Kiowa Indians Essay, Research Paper
The earliest written mention of the Kiowa Indians was in 1682 by Ren Robert Cavelier who heard of them from a captive Pani slave, boy at Fort St. Louis who called them Manrhouts and Gattacha. The Kiowa are a group of warrior plains people who lived on the southern Great Plains. They became one of the most hated and feared of the plains tribes. The Kiowa tribe practices a peyotism religion and speaks a Kiowa-Tanoan language. The Kiowa are notable for their pictography portrayals, which are done twice a year of important tribal events. Many interesting things have been discovered about the Kiowa people, which make them unique from all other plains tribes.
There is a story about how the Kiowa people came about. It is said that Saynday, known to American Indians as Trickster, wandered alone on the sunless earth until he discovered the Kiowa living underground. He enabled the people, as ants, to crawl upward through a hollow cottonwood tree and pulled them through an owl hole upon the surface of the earth. There was woman who was very swollen because of pregnancy and she got stuck in the log. After that, no one could get through, and that is why the Kiowa are a small tribe in number. They looked all around and saw the world. It made them glad to see so many things. They called themselves Kwu-da, “coming out.” When a Kiowa says “Behold, I stand in good relation to all things,” he reflects his feeling of oneness with the universe. The Kiowa have also referred to themselves by the name “Kom-pa-bianta”, or people of the “large tipi flaps”, a distinguishing feature of their tipis. Today, some call themselves “Koi-gwu” which identifies them as a tribe. Kiowa means “principal people” in the tribe’s language.
In religion the Kiowa were polytheistic and animistic. They had a general belief in supernatural agencies. Their great tribal ceremony was the Sun Dance or K ado, which took place in early summer. The ritual characteristically, but not always, took place in a teepee around a crescent-shaped, earthen alter mound and a sacred fire. The all-night ceremony usually commenced about 8p.m. and was led by a peyote chief . Services included prayer, singing, sacramental eating of peyote, and water rites. They concluded the ceremony with a communion breakfast on Sunday morning. In the Sun Dance the tribe came together for ten days or more. Ten medicine bundles were believed to protect the tribe and became central in the Kiowan Sun Dance. The sun was believed to be one of the many spirit forces. There were several objects of religious veneration. Sun Boy was the great supernatural and mythic hero. He gave them medicine in ten portions which was kept by the priests in priestly tipis. The medicine was called the Grandmother Bundles.
The Taime was a sacred image of a human figure-the central figure in the Sun Dance, other small figures or sacred images were known. Seni or peyote was the worship of a cactus (Lophophora williamsii); it involved a system of myth and ritual in which buds from the cactus were eaten. Its use was long practiced by tribes along the Rio Grande and coastal Texas. The Sun Dance served both for religious and for social cohesion of the tribe. It was believed to recreate the buffalo and rededicated the beliefs and traditions. It lasted for ten days, six to prepare the lodge, set up the center post, and have a mock battle before its dedication, and four days for the dancers to seek a vision while dancing about the pole and the Taime. Self-inflicted torture, such as cutting of flesh and breaking of fingers, were employed on occasion but not to the extent as other tribes.
Peyotism or peyote religion was the basic religion of the Kiowa people. Peyotism first developed in about 1885 among the Kiowa and Comanche Indians. Various forms of peyotist beliefs combine Indian and Christian elements in differing degrees. In general, peyotist doctrine consists of belief in one supreme God (the Great Spirit) who deals with men through various spirits. In many tribes peyote itself is personified as a peyote spirit, considered to be either God s equivalent for the Indians to his Jesus for the whites, or Jesus himself. Sometimes Jesus is regarded as an intercessor with God or as a guardian spirit who has turned to the Indians after being killed by the whites. Peyote is derived from the Nahuatl name of the peyotl for a cactus, the top of the cactus contains mescaline, an alkaloid drug that has hallucinogenic effects. The Kiowa people thought that eating peyote in the ritual context, enables the individual to commune with God and the spirits in contemplation and vision as so to receive from them spiritual power, guidance, reproof and healing.
