Last updated
In Summer, Kiowa.jpg
Three Kiowa men, 1898
Total population
12,000 (2011) [1]
Regions with significant populations
Flag of the United States.svg  United States (Flag of Oklahoma.svg  Oklahoma)
English, Kiowa, Plains Sign Talk
Native American Church, traditional tribal religion, Sun Dance, Christianity

Kiowa ( /ˈkəwə, -wɑː, -w/ [2] [3] ) people are a Native American tribe and an indigenous people of the Great Plains. They migrated southward from western Montana into the Rocky Mountains in Colorado in the 17th and 18th centuries, [4] and finally into the Southern Plains by the early 19th century. [5] In 1867, the Kiowa were moved to a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma.

Native Americans in the United States Indigenous peoples of the United States (except Hawaii)

Native Americans, also known as American Indians, Indigenous Americans and other terms, are the indigenous peoples of the United States, except Hawaii. There are over 500 federally recognized tribes within the US, about half of which are associated with Indian reservations. The term "American Indian" excludes Native Hawaiians and some Alaska Natives, while Native Americans are American Indians, plus Alaska Natives of all ethnicities. Native Hawaiians are not counted as Native Americans by the US Census, instead being included in the Census grouping of "Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander".

Montana State of the United States of America

Montana is a state in the Northwestern United States. Montana has several nicknames, although none are official, including "Big Sky Country" and "The Treasure State", and slogans that include "Land of the Shining Mountains" and more recently "The Last Best Place".

Colorado State of the United States of America

Colorado is a state of the Western United States encompassing most of the southern Rocky Mountains as well as the northeastern portion of the Colorado Plateau and the western edge of the Great Plains. It is the 8th most extensive and 21st most populous U.S. state. The estimated population of Colorado was 5,695,564 on July 1, 2018, an increase of 13.25% since the 2010 United States Census.


Today, they are federally recognized as Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma with headquarters in Carnegie, Oklahoma. [1] As of 2011, there were 12,000 members. [1] The Kiowa language (Cáuijògà), part of the Tanoan language family, is still spoken today. [6]

Carnegie, Oklahoma Town in Oklahoma, United States

Carnegie is a town in Caddo County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 1,723 at the 2010 census, a 1.7 percent decline from 1,752 at the 2000 census.

Kiowa language Tanoan language

Kiowa or Cáuijògà/Cáuijò:gyà is a Tanoan language spoken by the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma in primarily Caddo, Kiowa, and Comanche counties. The Kiowa tribal center is located in Carnegie. Like most North American languages, Kiowa is an endangered language.

Tanoan languages language family

Tanoan, also Kiowa–Tanoan or Tanoan–Kiowa, is a family of languages spoken by indigenous peoples in present-day New Mexico, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.


Kiowa call themselves Ka'igwu, Cáuigù [7] or Gaigwu, most given with the meaning "Principal People". [4] The first part of the name is the element Kae-, Cáui- or Gai- which means the Kiowa themselves – it may derive from the word ka' (mother) or from ka-a (a type of spear with feathers along its length). The true origin is lost. Kae-kia means a Kiowa man; Kae-ma is a Kiowa woman. The second element -gua refers to "men or people", [8] so the meaning of the two elements is "Kiowa people"; to express "Principal People" (sometimes "Chief People") or "genuine, real or true People" in Kiowa is to add the ending -hin.

Ancient names were Kútjàu or Kwu-da ("emerging" or "coming out rapidly") and Tep-da, relating to the tribal origin myth of a creator pulling people out of a hollow log until a pregnant woman got stuck. Later, they called themselves Kom-pa-bianta for "people with large tipi flaps", before they met Southern Plains tribes or before they met white men. Another explanation of their name "Kiowa" originated after their migration through what the Kiowa refer to as "The Mountains of the Kiowa" (Kaui-kope) in the present eastern edge of Glacier National Park, Montana, just south of the border with Canada.

Pregnancy time when children develop inside the mothers body before birth

Pregnancy, also known as gestation, is the time during which one or more offspring develops inside a woman. A multiple pregnancy involves more than one offspring, such as with twins. Pregnancy can occur by sexual intercourse or assisted reproductive technology. Childbirth typically occurs around 40 weeks from the last menstrual period (LMP). This is just over nine months, where each month averages 31 days. When measured from fertilization it is about 38 weeks. An embryo is the developing offspring during the first eight weeks following fertilization, after which, the term fetus is used until birth. Symptoms of early pregnancy may include missed periods, tender breasts, nausea and vomiting, hunger, and frequent urination. Pregnancy may be confirmed with a pregnancy test.

Tipi type of Native American tent

A tipi is a cone-shaped tent, traditionally made of animal skins upon wooden poles. Modern tipis usually have a canvas covering. A tipi is distinguished from other conical tents by the smoke flaps at the top of the structure. Historically, the tipi has been used by Indigenous people of the Plains in the Great Plains and Canadian Prairies of North America. They are still in use in these communities, though now primarily for ceremonial purposes rather than daily living. A similar structure, the lavvu is used by the Sámi people of northern Europe.

Commercially, a smoke flap can take the form of a metal, tin, or other alloy and can be manipulatable by hand or lever, and appears in home chimneys, stoves or boilers. The more common use of a smoke flap is on the Native American Plains Indian tipi.

The mountain pass they came through was populated heavily by grizzly bear Kgyi-yo and Blackfoot people. Other tribes who encountered the Kiowa used sign language to describe them - by holding two straight fingers near the lower outside edge of the eye and moving these fingers back past the ear. This corresponded to the ancient Kiowa hairstyle cut horizontally from the lower outside edge of the eyes to the back of their ears. This was a functional practice to keep their hair from getting tangled while they shot an arrow from a bow string. George Catlin painted Kiowa warriors with this hairstyle. [9]

Grizzly bear Subspecies of mammal

The grizzly bear is a large population of the brown bear inhabiting North America. Scientists generally do not use the name grizzly bear but call it the North American brown bear.

