American Indian Trails of the West

Texas Plains Indian Trail
A tour of the Texas Panhandle reveals the rich history of the Comanches.

It is always unexpected, after driving across the flat Texas plain, to arrive at Palo Duro Canyon near Amarillo and to suddenly have the vastness of the canyon sweep open beneath one’s feet.

In early times, the canyon had a wide river and lush grasses where bison herds grazed. The Comanches were in the canyon in the 1700s and depended on the buffalo for most of their needs.

The Red River War of l874 was a U.S. military campaign launched to remove Native tribes from the Southern Plains. The Comanche people were driven out of the canyon. The most devastating blow was the capture of some 1,200 Comanche horses. Most were destroyed by army troops.

“The coming of the buffalo hunters caused the beginning of the end of Comanche culture,” says Texas State Parks Interpreter Bernice Blasingame. “The battle of the Red River War in Palo Duro Canyon was the cause of the death of the Comanches’ culture as they knew it.”

The amazing Plains-Panhandle Historical Museum in Amarillo has exhibits on the Red River War. It has a renowned Native basket collection; displays of pottery, beadwork, paintings and sculpture; and the Quanah Parker Collection showing the great Comanche chief’s headdress, lance, Winchester and related artifacts.

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