Although in many ways the Kiowa displayed a typical Plains culture, they were among the most predatory and warlike people of their region and had an elaborate and effective military organization. Kiowa were fierce warriors who vigorously opposed white settlement on the southern plains. They, along with their Comanche allies, made daring raids far into Mexico, capturing large numbers of horses and captives. The Kiowa also gained horses, laves, and guns from the Spanish. The Crows taught them to ride horses and hunt buffalo. The main weapons and implements that were used were the arrow, spear, tomahawk, chipped flint, obsidian knives, flint saws, scrapers punch, needle of flint or bone, hafted axes and hafted wide scrapers, coup-de-poing (first axe) and eyed bone needles. The Kiowa warriors used dogs to help them hunt for buffalo as well as to pull or carry things when they moved around. Corporal punishment was not used to educate although boys could be shamed or ridiculed by their elders.
The warriors could be described as people of the wild, red-painted warriors, mounted on frantic, flashing horses; men and mounts alike adorned with eagle feathers and the colors of quills, beads, painted buckskin, crimson and navy trade cloth, and the dull sheen of German silver. The Kiowa were fierce warriors and are credited with stopping the progress of the Pacific Railroads westward for 40 years. They are also credited with killing more U.S. Soldiers than any other tribe. The Kiowa along with their allies the Comanche stopped the northern expansion of Spain, France, Mexico and the Republic of Texas at the Red River. Rank was established according to their exploits in war including not only killing an enemy but also touching his body during combat. The military societies were called “Dog Soldiers” because of visions associated with dogs. The first of six was the Rabbit group for all young boys; others could join as they grew up. The Koitsenko was a honorary group of the ten greatest warriors who were elected. The soldier societies policed the campsite and went on hunts and into war.
In tribal government there was a head or civil chief who was an important topadok’ or camp leader chosen by all the topadok’ s and the war chiefs from their councils. The last great head chief was Doh san (Little Bluff), who died in 1866. The Kiowas were divided in their policy toward the whites. Lone Wolf led the hostiles while Kicking Bird led the peace party until 1875, when he was poisoned. Later Lone Wolf gave his name to his nephew who became head chief in 1896. Women had no voice in tribal government.
The culture area of the Kiowa was the last to develop in North America; it began around 1620 with the introduction of the horse into New Mexico by the Spanish. When the horse was first introduced to the Kiowa, they thought that the horses were sacred dogs brought to them from the gods. They learned later they were just horses but most Indian tribes still call horses sacred dogs. After gaining horses, laves, and guns from the Spanish, the Kiowa evolved into completely nomadic life ways of predation, pillage, and warfare. The Kiowa lived in large three-poled skin teepees and everything was adapted for speedy packing and quick movement. The camp habitation could be moved in 30 minuets. The tribe used horses and mules for trade with other northern plain tribes. The Kiowa people came close to developing their own written language, using pictographic signs painted on hides that were used as a type of calendar and as chronological records of events. Sign language is often attributed as an invention by the Kiowa for trade, and spread among the Plains Tribes.
The Kiowa believed that dreams and visions gave supernatural power in war, hunting, and healing. Their way of life is called the Peyote Road; it concentrates on brotherly love, family care, self-support through steady work, and avoidance of alcohol. The horse, buffalo, teepee, soldier societies and the Sun Dance all characterize the Kiowa culture. Buffalo furnished almost everything they needed in material culture: food, clothing, teepees, tanned hided, fur robes, bedding, raw hide, leather, saddles, bridles, canteens, horns for spoons, and hooves for glue.
The Kiowa had a particular way of dress. They wore skin garments, moccasins, leggings, fur robes, and jewelry. Most men and woman parted their hair in the middle. The women would usually braid their hair or hung it loosely. The men would either wear their hair in long braids wrapped in fur strips or put their hair over the right ear and wore a portion of the hair cut short which was considered a tribal symbol. The men would usually wear breechclouts and women would wear a pull-on shift dress that went below the knees. The Kiowa are also famous for their beadwork; they beaded all kinds of things. The Kiowa would bead things such as moccasins and horse halters.
The tribe had a ranking system, rank was changeable up or down, one could get honors to go up rank but misdeeds and meanness could move a person down rank. People in the first rank were called Onde and were the aristocrats of the tribe. The first rank included great warriors, important sub chiefs, ten priests owning the medicine bundles (Grandmother bundles), and the wealthy associated with war or religion. The second rank was called Odegupa, which consisted of small sub chiefs, and medicine men who treat the ill and practice magic. The third rank was called Kaan, it was made up of the poor people and represented the majority of the Kiowa people. Misfits, crazy people, or people who were considered crazy were referred to as Dapom.
