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Harrington in , and was definitively established in He worked with John P.

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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. Originally a trade language, it became a language in its own right that remained in use across North America.

As of [update] , their business committee is: [14]. The Kiowa Tribe issues its own vehicle tags. 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.

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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. 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.

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.

Kiowa Ethnogeography

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.

Kiowa Ethnogeography

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.

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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. 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. Lodge poles are harvested from red juniper and the lodgepole pine. 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.


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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.


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  • 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. 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.

    Kiowa American Indians

    Because of these factors, the Kiowa was of utmost importance in the history of the Southern Plains. 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. 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.

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