I like to ask a question that came to mind in a german forum. The answer of some people there seemed kind of strange to me. (I personally took not part in their convesation, but a friend was and I was reading it)
Do we have any sources about the existence of Comanche - (or Plains-) Backrests ?
Their was some statement in that other forum, that Backrests may be some recent invention, probably since the knowledge of horses. Guess somebody even thought it might be in use only since the 19th Century. I personally think they might be much older. Also horses are known already for some 300 years to some tribes. The Comanches being one of the first ones to use them. Unfortunately I wasn´t able to find sources on that subject. Any information would be appreciated, just out of interest. Thanks !
Post by curtiscarter on Jun 24, 2014 9:25:15 GMT -5
chicheman, I am new to this site and ran across your post while reading through. I know this is an old post, but it is new to me. I noticed that there were no responses to your query, so I thought I might send a brief reply. I cannot specifically speak on Comanche backrests, and would also like to know if they were being used by the Comanche before 1900 (did you mean 20th century in your post?). Backrests were being made and used by several other Plains tribes. There are several illustrations from Harper’s Weekly that show backrests. They are not very accurately rendered, but it is very clear what they are. The best illustration that comes to mind is from Theodore R. Davis’ sketch entitled “Old Sioux Indian Captured by General Hancock”. This is from Hancock’s march on the joint Cheyenne, Lakota camp that was located on Pawnee Fork west of Fort Larned. General Hancock had the camp inventoried before he burned it. Interestingly, the inventory sheets list “headmats”. I can think of nothing other than backrests that this could describe. Hancock’s list has 78 “headmats” in the Cheyenne camp and 140 in the Lakota camp. Thomas Kavanagh will undoubtedly be much more insightful than I am, in regard to the Comanche use (or no use) of backrests. I am not well versed in Comanche material culture, and I may be off the mark here, but there seem to be many anomalies in regard to Comanche culture and that of other “classic” Plains tribes. I am not aware of Comanche people using a conventional travois to haul their camp equipment. I am under the impression that they simply packed the horses directly. I am not aware of any conventional form of folded rawhide container (parfleche envelope) that was made and utilized by the Comanche. And I do not know of an example of a pre-1900 Comanche backrest. Someone else weigh in on this. Curtis Carter
Welcome to this forum and thank you for your contribution to the subject. I appreciate your interesting information on the backrests. Well, I don´t know for sure, but always thought Comanches did use travois as well as other Plains tribes. I´ll try to find a source maybe, also I do have Mr. Kavanagh´s very well done book, a great source of knowledge about the Comanches. Yes, perhaps he will do some comments on those questions, that would sure be more than helpful, always appreciate what he shares with us here. Again thanks, and looking forward to read more in the future.
It is true, regarding Comanche backrests, we can find very little information in books or other sources. Personally, I am convinced, that the Comanches make use of backrests. Maybe, before horses were present, backrests were rare due the transportation problems – too many possessions were a problem for transport.
At the Internet, I found a text with reference to the book by Daniel J. Gelo - Comanche Belief and Rituals
„The tipi interior was furnished with an inner linner, bedding of skins,and colorful willow backrests.“
Regarding horse travois. Before the Comanches acquired horses, they used dogs for pulling travois. After the appearance of horses , the travois was pulled by horses. This allowed the Comanche to travel much longer distances and to transport more possessions.
We can find hints in some books. For an example, there is a hint in the book by Thomas W. Kavanagh - The Comanches: A History, 1706-1875 ( see page 3 )
Danke Cinemo, yes there are only some hints on the backrests, but after all those hints suggest a use of backrests for quite a while. Also evidences on travois are to find and I have the impression that travois have been known since ancient times probably, starting with dog travois.
Post by curtiscarter on Jun 28, 2014 19:04:03 GMT -5
Thanks chicheman, and thank you cinema. I have also read information that would lead you to believe the Comanche had liners, backrests and built travois. I am not well versed in their material culture, but find it difficult to understand why they wouldn’t have these things. Most all of their 19th century allies had them. I realize that there is a shortage of Comanche material when compared to Lakota, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa material. Maybe there just weren’t very many their things collected. In regard to the rawhide envelopes (folded parfleche), I have only found one labeled Comanche so far. If you are familiar with any more, please let me know. The only one that I am aware of is at the American Museum of Natural History. Collected in 1902, it is fairly crudely painted, with a single red border, line and each flap containing three inward pointed triangles. There is no outlining on the pattern, and the closure is not well tied. The number for this item is 50/ 3866 in the event that you would like to look it up. Mabel Morrow lists these in her rawhide book, but she also show them having black out lining. I live in an area where Comanche were actively raiding and taking captives, so maybe I need to spend a little more time becoming familiar with them. The 1866 capture of Fremont Blackwell and Tommy Sullivan happened in the field across from the house I was living in several years ago. I am now 2 miles northwest of there, and close to a rock on a creek where two other boys hid out until a party rode past them. Curtis Carter
Post by curtiscarter on Jun 30, 2014 18:37:55 GMT -5
Hello cinemo, I have several examples of Comanche flat bags, but only one that is of the envelope (folded) form. It seems that they were fonder of the large flap bags that were commonly used by the Wichita. I've attached the only envelope that I have run across so far. CC
that sounds like you´re living in a quite interesting area, rich of history. Thanks for sharing what you found on Comanche material culture, I don´t know too much about that, so good to learn about. Although I guess in general it is mostly the same as other Plains tribes used. Maybe we can find out more over time.