Sign language Language which uses manual communication and body language to convey meaning

Sign languages are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning. Language is expressed via the manual signstream in combination with non-manual elements. Sign languages are full-fledged natural languages with their own grammar and lexicon. This means that sign languages are not universal and they are not mutually intelligible, although there are also striking similarities among sign languages.

George Catlin American painter

George Catlin was an American painter, author, and traveler, who specialized in portraits of Native Americans in the Old West. Travelling to the American West five times during the 1830s, Catlin was the first white man to depict Plains Indians in their native territory.

For a time, the Kiowa are thought to have shared land, mostly in present-day eastern Colorado, with the Arapaho. An Arapaho name for the Kiowa is "creek people", and the Arapaho word for "creek" is koh'owu', which when pronounced carefully has some resemblance to the current name "Kiowa". For example, the Kiowa are referred to as "creek people" in an oral narrative recited in 1993 by native Arapaho speaker Paul Moss. [10] "Kiowa" may have been a transliteration by European Americans of a name by which the tribe was known among the Arapaho.

Arapaho Native American tribe

The Arapaho are a tribe of Native Americans historically living on the plains of Colorado and Wyoming. They were close allies of the Cheyenne tribe and loosely aligned with the Lakota and Dakota.


The Kiowa language is a member of the Kiowa-Tanoan language family. The relationship was first proposed by Smithsonian linguist John P. Harrington in 1910, and was definitively established in 1967. [11] Parker McKenzie, born 1897, was a noted authority on the Kiowa language, learning English only when he began school. He worked with John P. Harrington on the Kiowa language. He went on to discuss the etymology of words and insights of how the Kiowa language changed to incorporate new items of material culture. McKenzie's letters are in the National Anthropological Archives on pronunciation and grammar of the Kiowa language.

Kiowa /ˈkaɪ.əwə/ or Cáuijògà / Cáuijò:gyà (″language of the Cáuigù (Kiowa)″) is a Tanoan language spoken by the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma in primarily Caddo, Kiowa, and Comanche counties. [12]

Additionally, Kiowa were one of the numerous nations across the US, Canada and Mexico that spoke Plains Sign Talk. Originally a trade language, it became a language within its own right that remained in use across North America. [13]


J.T. Goombi, former Kiowa tribal chairman and first vice-president of the National Congress of American Indians Jt goombi usao.jpg
J.T. Goombi, former Kiowa tribal chairman and first vice-president of the National Congress of American Indians

The Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma is headquartered in Carnegie, Oklahoma. Their tribal jurisdictional area includes Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Grady, Kiowa, Tillman, and Washita Counties. Enrollment in the tribe requires a minimum blood quantum of ¼ Kiowa descent. [1]

As of 2011, their business committee is: [14]

Economic development

The Kiowa Tribe issues its own vehicle tags. As of 2011, the tribe owns one smoke shop, two casinos, [1] the Kiowa Red River Casino, Morningstar Steakhouse and Grill, Morningstar Buffet, The Winner's Circle restaurant in Devol, Oklahoma, [15] and Kiowa Bingo near Carnegie, Oklahoma. [16]

Traditional culture

The Kiowa were patrilineal with a chiefdom. They lived in semi-sedentary structures. They were hunters and gatherers, meaning they did not live in one area long enough to grow plants or crops, but did trade with sedentary tribes that grew crops. The Kiowa migrated seasonally with the American bison because it was their main food source. They also hunted antelope, deer, turkeys and other wild game. The women collected varieties of wild berries and fruit, processing them with prepared meats to make pemmican. Dogs were used to pull travois and rawhide parfleche that contained camping goods for short moves. The Kiowa tended to stay in areas for long periods of time.

When they adopted the horse, acquired from Spanish rancherias south of the Rio Grande, the Kiowa revolutionized their economy. they had much larger ranges for their seasonal hunting, and horses could carry some of their camping goods. By the time they arrived on the Plains, they were a fully mounted warrior nation. The Kiowa and Plains Apache established a homeland that lay in the southwestern plains adjacent to the Arkansas River in southeastern Colorado and western Kansas and the Red River drainage of the Texas Panhandle and western Oklahoma. [5]


Elk and Buffalo Grazing among Prairie Flowers 1846-48, painted by George Catlin in Texas. Buffalo and Elk in Texas- George Catlin.jpg
Elk and Buffalo Grazing among Prairie Flowers 1846–48, painted by George Catlin in Texas.
Ledger drawing of mounted Kiowa hunters hunting pronghorn antelope with bows and lance, c.1875-1877. Ledger art- Kiowa hunting antelope.jpg
Ledger drawing of mounted Kiowa hunters hunting pronghorn antelope with bows and lance, c.1875-1877.
Kiowa hunting elk on horseback, c. 1875-1877 Ledger art- Kiowa hunting elk.jpg
Kiowa hunting elk on horseback, c. 1875-1877

The Kiowa were a nomadic hunter-gatherer society, and they relied mostly on food available from the surrounding wilderness. The food hunted and gathered by the Kiowa was largely identical to that of other plains Indians, such as the Comanche. The most important food source for the Kiowa and all other great plains nations is the American bison or buffalo. Before the introduction of horses, bison were hunted on foot and required the hunter to get as close as possible to the target before going close to shoot with arrows or use the long lance. Occasionally they wore the skins of wolves or coyotes to hide their approach towards the bison herds.

Hunting bison became far easier after the Kiowa acquired horses. Bison were hunted on horseback and the men used bows and arrows to take them down, as well as long lances to pierce the hearts of the animals. The women prepared bison meat in a variety of ways: roasted, boiled, and dried. Dried meat was prepared into pemmican, for sustenance while the people were on the move. Pemmican is made by grinding dried lean meat into a powder, then mixing a near equal weight of melted fat or tallow and sometimes berries; the pemmican was shaped into bars and kept in pouches until ready to eat. Certain parts of the bison were sometimes eaten raw. Other animals hunted included deer, elk, pronghorn, wild mustang, wild turkey, and bears. During times of scarce game, the Kiowa would eat small animals such as lizards, waterfowl, skunks, snakes, and armadillos. If desperate for food, the Kiowa would kill and eat their horses, mules, and camp dogs. They raided ranches for Longhorn cattle and horses to eat during hard times, and horses to acquire for their own use.

