Kiowa Tribe

Kiowa Native American Indian Tribe and their tepees

The Kiowa Tribe
Summary and Definition: The very name of the Kiowa spread terror. The Kiowa tribe fiercely resisted the white encroachment of the Great Plains and fought in Battle of Adobe Walls against Kit Carson. The names of the most famous chiefs of the Kiowa tribe included Santana (1830-1878), Chief Red Tipi, Chief Little Mountain, Chief Lone Wolf and Chief Kicking Bird.

What was the lifestyle and culture of the Kiowa tribe?
The Kiowa were a Uto-Aztecan tribe who called themselves the Kwuda, the "Coming-Out People." who moved into Texas from the northeast in the 1700's and formed an alliance with Comanche tribe. The Kiowa were famous for their hunting and warrior culture and their the nomadic lifestyle, living in tepees, on the Great Plains. Warfare was a central part of the Plains Indian culture which led to  conflicts with neighboring tribes, the Spanish, the Mexicans and the Americans. They later gained allies with southern bands of the Cheyenne and Arapaho. Scalps of their enemies were taken as trophies in battle and torture and atrocities were used on the battlefield to intimidate and humiliate their enemies.

What was the religion and beliefs of the Kiowa tribe?
The Kiowa tribe revered the Sun, stars and constellations such as the Pleiades and created tribal records in the form of a pictographic calendar. The power of Kiowa chiefs and military societies was complemented by the spiritual authority of the Taime and medicine bundle priests. The Kiowa worshiped a stone effigy they called the taimay represented as a human figure with robe painted with sun and moon and a headdress of single feathers. The taimay figure was two feet in length and wrapped in ermine skin and adorned with a blue pendant.

What were the rituals and ceremonies of the Kiowa tribe?
The rituals and ceremonies of the Kiowa tribe and many other Plains Native Indians, included the Vision Quest, the Sweat Lodge ceremony, and the Sun Dance Ceremony. The sacred, ceremonial pipe (called a Calumet), was ritually filled with tobacco was passed among participants at all sacred ceremonies of the Kiowa. The Calumet, was often used to seal a peace treaty, hence the term 'Peace Pipe'.  The Calumet was also used to offer prayers in religious ceremonies and in war councils.

Where did the Kiowa tribe live?
The Kiowa are people of the Great Plains Native American cultural group. The location of their tribal homelands are shown on the map.  The geography of the region in which they lived dictated the lifestyle and culture of the Kiowa tribe.

  • They lived in the American Great Plains region in the states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota

  • Tribal Territories: Southwest Oklahoma, Texas, California, and New Mexico

  • Land: Grass covered prairies with some streams and rivers

  • Climate: Hot summers and cold winters

  • Animals: The  animals included the Bison (Buffalo), deer, cougars, elk, bear, beaver, porcupine, antelope, prairie dogs, eagles and wolves

Clothes worn by Kiowa men
The clothes worn by the Kiowa men consisted of breechcloths in the summer and fringed buckskin tunics or shirts and leggings in the winter. Warm buffalo robes or cloaks were also worn to protect against the rain and the cold. The Kiowa braves also wore beaded, feathered war bonnets decorated with eagle feathers and beadwork as symbols of accomplishment and bravery. The traditional headdresses of the Kiowa were caps with straight-up eagle feathers and ermine tails trailing behind them. The men wore their hair in two braids.

Kiowa Clothing
The women of the Kiowa tribe were responsible for making the clothes worn by the people. Most items were sewn from soft, tanned skins of deer (buckskin) and buffalo. Clothes were often decorated with paint, porcupine quills or beadwork. Kiowa clothing for both men and women were adorned with paintings and decked ornaments, especially necklaces and earrings.

What clothes did the Kiowa women wear?
The type of clothes worn by the women of the Kiowa tribe were knee-length dresses and leggings. The women also wore the buffalo robes to keep warm and dry. Kiowa women wore their hair in two, thick braids decorated with beads. The dresses of the Kiowa women that were used for special occasions were elaborately decorated with beads and painted with signs and symbols.

What did the Kiowa tribe live in?
The Kiowa tribe lived in tent-like homes called tepees. The tepees were constructed using long wooden poles that were covered with animal skins such as buffalo hides. The tepee tent was pyramid shaped, with flaps and openings. The tepee was rounded at the base and tapered to a narrow open smoke hole at the top. Most tepees were approximately 12 to 16 feet in diameter at the base. A hearth was built in the center of the tepee for heating and cooking. The tepee suited the nomadic lifestyle of the Kiowa tribe as it was quick to erect and easy to dismantle.

What language did the Kiowa tribe speak?
The Kiowa tribe spoke in the Uto-Aztecan language. The Plains tribes spoke in many different languages and used sign language to communicate with each other and Many writers have claimed that it was first created by the Kiowa tribe.

