It has often been argued that the widespread Native American practice of capturing and adopting outsiders served, for some indigenous groups, as a way to recover from Euro-American–induced population decline. In this study I contend that Comanche looting expeditions, including raids in which captives were taken, resulted in Comanche deaths outnumbering the captives who were eventually assimilated. Hence, rather than compensating Comanche population decline, as is often assumed, those expeditions brought about a net population loss. I further argue that Comanches primarily seized captives to use them as laborers. A premeditated intention to capture enemies for adoption was seldom (if ever) the primary motivation for Comanche raids, which were fundamentally aimed at obtaining horses. These findings raise critical questions concerning widely accepted interpretations of Native American population decline that attribute the decline to external forces without exploring in depth the consequences of the manifold courses of action followed by Indians themselves.

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