ETHNONYMS: Caigua, Kioway, Manrhoat, Watapahato
Identification. "Kae-gua" (Kiowa plural) is an inflected form of an unanalyzable base; most historic appellations are variants of this form. Other traditional terms of self-reference include "Kwu' da" and "Tepda," both translated as "coming out, emerging"; and "Kompabianta," "big tipi-flaps" (explained as a reference to large smoke-hole flaps on Kiowa tipis).
Location. Throughout their recorded history, the Kiowa heartland has been between 35° and 37° N and 98° and 100° W in present-day Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle, and southern Kansas. This territory, intersected by tributaries of the Arkansas, Canadian, and Red rivers, was the region within which tribal summer encampments were located; at other times, bands could be more widely dispersed, and hunting, trading, and war parties traveled far from the heartland. Most Kiowa still live in this region of Oklahoma, centered around the towns of Anadarko and Carlisle.
Demography. Population may have been from 2,000 to 2,500 before contact. The first census, in 1875, reported 1,070 members, and numbers remained low in succeeding decades, reaching 1,699 in 1920. A 1970 tribal count of 6,250 included persons of part-Kiowa ancestry and the descendants of non-Kiowa individuals who were affiliated with the tribe in the treaty period; it is likely that no more than half of this number are of predominantly Kiowa descent. The 1980 census lists 7,386 individuals claiming Kiowa descent.
History and Cultural Relations
The Kiowa are identifiable by name beginning around 1800; earlier evidence is complicated by the uncertainty of some identifications (for example, the "Manrhoat" of 1682). Kiowa cultural identity was forged in the Great Plains after the adoption of the horse into the regional culture and possibly after the entry of European traders. The time, place, and circumstances of ethnogenesis present problems to scholars. Tradition points to a northern homeland, located in the yellowstone region of the Rocky Mountains; legendary accounts of emergence from an underworld and a long southward Migration continue to have strong emotional appeal to the Kiowa people. But serious efforts to trace Kiowa origins must also take into account their linguistic kinship to the Tanoan peoples of New Mexico, a connection that is echoed in cultural traits, including folklore motifs and details of Ceremonial life. On the other hand, sociopolitical organization shows convergence to a Plains type, with strongest points of similarity to north Plains and Plateau tribes such as the Teton Dakota, Kutenai, and Sarsi. A preliminary model of Kiowa ethnogenesis must locate the ancestral population in the south plains, adjacent to related Tanoans of the Rio Grande valley, at a time prior to the entry of Apacheans into the Region, about a.d. 1100 to 1300.
Subsequent expansion of the Apache in the plains had the effect of separating the ancestral Kiowa from their cogeners, forcing their retreat eastward and northward. A part of this population remained as far south as the Arkansas-Canadian drainage, within or marginal to their aboriginal hunting range, while others, either as refugees or in pursuit of trade, traveled as far as the Yellowstone valley. Historical records, including the journal of Lewis and Clark, confirm Kiowa claims of contacts with the Crow, Sarsi, and Cheyenne, and an association with the Black Hills region early in the nineteenth century. During the same years, Kiowa further south formed an alliance with the Comanche, who had displaced the Apache in the New Mexican borderlands region and were able to reestablish contacts with New Mexico. Throughout historic times, the Kiowa had a close relationship with the Kwahadi band of Comanche; they also maintained friendly ties with Taos and other New Mexican Pueblos in the west, and with the Wichita and other Caddoans in the east. They traded with most Plains tribes, claiming a special tie with the Crow. Although closely associated with the Kiowa Apache, relations were usually hostile with western Apachean groups, including the Navajo. In the east, the Osage were long-time enemies with whom the Kiowa finally made peace in 1837 under U.S. government pressure. Their geographical position enabled the Kiowa to deal with White traders in New Mexico and in the Mississippi valley; however, both hunting and trade declined before the treaty period.
In 1867, the Treaty of Medicine Lodge was made between the United States and the Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa Apache, who received combined reservation lands in Oklahoma. Despite outbreaks of violence during the following decade, and the arrest and imprisonment of their leaders, the Kiowa remained settled on lands within their traditional heartland. In 1892, under the Jerome Agreement, they accepted individual allotments of 160 acres plus a tribal bloc of grazing land; the agreement is unique in making provisions for non-Kiowa attached to the tribe to receive a share in tribal lands.
The nineteenth-century Kiowa followed a pattern of seasonal nomadism which was, at least in part, determined by the need for pasturage for their horse herds. From fall to early summer, the tribe dispersed; extended family groups formed the nuclei of bands, led by influential men or at times by brothers. The bands were flexible; small families and isolated individuals, whether related or not, might join the camp of a successful chief. During the summer months, the bands camped together for a period of several weeks; during this time, the Sun Dance ceremony was held. The site was always on a sizable stream and was chosen for its access to grass, firewood, and game—especially bison. At an appointed time, the subtribes arrived in a prescribed order and took designated places in the camp circle. In the 1880s there were five Kiowa subtribes, with the Kiowa Apache occupying a sixth place in the circle. Until bison became scarce, the Sun Dance was the prelude to a communal hunt. Plans for the coming year were made during the summer encampment; band movements must have been coordinated, since messengers were able to travel quickly and directly between the scattered winter camps; a circuit to announce the time and place of the Sun Dance could be completed in about three days.
Subsistence and Commerciai Activities. The early Kiowa were hunters on a large scale and processed products of the hunt (robes, leather, horn, sinew, meat) both for subsistence use and for trade. They also raised and bred horses, supplementing their herds by raids into alien territories. The diet included bison, deer, and other game; wild plant foods such as berries and wild potatoes; and a substantial amount of maize, dried pumpkin, and other foods obtained in trade from both Indian and Hispanic populations of New Mexico.
Industrial Arts. The most notable traditional craft was the processing of leather, mainly performed by women. Clothing, moccasins and boots, and parfleches and other containers were made of bison and deerskins, and decorated with paint and beads.
Trade. The Kiowa were active traders and could be considered a semispecialized trading group. Trade parties traveled to New Mexico and all parts of the Great Plains, and are known to have gone frequently into Canada and Mexico. The natural pastures of the Kiowa provided a source of horses for northern tribes such as the Blackfoot, Sarsi, and Crow. From the time of La Salle, horses were delivered to White purchasers; in the nineteenth century, the Kiowa often dealt with U.S. military parties. Raiders returned from Mexico with horses and mules to supplement the herds and with other goods. Mexican textiles, weapons, and musical instruments were valued and became important as ceremonial attire; further, the Kiowa were known as purveyors as well as users of peyote, which they transported from Mexico. In 1835, the Kiowa in Oklahoma had a relationship with the Chouteau trading company of St. Louis, which built trading posts in Kiowa territory in the next decade. It is possible that an earlier tie to U.S. or British trading companies in the Missouri drainage led the Kiowa to the north, explaining their traditional claim to the Yellowstone country.