Men did most of the hunting in Kiowa society. Women were responsible for gathering wild edibles such as berries, tubers, seeds, nuts, vegetables, and wild fruit but could choose to hunt if they wanted to. Important specific food gathered by the Kiowa included pecans, prickly pear, mulberries, persimmons, acorns, plums, and wild onions. They acquired cultivated crops, such as squash, maize, and pumpkin, by trading with and raiding various Indian peoples living on the eastern edge of the great plains. The Pawnee grew crops in addition to hunting and gathering. Before the use of metal pots, the Kiowa boiled meat and vegetables in a hole dug in the ground, filled with water, and lined with a thick layer of animal hides. Heated rocks kept under a fire were added to the boiling hole until the water came to a boil. [17]

Transportation and dwellings

Four Kiowa tipis with designs, 1904. Top L to R, bison herd and pipe-smoking deer; porcupines; bottom, L to R: arms and legs with pipes and lizard; mythical water monsters. Kiowa tipis with designs.jpg
Four Kiowa tipis with designs, 1904. Top L to R, bison herd and pipe-smoking deer; porcupines; bottom, L to R: arms and legs with pipes and lizard; mythical water monsters.

The main form of shelter used by the Kiowa was the tipi or skin lodge. Tipis were made from bison hides shaped and sewn together in a conical shape. Wooden poles called lodge poles from 12–25 feet (3.7–7.6 m) in length are used as support for the lodge. Lodge poles are harvested from red juniper and the lodgepole pine. [18] Tipis have at least one entrance flap. Smoke flaps were place at the top, so that smoke could escape from the fire pit within. The floor of the tipi was lined with animal pelts and skins for warmth and comfort. The tipi is designed to be warm inside during the cold winter months and cool inside during the warm summer. Tipis are easily collapsed and can be raised in minutes, making it an optimal structure for a nomadic people like the Kiowa and other plains Indian nations. The poles of the tipi were used to construct a travois during times of travel. Hide paintings often adorn the outside and inside of the tipis, with special meanings attached to certain designs.

Ledger drawing of Kiowas engaging in horse mounted warfare with traditional enemy forces, 1875. Kiowa mounted warfare ledger drawing.jpg
Ledger drawing of Kiowas engaging in horse mounted warfare with traditional enemy forces, 1875.

Before the introduction of the horse to North America, the Kiowa and other plains peoples used domestic dogs to carry and pull their belongings. Tipis and belongings, as well as small children, were carried on travois, a frame structure using the tipi poles and pulled by dogs and later horses.

The introduction of the horse to Kiowa society revolutionized their way of life. They acquired horses by raiding rancheros south of the Rio Grande into Mexico, as well as by raiding other Indian peoples who already had horses, such as the Navajo and the various Pueblo people. With the horse, they could transport larger loads, hunt more game over a wider range and more easily, and travel longer and farther. The Kiowa became powerful and skilled mounted warriors who conducted long-distance raids against enemies. The Kiowa were considered among the finest horsemen on the Plains. A man's wealth was measured primarily by the size of his horse herd, with particularly wealthy individuals having herds numbering in the hundreds. Horses were targets of capture during raids. The Kiowa considered it an honor to steal horses from enemies, and such raids often served as a rite of passage for young warriors. They adorned their horses with body paint from the medicine man for ritual and spiritual purposes, such as good fortune and protection during battle. Kiowa horses were also often decorated with beaded masks (sometimes with bison horns attached to the sides) and feathers in their manes. Mules and donkeys were also used as means of transportation and wealth; however, they were not as esteemed.

Socio-political organization

The Kiowa had a well structured tribal government like most tribes on the Northern Plains. They had a yearly Sun Dance gathering and an elected head-chief who was considered to be a symbolic leader of the entire nation. Warrior societies and religious societies were important to Kiowa society and carried out specific roles. Chiefs were chosen based on bravery and courage shown in battle as well as intelligence, generosity, experience, communication skills, and kindness to others. The Kiowa believed that the young fearless warrior was ideal. The entire tribe was structured around this individual. The warrior was the ideal to which young men aspired. Because of these factors, the Kiowa was of utmost importance in the history of the Southern Plains. [19]

The women gain prestige through the achievements of their husbands, sons, and fathers, or through their own achievements in the arts. Kiowa women tanned, skin-sewed, painted geometric designs on parfleche and later beaded and quilled hides. [20] The Kiowa women took care of the camp while the men were away. They gathered and prepared food for winter months, and participated in key ritual events. Kiowa men lived in the families of their wives' extended families. Local groups (jōfàujōgáu or jōdáu) were led by the jōfàujōqì, which merged to become a band (topadoga). These bands were led by a chief, the Topadok'i (′main chief′).

The Kiowa had two political subdivisions (particularly with regard to their relationship with the Comanche):

As the pressure on Kiowa lands increased in the 1850s, the regional divisions changed. A new regional grouping emerged:

After the death of the high chief Dohäsan in 1866, the Kiowa split politically into a peace faction and a war faction. War-bands and peace-bands developed primarily based on their proximity to Fort Sill (Xóqáudáuhága – ′At Medicine Bluff′, lit. ′Rock Cliff Medicine At Soldiers Collective They Are′) and their degree of interaction. [21]

Kiowa bands within the tipi ring during the annual Sun Dance (called Kc-to): [22]

During the Sun Dance, some bands had special obligations. These were traditionally defined as follows:

The Kâtá had the traditional right (duty or task) to supply the Kiowa during the Sun Dance with enough bison meat and other foods. This band was particularly wealthy in horses, tipis and other goods. The famous Principal Kiowa chiefs Dohäsan (Little Mountain) and Guipago (Lone Wolf) were members of this band.

