Recent studies of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Comanches have argued that their dependence on bison posed a serious nutritional challenge in the form of a dangerously imbalanced high-protein diet. They contend that this specialization required Comanches to obtain carbohydrates in the form of maize from Spanish-ruled New Mexico and Texas or Native American horticulturalists. This in turn is claimed to have been crucial in structuring Comanche economic and political ties with their neighbors. This article argues instead that the documentary evidence used to support a trade in foodstuffs is weak and that Comanches employed alternative nutritional strategies, including consuming and storing a wide range of wild plants. Prestige and utilitarian goods such as metal tools and weapons, firearms, and items of personal adornment—not food—were the primary motivation for Comanche trade with Europeans.

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