Division of Labor. Traditionally, men were hunters, horsemen, warriors, and traders; women collected plants, processed foodstuffs and hides, made clothing, and erected and maintained the skin lodges. In reality, male and female roles probably overlapped, and many men were frequently away for war or trade. Numerous captives did not form a servile class, but were adopted by Kiowa families; they did have a special ceremonial status, given the task of handling sacred artifacts that were taboo to full tribal members.
Land Tenure. Like other nomadic peoples, the Kiowa had a strong identification with their land but did not acknowledge individual tenure. The subtribes were essentially regional divisions; there is no indication that their territories were exclusive or strictly delimited. Private ownership of land began when treaty lands were apportioned in 1892.
Kin Groups and Descent. There are indications of an early shift from patrilineal to the bilateral descent that has prevailed since the nineteenth century. The kindred, as defined by prohibition of marriage, extended to third cousins or beyond. There is no indication of the existence of corporate descent groups.
Kinship Terminology. Early Kiowa kinship terminology is not well documented. A list published in 1923 reveals a bilateral system with Hawaiian cousin terminology. In the first ascending generation, bifurcate merging terminology suggests an original Iroquois system. Certain sibling and in-law terms were differentiated for male and female speaker; grandparent and grandchild terms were identical; and sibling terms were used between great-grandparent and great-grandchild. Kin terms were extended to all band members.
Marriage. Bands were, in effect, exogamous, since Marriage was prohibited to all classed as kin. Polygyny (usually sororal) was practiced; important chiefs often had several wives. The levirate was common, but not obligatory. Horses were the usual marriage gift, the number signifying the wealth and status of the groom. Divorce was common: a wife's kin might, with cause, remove her from the husband's household, or a marriage could end with absconding or elopement, followed by payment of compensation.
Domestic Unit. Residence was normally patrilocal; as one exception, a chief would give away a daughter to a promising young man, who then joined the camp of his father-in-law.
Inheritance. At death, personal possessions were destroyed. Horses (the only important form of private property) would normally pass from a man to his brother or son. Inheritance of a position—for example, as band chief or Taime (priest)—was preferably patrilineal but, in practice, was selective within the kindred. Custodianship of a medicine bundle might ideally go to a son, but in known cases this position passed to a variety of relations, male and female; a willingness to comply with the rigid demands of the position could influence the decision.
Socialization. Small children were, by all accounts, treated with affection and indulgence. The tie between siblings was emphasized; the brother-sister relationship took precedence over that of husband and wife. A favored child, male or female, was raised in status by a give-away of horses and property, and received special care and privileges. At around six years, all boys became members of the Rabbit Society and were instructed as a group in horsemanship and other skills; in adolescence they joined the adult military societies. Bravery, restraint, wisdom, and generosity were qualities admired in men and, to a degree, in women as well.
Social Organization. Status distinctions reflected wealth, warfare honors, and political power. Highest prestige went to chiefs of the largest bands and to religious leaders. The fact that many historic Kiowa chiefs bore names that were eponymous of the bear (such as White Bear, Many Bears, Sitting Bear) and were passed from generation to generation suggests a continuity in leadership that may, at an earlier time, have been vested in a lineage or other descent group. Women had fewer opportunities to achieve individual prestige; however, folklore and personal histories indicate that a high value was placed on strong, resourceful Kiowa women, whose importance in community life should not be underestimated. Excaptives had a marginal position but were able to achieve distinction in warfare and other pursuits.
Political Organization. Through most of the year, bands were largely independent; successful chiefs, who attracted and retained the largest following, had the greatest renown and influence. During the summer season, the Taime priest was in charge of the Sun Dance camp; order was maintained in the camp and during the hunt by military societies, which cut across the band membership but included all adult men of the tribe. For at least four generations, the Kiowa were politically unified under a head chief; the last to hold this rank was Dohasan (Little Bluff), who died in 1866. After his death, at the beginning of the reservation period, leadership became factionalized between chiefs such as Satanta (White Bear) and Lone Wolf, who resisted surrender, and others, including Kickingbird, who favored compromise. After a brief period of reservation life, the Kiowa were given individual allotments of land in 1892, and the area was opened to White settlement. A Kiowa Tribal Council, formed in 1969, represents Kiowa concerns in health, education, and economic development.
Social Control. The secular power of chiefs and military societies was complemented by the spiritual authority of the Taime and medicine bundle priests. Within the tribe, a serious affront might provoke revenge, but intervention by a priest prevented the escalation of quarrels. Offering the pipe and appealing to the fetishes served to invoke supernatural sanctions; violation of vows or a sanction imposed under these circumstances was potentially fatal, resulting in taido, an irreversible spiritual decline.
Conflict. In historic times, the importance attached to horses promoted intertribal raiding; hostilities often escalated through the avenging of death or injury. The Kiowa usually sought an intermediary to make peace with an enemy group. Chronic enmity toward the Apache and more recent hatred of Texans may have resulted from their expansion into Kiowa territory. Like other Plains tribes, the Kiowa suffered from the inroads of eastern Indians, such as the Cherokee and Shawnee, as these were moved westward in the nineteenth century.
Religion and Expressive Culture
Religious Beliefs. A pervasive underlying supernatural power was seen primarily in natural phenomena, which were personified and at times deified. The Kiowa revered the Sun, constellations such as the Pleiades, and natural forces such as the Cyclone, and gave special respect to the bison, bear, and eagle. Sendeh (or Sainday) is the main protagonist in Kiowa tales, as both culture hero and trickster; he has human rather than animal attributes. Spider Woman, Twin Heroes (Split Boys), and Coyote, suggestive of Southwestern affinities, appear in origin and explanatory tales. Personified natural forces and animal spirits were encountered in visionary experiences. Individuals sought power through the Sun Dance and personal visionary experiences. The Taime, an anthropomorphic effigy; medicine bundles; and several other fetishes were prominent in hunting, curing, and purification rites. In 1873, Quaker mission efforts began among the Kiowa, followed by Methodist, Baptist, and other denominations. The Native American Church also increased in importance as the Sun Dance and other hunting and war ceremonies declined. Protestant affiliation is now the norm; however, traditional practices continue and have experienced revival. As in earlier days, tribal ceremonies are concentrated in the summer, now centered on July 4.
Religious Practitioners. The Taime and medicine bundle priests were subject to numerous taboos and requirements of circumspect behavior. The Taime was housed in a special tipi and carried in public display by its priest; a select group of men, who had received visions, assisted him. Owners of the ten medicine bundles were called upon to intervene in disputes and could give sanctuary. Buffalo doctors were especially qualified to treat illness attributed to violation of taboos on the bear.