The Kogui were responsible for conducting the war ceremonies during the Sun Dance. There were numerous famous families and leaders known for their military exploits and bravery, such as Ad-da-te ('Islandman'), Satanta (White Bear), and Kicking Bird, and the war chiefs Big Bow (Zepko-ete) and Stumbling Bear (Set-imkia).

The Kaigwu were the guardians of the Sacred or Medicine bundle (Tai-mé, Taimay) and the holy lance. Therefore, they were respected and enjoyed a special prestige.

The Kinep or Khe-ate were often called 'Sun Dance Shields' because during the dance, they observed police duties and ensured security. The chief Woman's Heart (Manyi-ten) belonged to this band.

The Semat were allowed to participate equally, but had no specific duties and obligations during the Sun Dance.

The Soy-hay-talpupé were often called Montalyui or Kó̱tályop / Kṓtályóp / Kṓtályôi ('Black Boys', Black Boy Band); they were also named after the Kiowa cultural hero Séndè / Sindi and therefore called Séndèiyòi (Séndè / Sainday's Children). To this band belonged the medicine man Maman-ti. Like the Semat, they had no specific duties or responsibilities.[ citation needed ]

Enemies and warrior culture

Ledger drawings by Silver Horn featuring a collection of Kiowa shield designs, 1904. Kiowa shield designs collection.jpg
Ledger drawings by Silver Horn featuring a collection of Kiowa shield designs, 1904.

Typical of the plains Indians, the Kiowa were a warrior people. They fought frequently with enemies both neighboring and far beyond their territory. The Kiowa were notable even among plains Indians for their long-distance raids, including raids far south into Mexico and north onto the northern plains. Almost all warfare took place while mounted on horses. Enemies of the Kiowa include the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Navajo, Ute, and occasionally Lakota to the north and west of Kiowa territory. East of Kiowa territory they fought with the Pawnee, Osage, Kickapoo, Kaw, Caddo, Wichita, and Sac and Fox. To the south they fought with the Lipan Apache, Mescalero Apache, and Tonkawa. The Kiowa also came into conflict with Indian nations from the American south and east displaced to Indian Territory during the Indian Removal period including the Cherokee, Choctaw, Muskogee, and Chickasaw. Eastern tribes found that Indian Territory, the place they were sent, was already occupied by plains Indians, most notably the Kiowa and Comanche. The Cheyenne and Arapaho would later make peace with the Kiowa and form a powerful alliance with them, the Comanche, and the Plains Apache to fight invading settlers and U.S soldiers, as well as Mexicans and the Mexican Army. [23]

Ledger drawing depicting a meeting between a Kiowa-Comanche war party and a Pawnee war party (right side). Kiowa & Comanche meeting Pawnee.jpg
Ledger drawing depicting a meeting between a Kiowa-Comanche war party and a Pawnee war party (right side).

Like other plains Indians, the Kiowa had specific warrior societies. Young men who proved their bravery, skill, or displayed their worth in battle were often invited to one of the warrior societies. In addition to warfare, the societies worked to keep peace within the camps and tribe as a whole. There were six warrior societies among the Kiowa. [24] The Po-Lanh-Yope (Little Rabbits) was for boys; all young Kiowa boys were enrolled and the group served mostly social and education purposes, involving no violence or combat. The Adle-Tdow-Yope (Young Sheep), Tsain-Tanmo (Horse Headdresses), Tdien-Pei-Gah (Gourd Society), and Ton-Kon-Gah (Black Legs or Leggings), were adult warrior societies., [25] [26] The Koitsenko (Qkoie-Tsain-Gah, Principal Dogs or Real Dogs) [27] consisted of the ten most elite warriors of all the Kiowa, who were elected by the members of the other four adult warrior societies. [28]

Kiowa warriors used a combination of traditional and nontraditional weapons, including long lances, bows and arrows, tomahawks, knives, and war-clubs, as well as the later acquired rifles, shotguns, revolvers, and cavalry swords. Shields were made from tough bison hide stretched over a wooden frame, or made from the skull of bison, which made a small but strong shield. Shields and weapons were adorned with feathers, furs, and animal parts such as eagle claws for ceremonial purposes.

Calendar of 37 months, 1889-92, kept on a skin by Anko, ca. 1895 Calendari kiowa.jpg
Calendar of 37 months, 1889–92, kept on a skin by Anko, ca. 1895

Kiowa calendars

The Kiowa people told ethnologist James Mooney that the first calendar keeper in their tribe was Little Bluff, or Tohausan, who was the principal chief of the tribe from 1833 to 1866. Mooney also worked with two other calendar keepers, Settan, or Little Bear, and Ankopaingyadete, In the Middle of Many Tracks, commonly known as Anko. Other Plains tribes kept pictorial records, known as "winter counts".

The Kiowa calendar system is unique: they recorded two events for each year, offering a finer-grained record and twice as many entries for any given period. Silver Horn (1860–1940), or Haungooah, was the most highly esteemed artist of the Kiowa tribe in the 19th and 20th centuries, and kept a calendar. He was a respected religious leader in his later years. [29]

Funeral practices

           In Kiowa tradition, death had strong associations with darks spirits and negative forces, which meant that the death of an individual was seen as traumatic experiences. Fear of ghosts amongst Kiowa communities stemmed from the belief that spirits commonly resisted the end of their physical life. The spirits were thought to remain around the corpse of the deceased or their burial place, as well as haunt former living spaces and possessions. Added to that, lingering spirits were believed to help encourage the dying to cross from the physical world to the afterlife. The fear of ghosts can also be seen in the way skulls were treated, which was believed to be a source of negative spiritual contamination that invited danger to the living. Due to the fears and risks associated with death, the community’s reactions were instantaneous and vicious. [30] Families and relative were expected to show great amounts of grief through reactions such as wailing, ripping off clothes and shaving of the head. There have also been accounts of self-induced body lacerations and finger joints being cut. In the process of grief, women were also expected to be more expressive in their mourning along with the spouse of the dead. [31]

           When it came to dealing with the body of the deceased, the body had to be washed before burial. This was usual done by a woman who would also comb the hair and paint the face of the dead. Once the body has been treated, a burial occurs promptly. When possible, the burial will take place on the same day unless the death occurs at night. In this case the dead is buried the following morning. A quick burial was believed to reduce the risk of spirits remaining around the burial site. Once burial is complete, most of the belongings of the dead was burned along with their tipi. If their tipi or house was shared with family, the surviving relatives moved into a new house. [32]


As members of the Kiowa-Tanoan language family, the Kiowa at some distant time likely shared an ethnic origin with the other Amerindian nations of this small language family: Tiwa, Tewa, Towa, and others. By historic times, however, the Kiowa lived in a hunter-gatherer economy unlike the sedentary pueblo societies of the others. The Kiowa also had a complex ceremonial life and developed the 'Winter counts' as calendars. The Kiowa recount their origins as near the Missouri River, and the Black Hills. They knew that they were driven south by pressure from the Sioux.

