Kiowa people and culture

Encyclopedia Article


A Great Plains tribe whose original homeland was in the area now known as western Montana, but who migrated south along the Rocky Mountains through the 1600s and 1700s. The Kiowa were a warrior nation, especially feared for their fierce and effective raiding tactics after acquiring horses from Spanish settlers south of the Rio Grande, yet they eventually succumbed to the pressure of encroaching Anglo-European settlement. In 1867, the Kiowa were relocated to a reservation in what is now southwestern Oklahoma. The transition to "settled" reservation life was difficult, yet Kiowa material culture flourished. As early as the 1890s, Kiowa artists were internationally renowned for their beadwork and ledger painting, a derivation of Plains Indian narrative hide painting. As both the bison and indigenous cultures suffered from federally sponsored eradication programs during the 1900s, Kiowa artists began painting on pages torn from the ledger books instead of buffalo hide, ironically overwriting the text of the settler colonizers.

Today, the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma is federally recognized, and the Kiowa language, part of the Tanoan family,is still spoken. Kiowa call themselves Ka'igwu, meaning "Principal People."

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"Ledger painting by Micahel Horse" by Neeta Lind is licensed under CC BY.

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