Ceremonies. The Sun Dance was held annually until 1887 when it was prohibited by the government and halted by military force. Other traditional dances, such as those of the warrior societies, also performed in the summer season, are now part of the July 4 celebration. A scalp dance followed the return of men from war; curing ceremonies were held at any time. The Feather Dance, the Kiowa response to the Ghost Dance movement, became institutionalized as the Invisible 00Church and held semiannual dances until prohibited in 1916; beliefs and iconography were a blend of Kiowa tradition and Christian influences. Some vestiges of this movement carried over into sectarian Christian churches. Peyotism now follows the pan-Indian ceremonialism of the Native American Church.
Arts. Tipi covers were often decorated with designs that symbolized the accomplishments of the owner; these designs, handed down through generations of the same family, constituted a type of heraldic emblem. The painted designs of Sun Dance shields also had symbolic significance, related to membership in warrior or medicine societies. Calendar histories, painted on buffalo hide, depicted important events of successive summer and winter periods; these are a valuable source of information about the nineteenth-century Kiowa. More recently, individual Kiowa have shown remarkable talent in graphic arts; a group known as the "Kiowa Five" (Spencer Asah, Stephen Mopope, Jack Hokeah, James Auchiah, and Monroe Tsatoke) became internationally recognized early in the present century, setting a pattern for Kiowa successes in the arts; literary artists include the poet N. Scott Momaday. Kiowa craftsmen have been active in the production of jewelry and silverwork based on traditional designs and marketed through the Oklahoma Indian Arts and Crafts Cooperative.
Medicine. The sweatbath was used for curing and for ritual purification. Ill health as well as misfortune was often seen as the result of supernatural harm or the violation of taboo. Certain older women served as herbalists and midwives, assisting with difficult births. Buffalo doctors and other curers received power through visionary experiences; shamanistic methods were used in healing.
Death and Afterlife. The elderly and disabled were abandoned if they could no longer travel. Mourning involved slashing of clothing, gashing the skin, cropping the hair; women might amputate finger joints. The dead were buried, preferably in a remote, isolated spot. Personal property of the deceased was destroyed and the name tabooed, unless bestowed on an heir before death.
Boyd, Maurice, ed. (1981-1983). Kiowa Voices. 2 vols. Fort Worth: Texas Christian University Press.
Mooney, James (1898). Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians. U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology, 17th Annual Report (1895-1896), 129-445. Washington, D.C.
Parsons, Elsie C. (1929). Kiowa Tales. American Folklore Society, Memoir no. 22. New York.
Richardson, Jane (1940). Law and Status among the Kiowa Indians. American Ethnological Society, Monograph no. 1. New York.
NANCY P. HICKERSON
"Kiowa." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kiowa
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KIOWA. Classified in the Uto-Aztecan language family, Kiowa is remotely linked to the Tanoan languages of the Eastern Pueblos. This suggests divergence and prehistoric northward migrations to the mountainous Yellowstone River region of western Montana, the ancestral lands of the pre-contact hunting-and-gathering Kiowa.
Migrations and Alliances to the Mid-Nineteenth Century
Leaving their homelands in the late seventeenth century in search of horses, the Kiowa and an affiliated group of Plains Apache migrated southeastward, befriending the Crow, reaching the Black Hills (in present-day South Dakota) around 1775, and then establishing trading relations with the Mandan and Arikara before the Lakota and Cheyenne drove them south to the Arkansas River. At the time of the first direct contact with whites in the late eighteenth century, the Kiowa had relocated to the Southwestern Plains. They numbered barely two thousand individuals and were compelled to form an alliance with the more numerous Comanche between 1790 and 1806. Like the Comanche, the Kiowa fashioned a lucrative equestrian raiding economy in the lands of mild winters and ample grazing that were within striking distance of Spanish settlements in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and northern Mexico. The Kiowa, Comanche, and Plains Apache (KCA Indians) coalition fought common northern enemies, particularly the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Pawnee. By 1840, additional intertribal alliances had been forged with the Osage, Lakota, and Cheyenne.
By the mid-nineteenth century, the KCA Indians dominated the Southwestern Plains: the Kiowa and Plains Apache inhabited the northern region adjacent to the Arkansas River in present-day west-central Kansas, and the Comanche controlled the Staked Plains region of the Texas Panhandle. Intertribal raiding parties skirmished with Ute, Navajo, and Pawnee enemies, and plundered Mexican and Texan settlements for livestock and captives.
Decline and Dependency
KCA hegemony, however, waned after the Civil War. Squeezed between rapidly expanding Euro-American settlements in Texas, Colorado, and Kansas, the Kiowa and Comanche signed the Little Arkansas Treaty of 1865, forfeiting lands in Kansas and New Mexico. In 1867, provisions of the Medicine Lodge Treaty reserved almost three million acres for the group; the lands encompassed the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma. Residing exclusively within the confines of the KCA Reservation proved difficult, however, and raiding sorties into Texas inevitably provoked military responses from the U.S. Army. These conflicts culminated in the Red River War of 1874 and 1875, after which the Kiowa and their allies were forced to reside permanently on their reserve.
KCA subsistence changed after 1879 with the extinction of the Southern Plains bison herds, rendering the Indians totally dependent on rations and beef issues provided by the Kiowa Agency. Subsequent efforts to transform the Kiowa into farmers and ranchers failed, and hunger often resulted from inadequate government assistance. Leasing reservation grasslands to Texas cattlemen starting in 1886 brought temporary solace until the September 1892 arrival of the Jerome Commissioners (David H. Jerome, former governor of Michigan; Warren G. Sayre of Indiana; and Alfred M. Wilson of Arkansas), who forced the KCA Indians into agreeing to take individual 160-acre allotments and sell surplus reservation lands to white settlers. The Kiowa protested this fraudulent agreement because it violated the terms of the Medicine Lodge Treaty. Their protest reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but lost in Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (1903). Ironically, the decision came seventeen months after the "opening" by lottery of the 2.8 million–acre KCA Reservation to settlement on 6 August 1901. Inhabiting clusters of allotments north of the Wichita Mountains, early twentieth-century Kiowa meagerly survived on subsistence hunting and fishing and per capita interest payments for former reservation lands; some even worked as manual laborers on their own allotments, leased to non-Indian farmers.
Nineteenth-century Kiowa kinship typified what anthropologists call Hawaiian systems that distinguish relatives by sex and generation; with exceptions, the Kiowa grouped kin into generation sets of grandparents, parents, siblings, and children. Cousins are still reckoned as "brothers" and "sisters." Indicative of Hawaiian kinship systems, the Kiowa acknowledged bilateral descent and formed kindreds, extended family groups usually led by the oldest brother. Pre-reservation Kiowa society consisted of from approximately ten to twenty kindreds representing the prominent, or ondedw (rich) Kiowa families, along with ondegup'a (second best), kwwn (poor), and dapom (worthless) families. Marriage alliances were based on wealth in horses, materials, and the reputation and war accomplishments of family leaders. Postnupital residence patterns
preferred the wealthier of the two families. Leaders of each prominent kindred, or band, were called topadok'i (main chief), derived from the Kiowa word topadoga (band).