Sitting Bear, Kiowa chief Sitting Bear Kiowa.gif
Sitting Bear, Kiowa chief

For the earliest recorded – and recounted – history of the Kiowa, see further below.

Guipago, Kiowa chief William S. Soule - Guipago (SPC BAE 3912-B Vol 1 01159200).jpg
Guipago, Kiowa chief
Satanta, Kiowa chief William S. Soule - Satanta (SPC BAE 3912-B Vol 1 01158200).jpg
Satanta, Kiowa chief

Following A'date, famous Kiowa leaders were Dohäsan (Tauhawsin, Over-Hanging Butte, alias Little Mountain, alias Little Bluff); Satank (Set-ankea, Sitting Bear), Guipago (Gui-pah-gho, Lone Wolf The Elder, alias Guibayhawgu, Rescued From Wolves), Satanta (Set-tainte, White Bear), Tene-angopte (Kicking Bird), Zepko-ete (Big Bow), Set-imkia (Stumbling Bear), Manyi-ten (Woman's Heart), Napawat (No Mocassin), Mamanti (Walking-above), Tsen-tainte (White Horse), Ado-ete (Big Tree). [33]

Dohasan, who is also known as Touhason, [34] is considered by many to be the greatest Kiowa Chief (1805–1866), as he unified and ruled the Kiowa for 30 years. He signed several treaties with the United States, including the Fort Atkinson Treaty of July 27, 1852, and the Little Arkansas Treaty of 1865. [34] Guipago became the head chief of the Kiowa when Dohosan (Little Bluff) named him as his successor. Guipago and Satanta, along with old Satank, led the warring faction of the Kiowa nation, while Tene-angopte and Napawat led the peaceful party. [33]

In 1871 Satank, Satanta and Big Tree (translated in some documents as Addo-etta [33] ) helped lead the Warren Wagon Train Raid. They were arrested by United States soldiers and transported to Jacksboro, Texas. En route, near Fort Sill, Indian Territory, Satank killed a soldier with a knife and was shot by cavalry troops while trying to escape. Satanta and Big Tree were later convicted of murder by a "cowboy jury".

In September 1872, Guipago met with Satanta and Ado-ete, the visit being one of Guipago's conditions for accepting a request to travel to Washington and meet President Grant for peace talks. Guipago eventually got the two captives released in September 1873. Guipago, Satanta, Set-imkia, Zepko-ete, Manyi-ten, Mamanti, Tsen-tainte and Ado-ete led Kiowa warriors during the "Buffalo war" along the Red River, together with the Comanche allies, in the summer (June–September) 1874. They surrendered after the Palo Duro Canyon fight. Tene-angopte had to select 26 Kiowa chiefs and warriors to be deported; Satanta was sent to a prison in Huntsville, Alabama, while Guipago, Manyi-ten, Mamanti, Tsen-tainte, and others were sent to Florida, at what was then known as Fort Marion. [33] Tene-angopte, damned by the "medicine-man" Mamanti, died in May 1875; Satanta committed suicide at Huntsville in October 1878. Guipago, having fallen sick with malaria, was jailed in Fort Sill, where he died in 1879.

The sculptor of the Indian Head nickel, James Earle Fraser, is reported to have said that Chief Big Tree (Adoeette) was one of his models for the U.S. coin; it was minted from 1913 through 1938. [35]

Big Tree, a Kiowa chief and warrior Big Tree the Kiowa 83d40m Addoeette Adoeette p2fxsharp.jpg
Big Tree, a Kiowa chief and warrior

Early history and migration south

The original Southern Plains territory of the Kiowa Nation. Kiowa lang.png
The original Southern Plains territory of the Kiowa Nation.
Red sandstone cliffs in the Black Hills Wyoming, former Kiowa territory which remains a sacred area to them in modern times. Belle Fourche River 19A.JPG
Red sandstone cliffs in the Black Hills Wyoming, former Kiowa territory which remains a sacred area to them in modern times.
Southern plains of the Llano Estacado in the Texas Panhandle. Llano Estacado Caprock Escarpment south of Ralls TX 2009.jpg
Southern plains of the Llano Estacado in the Texas Panhandle.

The Kiowa emerged as a distinct people in their original homeland of the northern Missouri River Basin. Searching for more lands of their own, the Kiowa traveled southeast to the Black Hills in present-day South Dakota and Wyoming around 1650. In the Black Hills region, the Kiowa lived peacefully alongside the Crow Indians, with whom they long maintained a close friendship, organized themselves into 10 bands, and numbered around 3000. Pressure from the Ojibwe in the north woods and edge of the great plains in Minnesota forced the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and later the Sioux westward into Kiowa territory around the Black Hills. The Kiowa were pushed south by the invading Cheyenne who were then pushed westward out of the Black Hills by the Sioux. Eventually the Kiowa obtained a vast territory on the central and southern great plains in western Kansas, eastern Colorado, most of Oklahoma including the panhandle, and the Llano Estacado in the Texas Panhandle and eastern New Mexico. [36] In their early history, the Kiowa traveled with dogs pulling their belongings until horses were obtained through trade and raid with the Spanish and other Indian nations in the southwest.

