Indian’s quest guides him to Comanche Peak

by Leland Debusk, Assistant Editor

Hood County News, On-Line Edition dated 03/16/1999

Comanche Village – by George Catlin 1834

For years, Comanche Indian Ronald Red Elk has been on a personal journey to learn more about his people’s culture, history and language. That trip will bring him on a visit to Hood County’s Comanche Peak on his ancestral odyssey. Red Elk, 59, will be part of a group of 31 Oklahoma Comanches with the same goal. “You could say that for each of us,” Red Elk said of his journey. “We know about the area and how the Comanches once lived there,” he stated of Hood County.

The Indians, members of the Comanche Language and Cultural Preservation Group, will be in Hood County March 26-28. The group will include families with children, middle-aged members and tribal elders, Red Elk reported.

There’s another interesting aspect to the group’s trip. Comanche Peak is believed to have been a major point of a smoke-signaling system used by the Comanches. The group’s trip could inspire an experiment to exchange signals between Comanche Peak and other signal posts in the system, says historical preservationist Janet Saltsgiver.

Dallas anthropologist Linda Pelon will give a lecture on the Comanches’ signaling system at a 7 p.m. meeting Monday of the Hood County Historical Preservation Council.

Red Elk said his parents chose not to divulge the early history of the Comanches before and after the reservation era, so Red Elk has been making his own personal discoveries. “It’s affected me greatly,” Red Elk said of his personal quest. “I’ve got a better knowledge of the culture, the ways the Comanches lived shortly before the reservation days, and after the reservation days.”

The group consists of members from Caddo, Comanche and Cotton counties in southwestern Oklahoma, Red Elk reports. The group is not sponsored by the Comanche tribe, but its members are tribal members, Red Elk explained. The group is a tax-exempt non-profit group whose “sole purpose is to preserve our language,” he said. “We’ve been in existence since 1993.”

As part of their quest, the group has visited Santa Ana Peak, a mountain between Brownwood and San Angelo. The mountain is believed to have been part of a “triangle” of signaling posts used by his ancestors, Red Elk said.

They’ve also visited the nearby Painted Rock site on the Concho River, believed to have been done by the Comanches, he stated. The group too has visited Adobe Walls in the Panhandle and Palo Duro Canyon, both major battle sites between the whites and Comanches. Another important Comanche site in the Panhandle, Medicine Mound, is slated too for a visit, he stated.

During their Hood County visit, however, the Comanches won’t be staying here because there’s no room at the inn, says Saltsgiver, one of the trip’s organizers.

Due to a scheduled “power outage” at the nuclear plant, motels in Granbury and Glen Rose will be booked up with plant personnel at the end of March. So, the Comanches will be staying at Camp Arrowhead near Glen Rose, Saltsgiver said.

The group will be learning many aspects of Hood County’s and Somervell County’s history during the trip, Saltsgiver stated.

They will visit the Dinosaur Valley State Park and the dinosaur dig at Paluxy. The group will visit historic Rock Church too, she said. On Saturday, March 27, there will be a public noontime luncheon for the Comanches at the Hood County Library. Part of the festivities will include elders singing Comanche hymns in their native tongues and the children dressing up in native costume, Saltsgiver stated. One of the members will also give a demonstration on the native flute and how to make one, she said.

There are only about 80 Comanches who can still speak the Comanche language. Red Elk said his group is compiling a Comanche dictionary to help preserve the language.

There has been talk of a state-wide experiment to determine how the Comanches’ smoke-signaling system actually worked, said Saltsgiver. If that experiment comes to pass, Saltsgiver expects that Comanche Peak will be one of the experiment sites. Study is still ongoing on locating the relay peaks that connected Comanche Peak, Santa Ana Peak and a mountain near Fredricksburg, Saltsgiver said.

Saltsgiver would like to see the experiment occur when Granbury celebrates its 125th anniversary.

If the Comanches learn something about their history from their visit to Hood County, Saltsgiver hopes Hood County residents will gain something too: a deeper understanding of the Comanches’ history, culture and language.

Red Elk wants his descendants to learn more too about their ancestors. He’s bringing his granddaughters with him on his journey to the sacred site of Comanche Peak.