Notable among band leaders, Dohasan "Little Bluff" was the undisputed principal Kiowa chief from 1833 until his death in early 1866, after which leadership presumably passed to Guipago, "Lone Wolf," although Tene-angopte, "Kicking Bird," and Set-t'ainte, "White Bear," led rival factions until the Kiowa surrendered in May 1875. Afterward, the topadok'i were relegated to serving as "beef chiefs" responsible for the distribution of meat to their families. The allotment period further eroded traditional leadership as former bands settled into various enclaves largely in later Kiowa and Caddo counties in Oklahoma, where approximately one-half of the nearly ten thousand Kiowa live.
Traditional Kiowa belief systems centered around dw_dw_ (power), a spirit force that permeated the universe, and was present in all natural entities inhabited by spirits or souls. Young men fasted in the Wichita Mountains and other elevated areas seeking dw_dw_ from the spirit world. Those fortunate enough to receive power visions became either great warriors or curers who painted their power symbols on war shields, and often formed shield societies. Besides personal medicine bundles associated with individual dw_dw_, tribal bundles included the talyida-i (boy medicine) or Ten Medicines, whose keepers were civil servants who settled domestic disputes and prayed for the well-being of the people, and the Taime, or Sun Dance icon central to the renewal ceremony that united the people socially and spiritually. The Sun Dance had collapsed by 1890 because of the extinction of the Southern Plains bison herds and government pressures. The Ghost Dance movement of 1890–1891 and 1894–1916 and the advent of the peyote religion after 1870 filled the spiritual void following the collapse of the horse and buffalo culture. At the end of the twentieth century, most Kiowa attended Baptist and Methodist churches and Native American Church peyote ceremonies.
The Kiowa still venerate warfare, as indicated by the many twentieth-century Kiowa combat veterans, and by the number who continue to serve in the U.S. armed forces. Notable Kiowa include N. Scott Momaday, awarded the Pulitzer Prize in fiction for 1969, and Everette Rhoads, former U.S. assistant surgeon general.
Mishkin, Bernard. Rank and Warfare among the Plains Indians. 1940. Reprint. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1992.
Mooney, James. Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians. 1895–1896. Reprint. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979.
Richardson, Jane. Law and Status among the Kiowa Indians. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1940.
See alsoDawes General Allotment Act ; Indian Land Cessions ; Indian Reservations ; Indian Treaties ; Indians and the Horse ; Indians in the Military ; Native American Church ; Nativist Movement (American Indian Revival Movements) ; Red River Indian War ; Sun Dance ; Tribes: Great Plains ; Wars with Indian Nations: Later Nineteenth Century (1840–1900) .
"Kiowa." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/kiowa
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Kiowa (kī´əwə), Native North Americans whose language is thought to form a branch of the Aztec-Tanoan linguistic stock (see Native American languages). The Kiowa, a nomadic people of the Plains area, had several distinctive traits, including a pictographic calendar and the worship of a stone image, the taimay. In the 17th cent. they occupied W Montana, but by about 1700 they had moved to an area SE of the Yellowstone River. Here they came into contact with the Crow, who gave the Kiowa permission to settle in the Black Hills. While living there, they acquired (c.1710) the horse, probably from the Crow. Their trade was mainly with the Arikara, the Mandan, and the Hidatsa. After the invading Cheyenne and the Sioux drove the Kiowa from the Black Hills, they were forced to move south to Comanche territory; in 1790, after a bloody war, the Kiowa reached a permanent peace with the Comanche. According to Lewis and Clark, the Kiowa were on the North Platte River in 1805, but not much later they occupied the Arkansas River region. Later the Kiowa, who allied themselves with the Comanche, raided as far south as Durango, Mexico, attacking Mexicans, Texans, and Native Americans, principally the Navajo and the Osage.
In 1837 the Kiowa were forced to sign their first treaty, providing for the passage of Americans through Kiowa-Comanche land; the presence of settlers in increased numbers accelerated hostilities. After 1840, when the Kiowa made peace with the Cheyenne, four groups—the Kiowa, the Cheyenne, the Comanche, and the Apache—combined to fight the eastern tribes, who had migrated to Indian Territory. This caused more hostility between Native Americans and the U.S. government, and U.S. forces finally defeated the confederacy and imposed the Treaty of Medicine Lodge (1867). This confederated the Kiowa, the Comanche, and the Apache and provided that they should settle in Oklahoma. However, parts of the Kiowa remained hostile until the mid-1870s. Oncoming American settlers, unaware of treaty rights, caused friction with the Kiowa, resulting in a series of minor outbreaks. In 1874 the Kiowa were involved in a serious conflict, which was suppressed by the U.S. army. American soldiers killed the horses of the Kiowa, and the government deported the Kiowa leaders to Florida. By 1879 most of them were settled on their present lands in Oklahoma. The Kiowa Apache, a small group of North American Native Americans traditionally associated with the Kiowa from the earliest times, now live with them. The Kiowa Apache retain their own language. There were close to 9,500 Kiowa in the United States in 1990.
See R. H. Lowie, Societies of the Kiowa (1916); A. L. Marriott, Kiowa Years (1968); M. P. Mayhall, The Kiowas (rev. ed. 1972).
"Kiowa." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kiowa
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Ki·o·wa / ˈkīəwə/ • n. (pl. same or -was) 1. a member of an American Indian people of the southern plains of the U.S., now living mainly in Oklahoma. 2. the language of this people, related to the Tanoan group. 3. (in full Kiowa Apache) an Athabaskan (Apache) language of western Oklahoma and neighboring areas. • adj. of or relating to this people or these languages.
"Kiowa." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/kiowa
"Kiowa." The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. . Retrieved November 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/kiowa
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"Kiowa." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kiowa
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The name Kiowa (pronounced KIE-uh-wuh ) comes from the Comanche word “Kaigwa,” meaning “two halves differ,” describing Kiowa warriors who cut their hair on only one side and left the other side long. It later evolved into the name “Kiowa,” which means “the Principal People” to the tribe. Their name for themselves was kwuda, which means “coming [or going] out,” a reference to their origin story.
The Kiowa’s earliest known homeland was in western Montana. In 1700 they were living near the Black Hills of South Dakota, but moved to the southern Great Plains in 1785. In the 1990s nearly 6,500 lived in several small cities in southwest Oklahoma near their former reservation, which no longer exists.
