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Comanche Nation Keeps its Traditional Life Alive

Comanche is a Native American people known as the "Lords of the Plains" in the Great Plains in the Central United States. From this tribe rose the famous Code Talkers of World War II who played an instrumental role in secret battlefield communications. For VOA Producer Joseph Mok, Elaine Lu takes a look at one Comanche family that continues to embrace the tribe's ancient traditions.

Comanches are believed to have been the first native people on the plains to utilize the horse extensively, and their horseriding skills are the standard by which other tribes are judged. In the past, their exceptional horsemanship helped to drive their foes away. Today, it continues to be an essential part of their day-to-day life.

During World War II, Comanche Indians were part of the 1944 Allied D-Day invasion of Europe. As code talkers, they frustrated enemy code breakers by translating Army messages into their native language. Verbal messages were relayed over field telephones between the battlefield and divisional headquarters.

In the decades since, the Comanche people have continued to live on the plains. Farming and husbandry are the mainstays of their economy.

Sandra Nevaquaya is preparing dinner for her family. "I am making fry bread. It is traditional bread and it is made with flour, sugar and water. You cook it in hot grease. It is a traditional food we eat with healthy soup and meat."

Families are greatly valued among Comanches. Relatives are gathering tonight at Edmund and Sandra Nevaquaya's house. Edmund, a musician, explains,

"We Comanches, we have adjusted and adapted to two ways of lives. To this day, the Comanche nation, we are one of the most educated tribes in North America. Also we are the keepers of a great religion that has really swept throughout the Indian country and that is the Native American church we filmed yesterday. We also kept our customs and our horses and livestock and things we used to enjoy.

We do co-exist within what you would say the 'white-man's world.' Or you would say the existing world, the educational world. Our children are still inside of education. They still know our traditional customs. We get along with it real good. We know how to adapt to it. There is no bitterness about it. It is the way we progress into the future and life. We continue on and on and on (for) generations to come."

After dinner, the Nevaquaya family gathers under the shed for some cool air and music.

The water drum is a traditional musical instrument of the Comanches. It is made from cowhide, water, bucket, ropes and seven pebbles. The accompanying gourd rattle reinforces the rhythm. And the staff is made from a bow without its string. It is decorated with colorful beads and bristle, symbolizing war turning into peace, and joy on earth.

Comanche traditional music and songs are passed along from generation to generation.