demonstration they gave of the same, even to the dividing of the last morsel with each other upon the point of starvation, might put any professed Christians to blush! But they were just the reverse of all this to all the world outside.”