In the early nineteenth century there were about 1,800 Kiowa. In the 1990 U.S. Census, 9,460 people identified themselves as Kiowa (8,936 Kiowa and 524 Oklahoma Kiowa). The 2000 census showed 8,321 Kiowa (7,853 Kiowa and 467 Oklahoma Kiowa). At that time, 12,398 people claimed to have some Kiowa blood.
Origins and group affiliations
Tribal stories say the Kiowa originated near the sources of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers in western Montana. They say their ancestors came into this world from an underworld by passing through a hollow log. On the way out a pregnant woman became stuck, barring the way so those behind her could not exit; this explains why there were so few Kiowa. Some then married Sarci Indians and produced a tribe called the Kiowa Apache.
After 1700 the Kiowa were alternately friends and enemies with the Apache, Crow, and Cheyenne. The Kiowa mainly traded with the Arikara, Mandan, and Hidatsa. Cheyenne and Sioux drove the Kiowa from the Black Hills into Comanche territory, where, following a war, the Kiowa later made peace with the Comanche.
Although they were few in number, the Kiowa were respected across the Great Plains as proud and fierce warriors. Their ferocious resistance to the American settlement of their homeland made them legends. They may have lost their reservation, but they have not lost their traditions.
Early days on the Great Plains
The ancient Kiowa were wandering hunters who traveled the northwestern Great Plains following the vast herds of buffalo that were their primary food source. Seventeenth-century French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle (1643–1687), was the first European to record information about the Kiowa. Although he did not meet them on his expedition in 1682, he wrote that they possessed many horses that mat have been acquired from Spanish settlers in Mexico. Horses made life easier, allowing the Kiowa and other Plains tribes to hunt and kill buffalo more efficiently than they could on foot.
By the 1700s the Kiowa had roamed as far east as the Black Hills of South Dakota, where the tiny tribe formed a close alliance with the large and powerful Crow nation. Plains Indians gained honor within their tribes by raiding, horse thieving, and warring. The Crow (see entry) and Kiowa prospered in that way, but they often had to deal with other tribes whose lifestyles were the same. They fought constantly with the Comanche and Shoshone in the West, the Cheyenne and Arapaho in the north, and the Sioux in the East (see entries).
1837: The Kiowa sign the Treaty of Fort Gibson, promising peace with fellow Indian tribes and the United States.
1853: The Kiowa sign the Treaty of Fort Atkinson, making peace with Mexico and renewing peace with the United States.
1865: The Kiowa are assigned to a reservation in Oklahoma.
1901–6: The Kiowa-Comanche reservation is broken into individual allotments and is opened for white settlement.
1968: Rhe Kiowa Tribal Council is formed.
Move to southern Plains
The unending fighting, combined with a disastrous smallpox epidemic in 1781 that killed nearly two thousand Kiowa, led to a decision to leave the Black Hills region in 1785 and migrate to the southern Plains. Soon afterwards the weakened Kiowa made peace with the much larger Comanche tribe. The two tribes agreed to share hunting grounds and often joined forces in raids against other tribes. Together they took control of the southern Plains from the Apache and Wichita (see entries). They gained a reputation as the fiercest of Plains warriors, especially in Texas and New Mexico, where they met the Spanish, established a trading relationship, and terrorized white settlements—something they continued to do for many years.
American explorers Meriwether Lewis (1774–1809) and William Clark (1770–1836) saw the Kiowa in 1804. By then the Plains culture was in full flower. The Kiowa had just begun to trade with the French, who were more willing to give them guns than the Spanish were. Lewis and Clark observed the Kiowa among several Native American groups attending a large trade fair at one of the French trading posts that had sprung up along the Missouri River. The explorers noted that there was much singing, dancing, and general merriment.
Smallpox epidemics struck in 1801 and 1816, killing many Plains Indians. Though weak, the Kiowa continued their pattern of fighting and raiding. When vast numbers of white settlers began to move across the Great Plains, most of the tribes put aside their differences and joined forces to attack wagon trains. This alliance did not include the Osage (see entry), however. In 1833 warriors from the Osage tribe attacked a group of Kiowa who were gathering food. Many Kiowa were killed and beheaded in what came to be called the Cut-Throat Massacre. Some women and children were also taken captive.
In 1834 U.S. soldiers returned to the Kiowa one captive girl taken in the massacre. This generous act marked the first contact between the U.S. government and the Kiowa. When the government suggested a peace conference to put an end to warfare on the Plains and open the area for white settlement, the Kiowa were willing to listen.
In 1837 the Kiowa signed their first treaty with the United States. The Treaty of Fort Gibson gave U.S. citizens the right to travel unhindered through Native American lands. The Kiowa were guaranteed hunting rights in the southern Plains, including the territory that would become the state of Texas. Two years later another smallpox epidemic swept through the Plains. In 1849 half the tribe perished in a cholera epidemic; some committed suicide to avoid being overtaken by the terrible disease.
The remaining Kiowa strongly objected to settlers moving into Texas, so they continued raiding there. When Texas became a state in 1845 the U.S. government stepped in to end the trouble in the region. When the U.S. Army could not subdue the Kiowa, they sent a government agent to make peace. In 1853 he convinced the Kiowa, along with their Kiowa Apache and Comanche allies, to sign the Treaty of Fort Atkinson. The treaty—never accepted by all the Kiowa chiefs—called for peace in the region and granted the U.S. government the privilege of building roads and forts in return for annual payments for the next ten years.
Kiowa and Comanche warriors continued their raiding against Native Americans and whites alike. Finally the U.S. government called for a new peace council. They held it in 1865 at the mouth of the Little Arkansas River (near present-day Wichita, Kansas), and it resulted in the Treaty of Little Arkansas. By its terms, the Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche would move to a reservation in what was then called Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). The tribes were also required to renounce their claims to any other lands. When it appeared the Native Americans were not going to sign the treaty, the government agreed to allow them to hunt in western Kansas and Texas, but they still had to make the reservation their home.
Another treaty in 1867 required that the Kiowa and other signers agree to learn to farm, and they were promised cattle, farming equipment, and clothing.
Resistance to farming
Government officials hoped to transform a warlike, wandering people into peaceful farmers who lived like European Americans, a process called assimilation. The Kiowa resisted this transformation, and continued with the Comanche to raid other tribes and Texans. Their opposition was finally quashed after a punishing campaign by the U.S. military over the winter of 1868-69. Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer (1839–1876) informed the Kiowa that they must surrender or be destroyed.
For the next sixty years the government pressured the reservation Kiowa to give up their ways. Meanwhile, nearby ranchers and farmers wanted Kiowa land and urged the government to permit settlement there. Some simply let their cattle graze illegally. Bolder men built a railroad on reservation land, and towns grew up along the tracks.