Everybody had his or her place in the Kiowa tribe. The men were warriors who protected the camp, always on guard against sudden attack. They sat around and smoked, but watched and patrolled they were also very good baby sitters for little children. As well as owning everything the women took care of the vital work, tanning hides, drying strips of meat, cooking, sowing, foraging for fruit, nuts, and roots, taking care of the dogs, setting up teepees or taking them down, and directing the slaves and youth in moving horses to pasture. Social organization was simple and did not involve a clan system. Kiowa belonged to the type of kinship system known as the generation or classification type, where collateral and lineal relations are classed together. Children raised in the Kiowa culture learned things from both parents. A mother was close to her son but the father trained and pushed his son to prominence. Sons respected their father and the older men. Grandparent and grandchildren were on intimate terms. The grandparents were the teachers, companions, and storytellers of history, legend, and religion. A child who had no grandparents missed a lot. The basic economic and social group was made up of brothers and sisters and their families. A blood related group joined voluntarily with a leader to form a camp or village.
The Kiowa also organized themselves by age. This is called age grade social organization. This means people of certain age ranges would belong to social organizations. As a person got older he or she would move from one social organization to the next. The boys and young men’s organizations were the most important.
The family depended upon a son to become a provider, and his success was more important than a girl’s, but girls could bring wealth to the parents in horses or gifts when a man wished to make a bride price. Marriage was usually arranged by gifts of horses to the parents of the girl by the man or his family. A contract was made by acceptance of the gifts. The husband usually went to live with the girl’s parents. Eloping was occasionally done. If mistreated, a woman could initiate a divorce. Divorce was simple but not common. A wife sought her father’s consent to divorce her husband. Usually after the divorce the bride price was returned. A man could divorce his wife for adultery or cut off her nose.
Art was a very important of Kiowa life. Many artists used the leaves of bound record books for their drawings. Pictorial art was used by Plains Indians to maintain formal calendar records as well as to illustrate stories. Drawings include scenes of warfare, courting, personal dress, the Sun Dance, and stories of Saynday. Their drawings offer a unique source of information on tribal, social, and artistic traditions. Twice a year the artists made calendar histories which were pictographic portrayals of important tribal events. Most calendars had very simple pictures that helped calendar keepers remember the name of each year. The Sett’an or annual calendar and the Anko annual and monthly calendar were famous pictographic calendars. Usually a green, forked pole, representing the center pole of the Sun Dance indicated summers and a bare tree indicated winters. Besides drawing men had other specialized skills in weapon making, tool making, painting, and the making of ceremonial things. During the twentieth century, artists began to produce paintings for sale, combining traditional and modern techniques to produce images of their current ceremonies and dances as well as their historic past. Kiowa painters were prominent in the development of contemporary Indian painting, and led the early “Oklahoma school” of work. Most famous among them were the Kiowa Five — Spencer Asah, James Auchiah, Jack Hokeah, Stephen Mopope, Monroe Tsatoke and, Lois Smokey.
After constant warfare with whites, the Kiowa were subdued by U.S. Army troops under Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer in 1868 and were settled with much difficulty on a reservation in Oklahoma. In 1874 they broke out of the reservation and resumed active warfare with white settlers in the vicinity; they were subdued, however, in the following year, with the loss of all their horses and armaments at Fort Sill and suffered the deportation of a number of their chiefs and warriors to Florida. The 1887 Dawes Severalty Act upset the cohesiveness of the tribe. It called for the dissolution of Indian tribes as legal entities and divided tribal lands among the individual members, granting 160 acres to each family head and 80 acres to each single adult. In 1890 some Kiowa participated in Ghost Dance ceremonies, but the practice was abandoned after a Kiowan emissary visited Wovaka, the self-reclaimed prophet, and judged him to be a fake. Since that time they have largely remained in Oklahoma. In 1901 the Kiowa people were granted U.S. citizenship. The descendants of the Kiowa numbered 9,421 in 1990. The Kiowa turned to adjustment and successfully made the transition to white culture, many in one generation. Independent but highly intelligent, the Kiowa wanted their children educated and taught the new language and new ways. Many of them now live in and around Anadarko, Fort Cobb, Mountain View, and Carnegie, Oklahoma. They are United States citizens, highly respected, and are making their way in ranching, farming, industry, teaching, military and government service, arts and crafts-especially painting and sculpture, fashion design and jewelry, and in literature. Old Americans they were; now they are an important part of modern America. Scott Momaday, a Kiowa, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his 1968 book House Made of Dawn.