What did the Kiowa tribe eat?
The food that the Kiowa tribe ate included the meat from all the animals that were available in their vicinity: Buffalo, deer, elk, bear and wild turkey. The mainstay of their diet was supplemented with roots and wild vegetables such as spinach, prairie turnips and flavored with wild herbs. Wild berries and fruits were also added to the food available to the Kiowa. When animals for food was scarce the tribe ate pemmican, dried buffalo meat.

What weapons did the Kiowa use?
The weapons used by the Kiowa tribe included bows and arrows, stone ball clubs, jaw bone clubs, hatchet axe, spears, lances and knives. War Shields were used on horseback as a means of defence. The rifle was added to their weapons with the advent of the white traders and settlers.

Who were the most famous leaders and chiefs of the Kiowa tribe?
The most famous leaders and chiefs of the Kiowa tribe included Santana, Chief Red Tipi, Chief Little Mountain, New Fire, Chief Lone Wolf and Chief Kicking Bird. The Kiowa tribe mounted many raids along the Santa Fe Trail over which the wagon trains, stage coaches and the settlers traveled from the Missouri River through southern and central Kansas, up along the Arkansas River and then southwest across the desert for Santa Fe in New Mexico, and the surrounding areas.

Kiowa History Timeline
The following history timeline details facts, dates and famous landmarks and battles fought by the Kiowa Nation. The Kiowa tribe fought on the British side in the War of Independence and in the War of 1812.

Kiowa History Timeline

  • 1650: The Kiowa originated in the northern basin of the Missouri River and the  migrated south to the Black Hills

  • 1682: The Spanish explorer Rene-Robert Cavalier, Sieure de La Salle made first white contact with the Kiowa tribe

  • 1680: It was about this time the Kiowa tribe obtained horses

  • 1781: Smallpox epidemic decimates the Kiowa Tribe killing over 2,000 people

  • 1790: The Southern Kiowa move with Comanche tribe to New Mexico

  • 1800's: With the wide spread use of the horse the Kiowa tribe roamed the Southern area of the Great Plains living a nomadic way of life

  • 1801: The Kiowa suffered a terrible attack of smallpox

  • 1818: The Kiowa suffered yet another smallpox epidemic and this time they were also struck by cholera

  • 1821: Spanish rule is replaced by Mexico

  • 1821: Santa Fe trail opens

  • 1829: Comanche and Kiowa come into conflicts with settlers and U. S. troops on the Santa Fe Trail

  • 1830: Santana (Set-tainte which means White Bear Person) is born and will become a great leader of the Kiowa tribe

  • 1833: The Cut-Throat Massacre: Osage Indians attack a Kiowa camp and many were killed

  • 1835: US Treaty made at Fort Gibson

  • 1840: The Texas Rangers are formed to fight the Comanche and Kiowa tribes

  • 1849: Outbreak of another cholera and smallpox epidemic killing over than half of the tribe

  • 1851: Fort Laramie Treaty with Plains Indian Tribes

  • 1858: Antelope Hills Expedition (aka the Battle of Little Robe Creek) between the Texas Rangers and the Tonkawa against Kiowa villages beginning in Texas

  • 1853: Treaty at Fort Atkinson, Kiowa, Comanche and Apache Native Indians in which "...annuity to be given annually in July in the vicinity of Beaver Creek, the government may establish farms for the benefit of the tribes."

  • 1861: Santa Fe trail closed down by the Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne and Arapaho raids

  • 1863: Full scale war in the Great Plains by an alliance of Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa and Comanche

  • 1864: The First Battle of Adobe Walls - Kit Carson led a group of cavalry but was overwhelmed by the Comanche and forced to retreat

  • 1864: Sand Creek Massacre

  • 1865: Santana participated in the Treaty at Little Arkansas River placed Kiowa and Comanche on a reservation in Indian Territory

  • 1867: Treaty of Medicine Lodge providing 4,000 square miles land reservations to many tribes of Plains Native Indians who, in return, had to surrender some 60,000 square miles of their own land

  • 1868: Treaty is broken and Comanche and Kiowa raids target Texas and Kansas, all tribes are then ordered to Oklahoma

  • 1869: Comanche-Kiowa Agency was relocated to Ft. Sill

  • 1874: The Red River Wars (1874 - 1875) force the Kiowa and Comanche onto reservations

  • 1876: The Buffalo War - Buffalo are wantonly slaughtered all over the Great Plains (over 65 million were destroyed by white hunters) depriving the Native Indians of their means to live

  • 1878: Chief Santana dies on October 11, 1878 at Fort Sill, Oklahoma

  • 1887: The Dawes General Allotment Act led to the break up of the large Indian Reservations and the sale of Indian lands, including Comanche lands to white settlers.

  • 1892: Jerome Agreement was a treaty negotiated between Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache tribes reducing the reservation to roughly 600-700 square miles of land

  • 1892: Measles killed more than 300 of the Kiowa and Comanche people

  • 1901 The Kiowa-Comanche and Wichita Reservation is broken up due to Government pressure to open the land for settlement

Kiowa History Timeline

The Story of Kiowa
For additional facts and information refer to the legend and the Story of the Battle of Adobe Walls.

Native American Indian Tribes
Native Indian Tribes Index

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