In 1887 Congress passed the General Allotment Act. It called for the division of reservation lands into individual plots called allotments; any land left over would be sold to whites.
The Kiowa objected to allotment and filed lawsuits that delayed the process. They lost, and the parceling out of their land into small plots began in 1901. By 1906 individual Kiowa had 160-acre parcels of land and no reservation to call their own. They endured years of poverty and suffering; some left for good. In the early twenty-first century some Kiowa people live on land in Oklahoma that was once part of the vast reservation. Although they are surrounded by white communities, many members of the tribe have worked to preserve their cultural heritage.
The Kiowa believed supernatural forces could give power to human beings. One of the most important of these spirit forces in the Kiowa religion was the Sun. They gazed at the Sun during the ceremony called the Sun Dance (see “Customs”). This dance was banned by the U.S. government, and the last Sun Dance performed by the Kiowa took place in 1887.
Another powerful force in Kiowa life was the Grandmothers religion. The Ten Grandmothers each had her own tepee, her own horse, and her own dedicated guardian. The Kiowa consulted the Grandmothers and asked them to relay prayers to the Creator. When the last true keeper and guardian of the Grandmothers, Willie Maunkee (Kiowa Bill), died, the buffalo hide containers holding the Grandmothers were sewn shut never to be opened again. Elders still pass down stories about the Grandmothers to younger members of the tribe.
By 1890 many Kiowa and other Native Americans were despondent over reservation life. They adopted the Ghost Dance religion developed by Wovoka (c. 1856–1932), a Paiute (see entry) Indian. Wovoka urged the Native Americans to perform the dance until the white men were gone and the buffalo were restored.
The late nineteenth century also saw the rise of the Peyote (pronounced pay-OH-tee ) religion among the Kiowa. Practiced by many Native American tribes, the religion involves consuming part of a small, spineless cactus that grows in the southwestern United States and Mexico. The person then enters a trance state and sees visions. The Kiowa practiced a version known as the Little Moon peyote ceremony, which lasted for one full day. Over the years, peyote use has become part of a religion, the Native American Church, founded in Oklahoma in 1918. Many Kiowa men are members of this church, which is credited with contributing to a revival of traditional ceremonies. (For more information on the Native American Church, see Makah entry). Women and other members of the tribe are more likely to belong to Christian churches, usually Methodist or Baptist.
The language spoken by the Kiowa belongs to the Tanoan-Kiowan language family, but it is quite different from most Tanoan languages (spoken by many Pueblo tribes; see entry) and resembles the Uto-Aztecan languages (spoken by the Hopi; see etnry). The language includes no r, and a European observer in 1906 said the language was “full of nasal and choking sounds.”
In the modern world members of the Kiowa tribe are more likely to abandon their Native language in favor of English. Still, some of the older generation speak the language, and young people receive schooling in their Native language.
The Kiowa language has been adapted to modern life. For example, the Kiowa word for automobile, awdlemodlbidl, is formed from the words gyesadl (“it is hot”), hodl (“to kill”), and k’awndedl (“badly”), literally meaning “bad, hot killing machine.” Below are a few simpler Kiowa words:
- ant’a … “five”
- ch’i … “man”
- ma … “woman”
- p’ahy … “moon”
- pa’o … “three”
- pay … “sun”
- t’on … “water”
- yi … “two”
Each Kiowa band was ruled by a chief, chosen for his religious powers or for his outstanding skills in war or healing. Occasionally all these band chiefs came together to discuss matters of importance to the whole tribe, such as whether to make war or peace or when to hold ceremonies.
On the reservations the Kiowa were no longer hunters or warriors, and Kiowa men had no opportunity to distinguish themselves as leaders. The people had to obey government policies. One such policy was the creation of the Inter-tribal Business Committee; government agents chose members from each of the three tribes on the reservation. These committee members did not have the loyalty of the Kiowa people because the Kiowa saw them as puppets under the control of the U.S. government.
Federal government policies toward Native Americans changed in the 1930s, and new laws were passed that allowed tribes to have more say in their own affairs. But many Kiowa opposed government requirements that they re-establish a reservation, which meant giving up their individual plots of land, and allowing the land to be controlled by the tribe as a whole, and they declined to do so.
In 1968 the Kiowa Nation created a governing body called the Kiowa Tribal Council. The council serves to represent both individual Kiowa and the tribe as a whole in negotiations with the federal government. Areas of concern are health, education, and economic development. All tribe members age 18 or older are part of the Tribal Council.
Before contact with white traders the Kiowa economy was based on hunting and trading with other tribes. The Kiowa exchanged horses, mules, and pemmican (dried buffalo meat mixed with fat and berries) for garden goods produced by farming tribes on the Missouri River. Later they traded buffalo hides for European goods. What they could not acquire by trading, they took by raiding. Favorite targets were horses, food, and captives.
On the reservation government agents tried to turn them into farmers, but Kiowa hunter-warriors looked down on farming as “women’s work.” They hated the government’s proposal to divide their land into individual farms (allotments) and strongly opposed it. They continued to refuse to farm and, with the buffalo gone by the 1870s, poverty and starvation were common. Within a short time the Kiowa came to depend on government handouts.
Those Kiowa who turned to farming found that their farms did not prosper. They were affected by drought and soil erosion that led to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, where large parts of the Great Plains suffered from drought and tremendous dust storms. Some Kiowa men left to serve in the military in World Wars I (1914–18) and II (1939–45); some did not return.
New government policies in the 1950s and 1960s offered money and other incentives to young Native Americans in rural communities if they relocated to urban areas and learned new skills. Many Kiowa took advantage of the offer and set out for Texas and California, where they took jobs as carpenters and laborers. Some who stayed behind leased their land to whites, but even with that income, the majority of Kiowa lived in a state of relative poverty until the end of the twentieth century. Many supplemented their family income through arts and crafts products.
In 2007 the Kiowa opened the Red River Casino, which employs 575 people. First the tribe cleared up fines and other issues with the National Indian Gaming Commission, which had shut down the tribe’s last casino. The additional income generated by gaming helps fund many tribal initiatives.
Early efforts to force an American-style education on their children left the Kiowa mistrustful of white authorities, and this led to a condition of under-education that existed for much of the twentieth century. Over the years the lack of education contributed to a gradual loss of the Kiowa language and culture. Some trends of the last half century have been promising, though. Today young people are taught the Kiowan language at the Kiowa Tribal Complex in Carnegie, Oklahoma, as part of continuing effort to preserve and renew the tribe’s traditional culture. Likewise many attempts have been made to promote Kiowa art, dance, song, and literature in various publications and on Kiowa land at the Kiowa Nation Culture Museum.
More Kiowa students are completing high school and an increasing number are taking advantage of federal grants to attend college.