In the early spring of 1790 at the place that would become Las Vegas, New Mexico, a Kiowa party led by war leader Guikate, made an offer of peace to a Comanche party while both were visiting the home of a mutual friend of both tribes. This led to a later meeting between Guikate and the head chief of the Nokoni Comanche. The two groups made an alliance to share the same hunting grounds and entered into a mutual defense pact and became the dominant inhabitants of the Southern Plains. From that time on, the Comanche and Kiowa hunted, traveled, and made war together. In addition to the Comanche, the Kiowa formed a very close alliance with the Plains Apache (Kiowa-Apache), with the two nations sharing much of the same culture and participating in each other's annual council meetings and events. The strong alliance of southern plains nations kept the invading Spanish from gaining a strong colonial hold on the southern plains and eventually forced them completely out of the area, pushing them eastward and south past the Rio Grande into present day Mexico.

Indian wars

In closing years of the 18th century and in the first quarter of the 19th century, the Kiowa feared little from European neighbors. Kiowa ranged north of the Wichita Mountains. The Kiowa and Comanche controlled a vast expanse of territory from the Arkansas River to the Brazos River. The enemies of the Kiowa were usually the enemies of the Comanche. To the east there was warfare with the Osage and Pawnee.

In the early 19th, the Cheyenne and Arapaho began camping on the Arkansas River and new warfare broke out. In the south of the Kiowa and Comanche were Caddoan speakers, but the Kiowa and Comanche were friendly toward these bands. The Comanche were at war with the Apache of the Rio Grande region. [19]

Cut-Throat Massacre, 1833. A picture from the Dohasan winter count. Cut-Throat Massacre, 1833.jpg
Cut-Throat Massacre, 1833. A picture from the Dohasan winter count.

They warred with the Cheyenne and Arapaho, Pawnee, Sac and Fox, and Osages.

In summer 1833, the Osage attacked an exposed Kiowa camp near Head Mountain, Oklahoma. The Kiowa lost many aged people, children and women. The heads were cut off and placed in kettles. During this "Cut-Throat Massacre", the Osage captured the sacred Tai-may doll (the Sun Dance figure of the Kiowa) as well. The Kiowa were unable to perform the Sun Dance until the return of the Tai-may in 1835. [37] :33 Dohasan replaced the old Kiowa chief, since he had failed to anticipate danger. [38] :259

The Kiowa traded with the Wichita south along Red River and with Mescalero Apache and New Mexicans to the southwest. After 1840 they and their former enemies the Cheyenne, as well as their allies the Comanche and the Apache, fought and raided the Eastern natives moving into the Indian Territory. [39]

From 1821 until 1870 the Kiowa joined the Comanche in raids, primarily to obtain livestock, that extended deep into Mexico and caused the death of thousands of people. [40]

Transition period

Ma-may-dayte William S. Soule - Mamay-day-te.jpg

The years from 1873 to 1878 marked a drastic change in Kiowa lifestyle. In June 1874, the Kiowa, along with a group of Comanche and Cheyenne warriors, made their last protest against the invasion of white men at the Battle of Adobe Walls in Texas, which proved futile. In 1877, the first homes were constructed for the Indian chiefs and a plan was initiated to employ Indians at the Agency. Thirty Indians were hired to form the first police force on the Reservation. [41]

The Kiowa agreed to settle on a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma. Some bands of Kiowas remained at large until 1875. Some of the Lipan Apache and Mescalero Apache bands with some Comanche in their company held out in northern Mexico until the early 1880s, when Mexican and U.S. Army forces drove them onto reservations or into extinction. By the Treaty of Medicine Lodge in 1867, the Kiowas settled in Western Oklahoma and Kansas. [42]

They were forced to move south of the Washita River to the Red River and Western Oklahoma with the Comanches and the Kiowa Apache Tribe. The transition from the free life of Plains people to a restricted life of the reservation was more difficult for some families than others. [42]

Reservation period

The reservation period lasted from 1868 to 1906. In 1873, the first school among the Kiowa was established by Quaker Thomas C. Battey. In 1877, the federal government built the first homes for the Indian chiefs and initiated a plan to employ Indians. 30 Indians were hired to form the first police force on the reservation. In 1879, the agency was moved from Ft. Sill to Anadarko. [43] The 1890 Census showed 1,598 Comanche at the Fort Sill reservation, which they shared with 1,140 Kiowa and 326 Kiowa Apache. [44]

An agreement made with the Cherokee Commission signed by 456 adult male Kiowa, Comanche, and Kiowa-Apache on Sept. 28, 1892, cleared the way for the opening of the country to white settlers. The agreement provided for an allotment of 160 acres (65 ha) to every individual in the tribes and for the sale of the reservation lands (2,488,893 acres or 1,007,219 ha) to the United States – was to go into effect immediately upon ratification by Congress, even though the Medicine Lodge treaty of 1867 had guaranteed Indian possession of the reservation until 1898. The Indian signers wanted their names stricken but it was too late. A'piatan, as the leader, went to Washington to protest. Chief Lone Wolf (the Younger) immediately file proceedings against the act in the Supreme Court, but the Court decided against him on June 26, 1901. [45]

Agents were assigned to the Kiowa people.

Modern period

Since 1968, the Kiowa have been governed by the Kiowa Tribal Council, which presides over business related to health, education, and economic and industrial development programs. [46]

On March 13, 1970, the Constitution and Bylaws of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma was drafted. On May 23, 1970, it was ratified by voters of the Kiowa Tribe and remains in force. [47]

In 1998, a significant legal development occurred with a landmark decision. In Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma v Manufacturing Technologies, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Indian tribes retain their sovereign immunity as nations from private suits without their consent, even in off-reservation transactions where they do not waive that immunity. [48]

As of 2000, over 4,000 of 12,500 enrolled Kiowa lived near the towns of Anadarko, Fort Cobb, and Carnegie, in Caddo and Kiowa counties, Oklahoma. Kiowa also reside in urban and suburban communities throughout the United States, having moved to areas with more jobs. Each year Kiowa veterans commemorate the warlike spirit of the 19th-century leaders with dances performed by the Kiowa Gourd Clan and Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society. Kiowa cultural identity and pride is apparent in their expressive culture and strong influence on the Gourd Dance and southern plains art. [46]

Longhorn Mountain controversy

Longhorn Mountain near Carnegie, Oklahoma, a sacred site and source of cedar for the Kiowa, was leased to rock-crushing company Stewart Stone, Inc., of Cushing, Oklahoma, which announced intentions to begin to mine gravel in 2013.


