What Makes These Things Kiowa?


Vol. 1, No. 6 (2012)

What Makes These Things Kiowa?

by  Bradley A. Finson


After confinement to the reservation in 1874, the Kiowa were subjected to extremely harsh conditions. Men’s art became nearly non-existent, as the impetus for this had been eliminated. Like many Native peoples, the Kiowa were left with few venues for the expression of a sense of cultural identity and solidarity. Clothing remained one of the primary visual means of cultural continuity and artistic expression in a world turned upside down.  Beadwork applied to articles of clothing and moccasins served to perpetuate a sense of being Kiowa through the use of designs and colors that embodied basic tenets of Kiowa world view. Kiowa beaded moccasins in the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History (SNOMNH) Ethnographic Collection demonstrate the perseverance of Kiowa artists during the early Reservation Period in maintaining this sense of cultural identity by evidencing a distinctly Kiowa aesthetic that was preserved through the Reservation Period.

Anomalies catalogued as “Kiowa (Possibly Cheyenne or Arapaho)” in the Collections include one set of women’s boot moccasins thought to be Comanche, and items created under the W.P.A. Indian Project of the 1930s. Aspects of the moccasins to be considered are: aesthetics; color iconography; expressions of worldview; and, anomalies cross-cultural influences and responses to assimilation.  


Full text article available here.

Text copyright 2012 Bradley A. Finson

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