Like other wandering Plains tribes, the Kiowa lived in the tepee, a cone-shaped tent assembled over a group of sturdy wooden poles tied at the top and enclosed with sewn-together buffalo hides. The entrance was small, perhaps 3 or 4 feet (1 meter) high and always faced east. Although tepees varied in size according to the number of inhabitants, a large one might measure 20 feet (6 meters) in diameter and stand at least as high. The, Kiowa decorated the outside of their tepees with the same symbol that appeared on the warrior’s shield or with a special design that identified the family who lived within. Each tepee housed a family of four or five individuals.
The interior was kept quite simple. In the center was a fire hole for cooking and warmth, while beds—made from a small frame of willow rods and covered with buffalo skin—were placed along the perimeter of the tent. The task of erecting the tepee was women’s work. The process was fairly simple, allowing the Kiowa to move easily as they followed roaming buffalo herds.
When all of the Kiowa gathered together in the spring for the annual Sun Dance, a special building called a medicine lodge was built. This lodge consisted of 17 poles arranged in a large circle and inserted into the ground vertically. A roof frame made of similar poles was then extended above. At the central point of this frame hung the sacred Sun Dance fetish, a small human figure carved from green stone called the tai-me. The medicine lodge was covered by cottonwood branches that formed the walls of the structure, while the roof was left open to the sky.
The Passing of the Buffalo
Once buffalo roamed the plains. The Kiowa people honored the buffalo and thanked it when they killed it; in turn, it provided for their needs. However, life changed when the whites came. They slaughtered the buffalo and destroyed the land with their buildings and railroad tracks.
Soon the bones of the buffalo covered the land to the height of a tall man. The buffalo saw they could fight no longer.
One morning, a Kiowa woman whose family was running from the Army rose early from their camp deep in the hills. She went down to the spring near the mountainside to get water. She went quietly, alert for enemies. The morning mist was thick, but as she bent to fill her bucket she saw something. It was something moving in the mist. As she watched, the mist parted and out of it came an old buffalo cow. It was one of the old buffalo women who always led the herds. Behind her came the last few young buffalo warriors, their horns scarred from fighting, some of them wounded. Among them were a few calves and young cows.
Straight toward the side of the mountain, the old buffalo cow led that last herd. As the Kiowa woman watched, the mountain opened up in front of them and the buffalo walked into the mountain. Within the mountain the earth was green and new. The sun shone and the meadowlarks were singing. It was as it had been before the whites came. Then the mountain closed behind them. The buffalo were gone.
Bruchac, Joseph, and Michael J. Caduto. “The Passing of the Buffalo.” Keepers of the Animals: Native American Stories and Wildlife Activities for Children. Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1991.
Like most Plains-dwellers, the Kiowa relied mainly on buffalo for food, clothing, and shelter. Kiowa men also killed other large hoofed creatures, such as antelope, deer, and elk. Women gathered fruits, nuts, and roots to round out the Kiowa diet.
Clothing and adornment
Nearly all clothing and household materials came from the animals of the Plains, primarily buffalo, deer, and other smaller creatures. Men usually wore only leggings and buckskin moccasins in the summer months, with the addition of a deerskin shirt or a buffalo hide robe during the winter season. Women wore dresses of the same materials, along with leggings and moccasins.
The Kiowa adorned themselves with shells, animal bones or teeth, and porcupine quills. Robes were often painted or decorated with embroidery. Animal furs were occasionally worn for warmth. Often these hides would be thrown over the body with the head still attached, so the head rested over the left shoulder. Warriors painted their shields with figures they saw in the dream visions that told them they were destined to be warriors. Geometric patterns—such as boxes, hourglass shapes, feathered circles, and striped or symmetrical designs—also adorned shields and other items.
The Kiowa believed that natural objects and creatures contained spiritual powers, including the power to heal, bring rain, or see the future. These objects—teeth, animal skins, stones, food, or other items—could be gathered together in bundles called personal “medicine.” Such medicine was the property of the shaman (pronounced SHAH-mun or SHAY-mun ) who specialized in healing the sick.
Kiowa shamans belonged to the religious society of Buffalo Doctors. Greatly respected by the other members of the tribe, Buffalo Doctors usually received their curing powers in the form of a dream vision—a sign to the dreamer that he was to become a healer. If he were successful in restoring health to the patient, the Buffalo Doctor was handsomely rewarded.
The personal medicine of an especially successful healer became important to the whole tribe. That was the case with ten sacred Kiowa medicine bundles, known as the Ten Grandmothers. No one but a specially chosen priest was allowed to open these bundles, so their actual contents were unknown to the Kiowa. Before the last priest died in the 1890s the bundles were opened annually at a special purification ceremony. The bundles are regarded with deep reverence, and they symbolize the well-being and continuance of the old Kiowa ways. Today each bundle is guarded by one man and one woman who inherit this honor and continue the tradition. Only nine bundles remain; the tenth was destroyed in a fire in the 1930s. (For more information on the Ten Grandmothers, see “Religion.”)
For centuries Kiowa men and women were renowned for their painting. They used colors obtained from earth and rocks to paint geometric designs on clothing and containers, and men covered their tepees with scenes from their personal history and from their battles.
Americans recognized the talent of Kiowa artists when some members of the tribe were imprisoned in Florida by the U.S. military in the 1890s. These prisoners were given drawing materials to pass the time and used the opportunity to record their histories. In 1891 Kiowa artists were asked to paint works for display at international art shows. In the 1930s five young Kiowa artists were invited to attend the University of Oklahoma School of Art. The group, which consisted of Jack Hokeah (1902–1973), Spencer Asah (1905–1954), James Auchiah (1906–1974), Stephen Mopope (1898–1974), and Monroe Tsatoke (1904–1937), gained fame around the world as the “Five Kiowa Artists.”
In a society where most of the honor and glory went to warriors and horse raiders, it was difficult for a woman to shine. Certain Kiowa women belonged to artist societies, whose members knew all the secrets of quillwork and beadwork and would pass the secrets on for a fee. Quilled robes made by these women artists were highly prized; one such robe might be traded for a horse.
In the early twenty-first century Kiowa men and women are known for their work with buckskin, beads, featherwork, and German silver (nickel). Their work can be seen at the Oklahoma Indian Arts and Crafts Cooperative.
The Sun Dance was an annual ceremony held in the spring or early summer. Participants stared into the sun and went without food or water, hoping for a vision.. The Kiowa did not include self-torture in their Sun Dances, as many versions of this popular Great Plains celebration did. Violence was a part of the ten-day ceremony, though, because it ended in raiding and warfare. The last Kiowa Sun Dance took place in 1887.