Donna Standing Steinberg, Kiowa-Wichita and Josephine Parker, Kiowa, with their beadwork Donna standing steinberg joseph parker.jpg
Donna Standing Steinberg, Kiowa-Wichita and Josephine Parker, Kiowa, with their beadwork

Documentation of the history and development of contemporary Kiowa art formulates one of the most unusual records in Native American culture. As early as 1891, Kiowa artists were being commissioned to produce works for display at international expositions. The "Kiowa Six" were some of the earliest Native Americans to receive international recognition for their work in the fine art world. They influenced generations of Indian artists among the Kiowa, and other Plains tribes. Traditional craft skills are not lost among the Kiowa people today and the talented fine arts and crafts produced by Kiowa Indians helped the Oklahoma Indian Arts and Crafts Cooperative flourish over its 20-year existence. [43]

Ledger art and hide painting

Early Kiowa ledger artists were those held in captivity by the U.S. Army at Fort Marion in St. Augustine, Florida (1875–1878), at the conclusion of the Red River War, which also is known as the Southern Plains Indian War. [49] Ledger art emerges from the Plains hide painting tradition. These Fort Marion artists include Kiowas Etadleuh Doanmoe and Zotom, who was a prolific artist who chronicled his experiences before and after becoming a captive at the fort. After his release from Fort Marion, Paul Zom-tiam (Zonetime, Koba) studied theology from 1878 until 1881, when he was ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal church. [50]

A Kiowa ledger drawing possibly depicting the Buffalo Wallow battle in 1874, a fight between Southern Plains Indians and the U.S. Army during the Red River War. Ledger-sm2.jpg
A Kiowa ledger drawing possibly depicting the Buffalo Wallow battle in 1874, a fight between Southern Plains Indians and the U.S. Army during the Red River War.

Kiowa Six

Following in Silver Horn's footsteps were the Kiowa Six, [51] or, as they have been known in the past, the Kiowa Five. They are Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Lois Bougetah Smoky, and Monroe Tsatoke [52] Coming from the area around Anadarko, Oklahoma, these artists studied at the University of Oklahoma. Lois Smoky left the group in 1927, but James Auchiah took her place in the group. The Kiowa Six gained international recognition as fine artists by exhibiting their work in the 1928 International Art Congress in Czechoslovakia and then participated in the Venice Biennale in 1932. [53]

Painters and sculptors

Besides the Kiowa Five and Silver Horn, Kiowa painters active in the 20th and 21st centuries include Sharron Ahtone Harjo; Homer Buffalo; Charley Oheltoint; Michael C. Satoe Brown; T. C. Cannon; Wilson Daingkau; George Geionty; Bobby Hill (1933–1984); Harding Bigbow (1921–1997); Jim Tartsah; Mirac Creepingbear (1947–1990); Herman Toppah; Ernie Keahbone; C.E. Rowell; Dixon Palmer; Roland Whitehorse; Blackbear Bosin; Woody Big Bow (1914–1988); Parker Boyiddle, Jr. (1947–2007); Dennis Belindo (1938–2009); Clifford Doyeto (1942–2010); Al Momaday; George Keahbone; Joe Lucero (Hobay); Ladonna Tsatoke Silverhorn; R.G. Geionty; Huzo Paddelty; Keri Ataumbi, David E. Williams; Micah Wesley; Thomas Poolaw,; Tennyson Reid; Sherman Chaddlesone (1947–2013); Cruz McDaniels; Robert Redbird (b. 1939); Gus Hawziptaw; Gerald Darby; Lee Tsatoke Jr., N. Scott Momaday; and Barthell Little Chief.

Bead artists

Noted Kiowa beadwork artists include Lois Smoky Kaulaity, Donna Jean Tsatoke, Alice Littleman, Nettie Standing, Marilyn Yeahquo, Edna Hokeah Pauahty, Leona Geimasaddle, Barry D. Belindo, Kathy Littlechief, Katherine Dickerson, Charlie Silverhorn, Paul McDaniels, Jr., Kiowa J. Taryole, Grace Tsontekoy, Richard Aitson, Judy Beaver, Vanessa Paukeigope Jennings, Leatrice Geimasaddle, Teri Greeves, and Tahnee Ahtoneharjo-Growingthunder. [54]


Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for his novel House Made of Dawn . Richard Aitson (Kiowa-Kiowa Apache) is a published poet. Other Kiowa authors include playwright Hanay Geiogamah, poet and filmmaker Gus Palmer, Jr., Alyce Sadongei, Marian Kaulaity Hansson, Tocakut and Tristan Ahtone.

Musicians and composers

Kiowa music often is noted for its hymns that historically were accompanied by dance or played on the flute. Noted Kiowa composers of contemporary music include James Anquoe, noted for his contributions to Native American culture. [55] Contemporary Kiowa musicians include Cornel Pewewardy, Tom Mauchahty-Ware, and Terry Tsotigh.


