Kiowa - 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.

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Oct 3, 2010 @ 7:19 pm
I needed to do a report on an indian tribe and found this article very helpful.
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Sep 17, 2011 @ 8:20 pm
The same is true of me. Thank you for providing this information. Everything was concise.
Sarah
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Nov 13, 2011 @ 9:09 am
Thanks this gave me so much information for my project on this tribe I really needed this information (: thanks
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Nov 21, 2011 @ 5:17 pm
This is an good article about what I needed. It was a little complex for me since I am in 5th grade. But it is an awesome site.
Maya
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Feb 9, 2012 @ 6:18 pm
Thank you very much. This will help a great deal with the background of a character in a book I'm writing. Clear, consice, and informative writings have been rather lacking on the Kiowa, but somehow you managed it.
armani
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Feb 22, 2012 @ 9:09 am
this is a very great sommary about kiowa culture right now we are reading the delight if tsoai talee and its about kiowa culture and this was great info and helped me out on my assignment.:)
Steve Keiser
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Apr 20, 2012 @ 5:17 pm
I am curious as to the legitamacy of "The Flaming Star Of Death" as alluded to in the Elvis movie of the same name. Is there any real connection to this concept & the Kiowa or is it just Hollywood entertainment?
ashantae
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Sep 7, 2012 @ 1:13 pm
this is a very helpful website for me and my classmates
Kate
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Sep 25, 2012 @ 1:13 pm
THANK YOU THIS ARTICLE WAS QUITE HELPFUL ESPICIALLY WITH THE TRIBE I WAS LOOKING FOR
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Dec 21, 2012 @ 6:06 am
Thanks for this brief and concise information on The Kiowa people. My Paternal Grandmother was of The Kiowa Tribe.I lived with her family along with my parents the first four years of my life. Her teachings gave me purpose and direction to my foundation of life some 62 years ago.
tammy
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Jul 15, 2013 @ 2:14 pm
Do the Kiowa believe in life after death? This writing reads that thay might believe in the supernatural and ghosts as in the Gost Dance ? I was told by A Kiowa Tribe member, the father of my grandchildren, that after death thair is nothing. Your gone. end of story. Can some one clear this up for me? Or have more inforemation on this?
Stacy.Bettencourt
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Nov 25, 2013 @ 4:04 am
I had to do a poster on this and it was fun! This page tells a lot of facts about the tribe. I love doing reserch like this!
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Dec 16, 2013 @ 1:13 pm
My great-great grandfather, Howell Walker (Texas Ranger) and son Henry, age 13, were attacked and killed on Salt Creek near Fort Richardson in 1873. Both were scalped. Henry's hand was cut off and Howell's body was split open from backbone around to navel. His bottom rib on the right side was extracted and carried away. Would this be linked to a religious or burial practice? Spent ammunition found at the scene suggested to authorities the Indians were Kiowa and probably from Fort Sill. Any insights would be appreciated. Thanks
Richard Hollingsworth
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Jan 30, 2014 @ 10:10 am
Great website very help full in many ways even though it is not a lengthy one, still chocked full of interesting things that are very helpful for first stage research not very detailed in many aspects. Well that is why we call it research because we build off of what we already know.
Percy
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Feb 11, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
this helped me alot i had to do a report and i found this website it was very helpful
Paul Nash
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Feb 15, 2014 @ 7:19 pm
My Internet enquiries indicate that the flaming star concept isn't based on real Kiowa customs. The name of the film changed to Flaming Star at a late stage and the original book had 'lance', not star.
Still, I can't confirm definitively and the phrase is prominent in the film. I suspect it was brought in for the poetry of it.
I think Kiowa religious traditions and myths did include life after death, as they had taboos about mentioning the names of the dead. I gather that they had similar story-telling motifs to those of many other tribes, notably the trickster character. This doesn't mean that they all believed in myths -- I always find it funny when it's assumed that all pre-modern individuals swallowed their culture's superstitions hook, line and sinker.
Meg and Alyssa
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Oct 8, 2014 @ 1:13 pm
This Article was very helpful with our Social Studies project! :) Thank you :)
mr.pickle
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Oct 12, 2014 @ 3:15 pm
this helped me a lot on my history project thank you I will probably get a good grade.

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