Comanche National Museum & Johnny Depp?
Sitting in a Tulsa, Oklahoma, hotel room recently I was doing what most of us do when killing time these days, aimlessly scrolling through Instagram.
One of the images that popped up along the way was a sponsored ad from the Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center. As fate would have it, it would be right on my path the next day, just off I-44 in Lawton, Oklahoma.
Coincidentally, I lived in Camanche, Iowa, a town named after the Comanche, for more than 35 years, longer than I’ve lived anywhere else in my life, or probably ever will. My wife was born, raised and lived her entire life there. Don’t ask me why it's spelled differently, I have no clue.
More significantly, at least to me, is I have always felt a keen interest in Native American history and culture. That culture, their respect for the land and strong faith in the spirits of nature have always been something I respect.
I don’t know where that comes from or how it started. I do remember reading Black Elk Speaks in a college religion class and being fascinated by it. Its subtitle is Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux and puts into writing the visions of Black Elk, as he tells them to the author.
I still have the book, quite tattered and beaten, sitting on the desk in front of me now. It’s on my list of books I plan to read, or in this case re-read, now that I’ve reached retirement.
I was surprised there was no admission fee to the museum. The same was true at a museum I visited the previous day in Tulsa. What a wonderful thing to be able to explore these museums, welcoming everyone at no charge.
The museum includes photographs as well as interactive displays, especially aimed at children, and touch screen videos for the more adult crowd. It tells not only the history and culture of the Comanche but also their religious ways and their military contributions.
Twenty-one Comanche men were among the Code Talkers, serving in World War II, using their native language as code to communicate American troop activities. Thirteen of them were among the massive D-Day operation storming the beaches of Normandy.
The first message they sent on D-Day was, “We made a good landing. We landed in the wrong place.” That’s right, one of the landing parties storming the beach that day landed in the wrong place but, fortuitously, it turned out to be a good thing as they were able to avoid some of the enemy’s main fire.
A large display of the memorabilia brought back from the war is on display at the museum. You can see a little more information on their website.
The Comanche were well known as warriors, taking advantage of their highly-skilled horsemanship. They were originally part of the Shoshone tribe but 10,000 of them broke away in the 1600s when they acquired horses, forming the new Comanche tribe.
The Comanches developed a unique breed of horse, a Pinto known as the Medicine Hat or War Bonnet, recognized for fierceness in battle. A warrior believed he was invincible when he rode a Medicine Hat on the battlefield.
Contrary to the image some might have, women were expert riders as well and played a significant role in the tribe. Young girls were expected to ride and begin to master the skills as soon as they were tall enough to sit on a horse.
Johnny Depp Painting
One totally random side note, among the items on display is a painting done by the actor, Johnny Depp, that he presented to the museum.
The Comanche Nation officially adopted Depp into its community at the time The Lone Ranger movie was released in 2013, in which Depp played Tonto.
Depp’s painting of a Comanche is done on cigarette papers. Photos aren’t allowed so I wasn't able to take one, but if you’re interested you can get a look here.
Lawton is located 85 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. If you’re ever down that way I encourage a visit. If not, take some time and visit their website. It has a lot of information and videos.
**I allow use of my photos through Creative Commons License. I'm not looking to make money off this thing. I only ask you provide me with credit for the photo by noting my blog address, alansheaven.com, or a link back to this page.