The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000

"Comanche Land and Ever Has Been ": A Native
Geography of the Nineteenth-Century Comancheria
DANIELJ. GELO*
T IS TELLING THAT THE HERO OF COMANCHE LEGEND IS NAMED
Sokeweki, Land Searcher, for throughout Comanche culture there is
evidence of an abiding interest in the landscape, navigation, topogra-
phy, and spatial relations. Assuming, as folkorists would, that the leg-
endary character Sokeweki is modeled on some real person of long
ago, we can wonder how that man and his compatriots saw the land we
now call Texas as they traversed it, what they called the various land
features, and how they remembered it and imbued it with symbolic sig-
nificance. Fortunately, there are several ways to pursue these ques-
tions, including primary and secondary historical references, the
recorded memories of Comanche people living and deceased, and sur-
viving Indian place names. What follows is an exercise in the recon-
struction of the native geographical imagination using historical and
ethnographic resources.
This exercise is important because the Comanche geographic legacy
in Texas and adjoining areas is a powerful one, yet it has not been
acknowledged in a comprehensive way. Seldom have the Comanche
roots of Texas place names been recognized, and then sometimes the
derivations given are spurious. Moreover, as Comanches revealed
routes and campgrounds to Hispano and Anglo occupants as they guid-
ed them or evaded them, they conditioned Euroamerican responses to
the landscape. In very practical terms, theirs is a persisting cultural
influence that continues to frame Texas and Oklahoma places, land-
marks, and roadways. Current travel routes and settlement patterns are
in part a response to early Comanche influences. Broader scholarly
* Daniel J. Gelo is Associate Professor of Anthropology and Interim Director of the Division
of Behavioral and Cultural Sciences at the University of Texas at San Antonio. He holds B.A.,
M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in anthropology from Rutgers University. His interests include
the symbolic and religious systems of Plains Indian societies, and he has conducted research with
Comanche people since 1982.
VOL. CIII, No. 3 SOUTHWESTERN HISTORICAL QUARTERLY JANUARY, 2000

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 103, July 1999 - April, 2000. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101220/. Accessed August 29, 2014.