Early Kiowa photographers include Parker McKenzie and his wife Nettie Odlety, whose photographs from 1913 are in the collection of the Oklahoma History Center. Kiowa photographer Horace Poolaw (1906–1984) was one of the most prolific Native American photographers of his generation. He documented the Kiowa people living near his community in Mountain View, Oklahoma, beginning the 1920s. His legacy is continued today by his grandson, Thomas Poolaw, a prominent Kiowa photographer and digital artist. [56]

Notable Kiowas

Lone Wolf, Kiowa chief, ca. 1907 PostcardHobartOKLoneWolfKiowaChiefCirca1907.jpg
Lone Wolf, Kiowa chief, ca. 1907
Micah Wesley, enrolled Kiowa artist and DJ Micah wesley kiowa muscogee.jpg
Micah Wesley, enrolled Kiowa artist and DJ

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 2011 Oklahoma Indian Nations Pocket Pictorial Directory. Archived May 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission. 2011: 20. Retrieved 4 Jan 2012.
  2. "Kiowa". Merriam-Webster Dictionary .
  3. "Kiowa". Unabridged. Random House.
  4. 1 2 Pritzker 326
  5. 1 2 Kracht, Benjamin R. "Kiowa". Oklahoma History Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  6. "Kiowa Tanoan". Ethnologue. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
  7. Kiowa dictionary
  9. Andrew Cowell and Alonzo Moss, Sr., eds. and trans.: Arapaho Historical Traditions, (Winnipeg, 2003: University of Manitoba Press), pp. 194–195. The stories in this volume are bilingual in Arapaho and English.
  10. Mithun, Marianne (2001). The Languages of Native North America (First paperback ed.). Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 441. ISBN   0-521-23228-7.
  11. A Guide to the Kiowa Collections at the Smithsonian Institution by Merrill, Hansson, Greene and Reuss, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C., 1997.
  12. Davis, Jeffrey. 2006. "A historical linguistic account of sign language among North American Indian groups." In Multilingualism and Sign Languages: From the Great Plains to Australia; Sociolinguistics of the Deaf community, C. Lucas (ed.), Vol. 12, pp. 3–35. Washington, DC: Gallaudet University Press
  13. "Kiowa Business Committee" Archived October 6, 2011, at the Wayback Machine . Kiowa Tribe. (retrieved 26 August 2011)
  14. "Kiowa Red River Casino." 500 Nations. Retrieved 4 Jan 2011.
  15. "Kiowa Bingo." Archived October 18, 2011, at the Wayback Machine 500 Nations. Retrieved 4 Jan 2011.
  16. Rollings (2004), pp. 22-28.
  17. Wishart, David J.. Encyclopedia of the Great Plains Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2007. 89.
  18. 1 2 Dick Swift, "Introduction to the Study of North American Indians", A History and Culture of the Southern Plains Tribes, Carnegie Public Schools, 1972
  19. The Kiowa, by U.S. Department of the Interior, Southern Plains Indian Museum, 1994
  20. William C. Meadows: Kiowa Ethnogeography, University of Texas Press 2008, ISBN   978-0-292-71878-4, Kiowa Homeland, pages 122 – 123
  21. Kiowa Ethnohistory and Historical Ethnography Archived March 30, 2013, at the Wayback Machine
  22. "Kiowas". Encyclopedia of the Great Plains. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  23. Boyd, 71
  24. "The Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma". Spottedbird Publishing, LLC. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  25. Attocknie, Dana (November 11, 2010). "Kiowa Black Leggings Warrior Society". Oklahoma Native Times Magazine. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  26. Boyd, 73
  27. Mayhall, Mildred P. "Kiowa Indians". The Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  28. Greene, Candace S. 'One Hundred Summers: A Kiowa Calendar Record. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2008.
  29. Opler, Morris E., and William E. Bittle. “The Death Practices and Eschatology of the Kiowa Apache.” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, vol. 17, no. 4, 1961, pp. 383–394., doi:10.1086/soutjanth.17.4.3628949.
  30. “Kiowa - Religion and Expressive Culture.” Countries and Their Cultures, Every Culture, 2010,
  31. Fowler, Jess. “Jess Fowler.” Myasd, Funeral Pro Chat, 2015,
  32. 1 2 3 4 WARREN WAGONTRAIN RAID | The Handbook of Texas Online| Texas State Historical Association (TSHA)
  33. 1 2 Tanner, Beccy (2013-02-05). "Betty Nixon dies; helped found Mid-America All-Indian Center". Wichita Eagle . Retrieved 2013-02-09.
  34. "Which Indian Really Modeled?" by Robert R. Van Ryzin, Numismatic News, 1990.
  35. "The Kiowa Indians" . Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  36. Boyd, Maurice (1981): Kiowa Voices. Ceremonial Dance, Ritual and Song. Part I. Fort Worth.
  37. Mooney, James (1898): Calendar History of the Kiowa Indians. Smithsonian Institution. 17th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. Part I. Washington.
  38. Kiowa History by Evans R. Satepauhoodle, TU, 2004
  39. Smith, Ralph A. "The Comanches' Foreign War." Great Plains Journal. Vol. 24–25, 1985–1986, p. 21
  40. The Kiowa, U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Arts and Crafts Board, Southern Plains Indian Museum and Crafts Center
  41. 1 2 Swift, Dick. 1972.
  42. 1 2 The Kiowa by U.S. Department of the Interior, Southern Plains Indian Museum, 1994.
  43. Texas Beyond History – The Passing of the Indian Era
  44. Anadarko Daily News, Aug. 3 & 4, 1996
  45. 1 2 B.R.Kracht by Oklahoma Historical Society
  46. Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, Constitution and Bylaws of the Kiowa Indian Tribe by the Kiowa Tribe, 1970.
  47. Walter Echo-Hawk, NARF Annual Report, 1998
  48. Southern Plains Indian war Archived 2006-08-30 at the Wayback Machine
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  53. Ahtoneharjo-Growingthunder, Tahnee (Fall 2017). "Seven Directions". First American Art Magazine (16): 16–17. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
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  55. "Urban 5 Show at USD" Archived November 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine . American Indian Journalism Institute. (retrieved 7 Oct 2010)
  56. Native American Rights Fund. Visions for the Future: A Celebration of Young Native American Artists, Volume 1. Boulder, CO: Native American Rights Fund, 2007: 82. ISBN   978-1-55591-655-8.
  57. "Native American Week Planned at UNM-Gallup" Archived July 3, 2012, at the Wayback Machine . University of New Mexico Today. 8 November 2007 (retrieved 25 February 2010)

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Further reading