Kiowa - Economy

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.


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