The legacy of the Sun Dance, however, lives on in some present-day Kiowa traditions. The tribe maintains the ten medicine bundles used in the purification ceremony; some tribal members are responsible for their safekeeping. Several of the dances, such as the Gourd Dance and the Black Leggings Dance, have steps that resemble those of the Sun Dance.
The Kiowa were hunters and warriors, and many of their activities featured demonstrations of bravery and strength. Warriors achieved status through individual acts of courage, such as success in hunting or “counting coup,” coming close enough in battle to touch but not kill an enemy. Warrior societies were formed based on age and experience. Young boys would be members of the Polanyup, or Rabbit Society. Other groups included Adaltoyuo, Young Sheep; Tsentanmo, Horse Headdresses; Tonkonko, Black Leggings; Taupeko, Skunkberry People or Crazy Horse; and Ka-itsenko, Dog Warriors.
The highest military honor a man could attain was to be named one of the Koitsenko; these were the greatest and bravest of the Kiowa warriors and never numbered more than ten.
Rank in society
Social rank was clearly marked out in Kiowa society. At the top were the onde, which included the finest warriors, leaders, and priests. The ondegup’a, warriors of lesser wealth and stature, were directly beneath them, while the kaan and dapone, poor people, made up most of the tribe.
Not surprisingly in this military culture, women were esteemed far less than men and were obliged to undertake most of the domestic tasks, including building tepees, preparing food, tanning hides, and making and repairing clothing. A small group of older women, however, did belong to the secret and highly respected Bear Women Society.
In addition to warrior societies, there were religious societies, healing societies like the Buffalo Doctors or the Owl Doctor Society (whose members could see into the future), and the Sun Dance Shield Society and Eagle Shield Society (whose members guarded the tribe’s magical and sacred objects).
By the middle of the twentieth century all the old societies seemed to have disappeared along with much of the traditional Kiowa way of life. Then soldiers who served in the two World Wars revived the Black Leggings warrior society. Two other societies, the Gourd Dance Society and the O-Ho-Mah Society, are also being revived. People meet in various cities in Oklahoma to perform modern versions of old rituals. Each year the Kiowa travel to Andarko, Oklahoma, where the Apache tribe is headquartered, to participate in the American Indian Exposition.
Among the most important Kiowa customs was an emphasis on ritual cleansing, both as the first step in the proper performance of a religious ceremony and as a way of overcoming disease by getting rid of harmful spirits in the body. Those undergoing the cleansing entered a sweat lodge—a wooden structure containing a fire that heated rocks and produced steam vapor from a nearby water vessel.
The Kiowa calendar
The Kiowa believed in the importance of a calendar history. Two times each year the happenings of the past season were recorded in the form of painted illustrations on buffalo hide. The oldest calendar now in existence dates from the year 1833 and is a valuable chronicle of more than a half century of Kiowa history.
Current tribal issues
In 1998 a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the case of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma v. Manufacturing Technologies, Inc. upheld the sovereignty (ability to be self-governing) of Native American tribes. This means that the tribe can operate as a separate, independent nation.
N. Scott Momaday (1934–), of Kiowa, white, and Cherokee ancestry, is one of the most widely recognized Native American writers. He is the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of House Made of Dawn (1968), the tragic story of a Kiowa man whose life falls apart when he tries to adjust to life in a city. Native issues figure prominently in his novels and poetry. His book The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969) details several centuries of Kiowa history and legend, including the tribe’s origins, migrations through the Plains, and contact with white settlers. Momaday is also a well-respected professor of literature.
Satanta (1830–1878) was born on the northern Plains, but later migrated to the southern Plains with his people. Satanta spent much of his adult life fighting U.S. settlers and their military forces. In 1866, as leader of the Kiowa, he favored military resistance against U.S. settlers. In 1867 he spoke at the Kiowa Medicine Lodge Council, an annual ceremonial gathering, where U.S. observers gave him his nickname, “The Orator of the Plains” because of his eloquent speech. At the council, Satanta signed a peace treaty that obligated the Kiowa to resettle on a reservation in present-day Oklahoma.
Shortly thereafter, however, he was taken hostage by U.S. officials who used his imprisonment to coerce more Kiowa into resettling on their assigned reservation. After his release, Satanta carried out raids against whites in Texas, including an ambush of a train carrying U.S. Army general William Tecumseh Sherman (1820–1891). When he attended a peace council a short time later Satanta was arrested and sentenced to death, but thanks to the protest of humanitarian groups and Native American leaders, he received parole on the condition that he remain on the Kiowa Reservation. Hostilities on the Plains continued, and in 1874 Satanta presented himself to U.S. officials to prove that he was not taking part in them. They rewarded this gesture with imprisonment. Four years later an ill Satanta jumped to his death from the second story of a prison hospital after being informed that he would never be released.
Other notable Kiowa include: Kiowa/Delaware playwright, editor, and choreographer Hanay Geiogamah (1945–); tribal leader Kicking Bird (c. 1835–1875); attorney and educator Kirke Kickingbird (1944–); and physician and educator Everett Ronald Rhoades (1931–).
Archer, Jane. The First Fire: Stories of the Cherokee, Kickapoo, Kiowa, and Tigua. Dallas, TX: Taylor Trade, 2005.
Earenfight, Phillip J., ed. A Kiowa’s Odyssey: A Sketchbook from Fort Marion. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007.
Haseloff, Cynthia. The Kiowa Verdict. Unity, Maine: Five Star, 1996.
Meadows, William C. Kiowa, Apache, and Comanche Military Societies: Enduring Veterans, 1800 to the Present. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2003.
Mooney, James. Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians. Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2006.
Ryan, Marla Felkins, and Linda Schmittroth. Tribes of Native America: Kiowa. San Diego, CA: Blackbirch Press, 2003.
Yellowtail, Thomas. Native Spirit: The Sun Dance Way. Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2007.
“Kiowa Drawings.” National Anthropological Archives, National Museum of Natural History. (accessed on August 4, 2007).
Kiowa Indian Tribe of Oklahoma. (accessed on August 4, 2007).
Lassiter, Luke E. “The Power of Kiowa Song: A Collaborative Ethnography.” The University of Arizona Press. (accessed on August 4, 2007).
“Meeting of Frontiers: The Kiowa Collection: Selections from the Papers of Hugh Lenox Scott.” Global Gateway: World Culture & Resources (Library of Congress). (accessed August 4, 2007).
Moore, R. E. “The Texas Kiowa Indians.” TexasIndians.com. (accessed on August 4, 2007).
Gordon L. Pullar, Director, Department of Alaska Native and Rural Development College of Rural and Community Development, UAF, Anchorage, Alaska
Brian Wescott (Athabaskan/Yup’ik)
Amanda Beresford McCarthy
"Kiowa." U*X*L Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 14, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kiowa-0
"Kiowa." U*X*L Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. . Retrieved November 14, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/kiowa-0