The Kiowa Tribe


The Kiowa Tribe consisted of about 220 members and had 22 representatives attending the congress. They came from a reservation in southwestern Oklahoma, adjoining the Wichita. They called themselves Nadiishan-Dina, and are also mentioned under their Pawnee name of Gataka. Until being assigned to a reservation in 1869, the Kiowa were well known for their raiding wars. Since this time,they have been a typical plains tribe, without agriculture, pottery, or basketry, depending entirely on the buffalo for subsistence, and shifting their skin tipis from place to place as whim or necessity guided.

They hunted and fought on horseback, carrying the bow, the lance, and the shield (and more recently the rifle), and participated in the great annual ceremony of the sun dance.

Physically they are tall and well made, with bold, alert expression. Every man and woman of the delegation came dressed in full buckskin, beautifully fringed and beaded. They set up their canvas tipis adjoining the Wichita, enclosing one of them with a circular windbreak of leafy willow branches after the manner of the winter camps of the plains Indians. Suspended from a tripod in front of the same tipi was a genuine, old-time 'buffalo shield', the last shielding remaining in the tribe. It is now the property of the National Museum.

The name tipi, 'house', is from the Sioux language and has now almost entirely superseded the former term, lodge. The tipi is a conical structure, formerly of dressed buffalo hides, but now of cow-skins or canvas, sewn together with sinew, over a framework of poles of cedar or other wood, tied together near their tops and spread out at the ground to form a circle of about twenty feet diameter.

An average tipi would house a family of about six persons. Three strong poles form the main support of the tipi. One of these is at one side of the doorway, which always faces the east; another, to which is usually tied the 'medicine-bag' of the owner of the dwelling, is nearly opposite the doorway, while the third is on the north side. These three poles are first tied together about two feet from their upper ends with one end of a long rope, and are then raised in place by the women and firmly planted in the earth. The other poles are next sorted out according to length and leaned against them in such a way that when set up the tipi's longest slope will be toward the front.

The covering is lifted onto this framework and the ends are fastened with a row of wooden pins. Grass and wild sage are used to fill in any spaces which might let in cold air.

The fire is built in a shallow hole dug in the center of the tipi. Behind and on each side of the fire are low platforms, set close against the wall of the tipi, which serve as seats by day and beds by night. The frames are of small poles, supporting mats of willow rods, usually looped at one end in hammock fashion, and covered with skins or blankets. Above the beds are canopies set so as to catch the raindrops which may come in through the smoke-hole during rainstorms.

The clear space of ground near the fireplace, where the women cook, is sometimes separated from the bed space by a border of interwoven twigs. The tipi is painted on the outside with heraldic designs and decorated with buffalo tails, streamers from the poles, or similar adornments. In summer it is set up on the open prairie to escape the mosquitoes. In winter it is removed to the shelter of the timber along the river bottom, and surrounded with a high fence or windbreak of willow branches.


Of the Kiowa Apache delegation the most prominent member was the hereditary chief, White-man, (pictured left). In spite of years he sits his horse as firmly and bears his lance as steadily as the youngest of his warriors. In former days he was one of the two war leaders deemed worthy to carry the beaver-skin staff which pledged them never to avoid a danger or turn aside from the enemy.

Another notable man is the captive, Big-whip, whose proper name is Pablino Diez, and who jokingly claims kinship with the distinguished president of the sister republic. He is one of a considerable number of captives still living among these southern tribes. Unlike most of these unfortunates, Pablino retains the knowledge of his name and his Spanish language, and remembers vividly how he was taken, when about eight years of age, in a sudden dash by the Apache upon the town of Parral in Chihuahua.



To see more images from the Indian Congress, visit the Indian Congress Photo Gallery. This collection includes over 500 photographs of Native Americans, including portraits of individuals, group photos of families and photographs of various activities.

The library also has the original "Secretary's Report" from the TransMississippi Exposition. This document includes a section on the The Indian Congress by Mr. W. V. Cox, Secretary of the Government Exhibit Board. It also contains the Report of Captain Mercer, manager of the Indian Congress.

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