Dearest Irish (Texas Devlins, Book 4) takes place mainly on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation in Indian Territory (
ca. 1876. A lot of my research for this book focused on the Kiowa Indians, a
small part of which I’ll share with you today.
Kiowa myth tells of a creator being who summoned their ancestors into the world from a hollow cottonwood log. They emerged one by one until a pregnant woman got stuck in the log, preventing any others from getting out. Sounds painful! Fanciful perhaps, but this may be the Kiowa way of explaining why their numbers were so few compared to the Comanches and other tribes.
Another myth relates how a divine boy, child of the sun and an earthly mother, gave himself to the tribe as eucaristic offerings. As late as 1896, this tribal medicine was kept in Ten Grandmother bundles. Kiowa children grew up listening to these legends and many others, told by the old men and women of the tribe.
|Three Kiowa Men ca, 1898; wikipedia, creative commons 2.0|
The Kiowas speak a language called Tanoan or Kiowa-Tanoan. Tanoan is also spoken by many of the Pueblo Indians in
New Mexico, proving the two peoples were
linked in the distant past. Yet, Kiowas trace their earliest known location to
the headwaters of the Yellowstone and Missouri
rivers in western Montana.
In the late 1890s, tribal elders still remembered northern tribes such as the
Blackfeet, Arapaho, Gros Ventres and Shoshonis. How the Kiowas came to be in the
far north remains a mystery. One theory is that they split off from their
Pueblo roots and migrated northward to colder climes, only to reverse direction
and return south eventually.
While living in the northern mountains, the Kiowas depended on dogs to pull travois and possibly sleds. They mainly hunted small game. According to legend, the tribe split over a dispute, one faction heading northwest (where to, no one knows) while the others moved southeastward across the
Yellowstone. This group, destined to become
the Kiowa tribe of recorded history, met and grew friendly with the Crow
Indians, settling east of them in the Black Hills.
The Crow apparently taught the Kiowa about life on the plains and
intermarried with them, passing on cultural traditions.
Around 1765, the Kiowa obtained the “Tai-me,” a powerful fetish incorporated in the annual Sun Dance ceremony. They acquired horses, hunted buffalo and lived in hide tipis like other plains tribes. They carried personal medicine bundles and belonged to societies within the tribe. Elite among the men’s groups was the Koitsenko soldier society.
Young boys started
out as “Rabbits.” Girls and women also had their own special groups. Among them
were the Old Women society and the exclusive Bear society, with only ten or
|Chief Setangya (Sitting Bear), Called Satank, wearing sash with Koitsenko badge|
The Kiowa were forced from the
Hills by the Dakota Sioux as that tribe pushed westward. South of
the Kiowa lived the Comanches, who were in turn forced southward. They had acquired
horses early on and ranged deep into Mexico on their raids. As early as
the 1730s, the Kiowa had also become superb horsemen and were raiding Spanish
The two tribes warred against each other for years, but around 1790 they made peace and became allies. From then on, they and the Kiowa-Apaches, a small band closely connected to the Kiowas, hunted and raided together. The Comanches ruled the Staked Plains and a large portion of
Texas, a vast domain known as Comancheria, while the
Kiowas roved southward along the Arkansas River.
This fierce confederation drove out other, weaker tribes and raided Spanish, Mexican and American settlements virtually unchallenged until the mid-1800s. They were after horses, goods they could use or trade, scalps and captives – also tradable at forts and towns along the frontier. Their cruelty toward those they captured or killed was notorious.
Left afoot on the open prairie, without food and shelter, the tribes soon surrendered. They were confined on the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache reservation and guarded by the soldiers at
Sill, located in the shadow of the Wichita Mountains
in southwestern Indian Territory. The Kiowa
mainly settled near Rainy Mountain, which has since been made famous by N.
Scott Momaday’s The Way to .
Today, most Kiowas in Rainy Mountain Oklahoma
still live in the same general vicinity.
There is so much more I’d like to tell you about the Kiowas’ life on the reservation – it wasn’t pleasant – their crafts, especially the beautiful bead work they’re known for, and their adaptation to the white world. However, I think I’ve gone on long enough. If you’d like to learn more about these proud people, here are a few of my favorite sources:
The Kiowa by Mildred P. Mayhall
Bad Medicine and Good, Tales of the Kiowas by Wilbur Sturtevant Nye
Carbine and Lance: The Story of Old Fort Sill by Wilbur Sturtevant Nye
Ranald S. Mackenzie on the Texas Frontier by Ernest Wallace
Lyn Horner is a multi-published, award-winning author of western historical romance and romantic suspense novels, all spiced with paranormal elements. She is a former fashion illustrator and art instructor who resides in Fort Worth, Texas – “Where the West Begins” - with her husband and a gaggle of very spoiled cats. As well as crafting passionate love stories, Lyn enjoys reading, gardening, visiting with family and friends, and cuddling her furry, four-legged children.
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