20 May 2010

Kiowa Calendar Depicts Mythology of Plains Birds

A personal calendar depicting times of the Kiowa tribe, includes depictions of birds and their context to life on the Great Plains. For each year, a carefully-drawn image continually record tribal events from the summer of 1828 to 1928-29, a particular event or two getting prominence.

Haungooah was the "most highly esteemed artist of the Kiowa tribe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century and a respected religious leader in his later years," according to Candace S. Greene, author of One Hundred Summers. Silver Horn - his English name equivalent - was born in 1860 and lived for 80 years. [Kiowa Calendar death owl]

His work is a detailed presentation, of events, dating to the years when the Kiowa freely moved about their lands in what is now southwest Oklahoma and northern Texas.

By the latter 19th century, as the tribe was moved to a reservation, Silver Horn was learning how to depict things, note events, understand the mythology and being able to put it all together in a unique rendition of a year's memorable event.

Graphic Bird Depictions

There are a number of notable entries in the Kiowa Calendar Record. One Hundred Summers, also refers to "pictorial conventions" which includes the "Death Owl" similar in appearance to the Great Horned Owl. This pictograph is used a number of times.

One name glyph is a representation of "Bird Bow," showing a Golden Eagle sitting on a bow. [1843 Nest-Building Kado]

1828 Pipe Dance Kado
A pipe adorned by feathers hanging from the stem
1843 Nest Building Kado
Apparently a crow built its nest in the fork of the Medicine Lodge center pole, after the dance was finished, according to Mooney.
1845-46 Thunder Boy killed winter
Silver Horn drew the torso of Thunder Boy, and in the sky above was a "powerful thunderbird with arrows in its talons and winds generated by its beating wings."
1852 Surround fight summer
The death owl by the tree "represents Lone Bear, who fell dead while cutting tipi poles. The event was memorable as it was a disgrace for a man to cut poles, which was considered women's work," according to One Hundred Summers account, which is given for each image of the calendar.
[1867 Kiowa Calendar]

The death owl was drawn in 1853-1854 to depict the death of Black Bear. Also in 1863-1864 when Big Head, a Kiowa warrior who died in the winter camp. Then again in 1868-1869 when Black Kettle, killed by troops under Custer's command, at the Battle of the Washita. Then in 1888, to mark when Peyote Man died, and later in the same time, Sun Boy, then about a year later, Stumbling Bear's son; in 1897-98 a Kiowa woman, known as Leader, was Sankadote's wife.

1860 Bird Appearing killed summer
A golden eagle overs from over the top of the hill, with an inscription: "Tenebati killed."

In the 1860s, the imagery was adapting to the dramatic changes underway on the great plains. Treaty events were indicated. For 1871-1872, the image has nine Pawnee leaders, each wearing a single eagle feather, pointing from atop their heads. They came to the Kiowa to talk peace. For the summer of 1872, the death of Bird Bow was indicated, after he died in a drunken fight.

For 1883-1884, as the Kiowa leased their range to encroaching herds of Texas steers, and a short-horn breed of cattle was at the top of the image, along with a coin. In the 1890s, men of the tribe enlisted in the Seventh Cavalry, based at Fort Sill.

1878-79 White Cowbird killed winter
White Cowbird had, according to Mooney, been killed by Texans, while he was hunting in Oklahoma.
1880 Big Bow died
The Death Owl depicted Big Bow's death
1880-81 Dance winter
A medicine man was illustrated, with two large feathers part of his garb
1900 Prairie Chicken died summer
The death owl looming in the corner, and a prairie chicken with its neck tufts erected and fan tailed - indicating lek antics - is how the death of a man, known as Prairie Chicken.
1902 Crow Lance and Beaver died summer
A crow with a lance, indicates the name glyph for Crow Lance, and the death owl beneath a tree.

During all these times, Silver Horn drew the years' history. In the later years, events where oriented towards life on the reservation.

Pawnee visiting the Kiowa. From One Hundred Summers.

Silver Horn prepared other calendars, including one in 1904 for James Mooney, and that is in the Smithsonian. During these years, there were many deaths, as the horned owl was shown many times.

A Feather Dance took place in the summer of 1911. This was the Kiowa version of the Ghost Dance. Silver Moon apparently also prepared a detailed hide painting of this dance, according to Candace S. Greene, in her wonderfully interesting book. In 1915, an attempt to have this dance was thwarted by an Indian agent.

In 1928-29, flying birds were shown in two different boxes, and the caption for the image indicates it may represent days when the Army men got paid, in slang known as "when the eagle flies" and a record of payment received. This was the final entry made in the calendar.

The original drawings reproduced in great and exquisite detail, are given in chronological sequence in "One Hundred Summers" with one series of three images per page. Their is great documentation. Now, if only the images could be appreciated with easy view on the web.

The death owl continued it prominent theme, obviously having an essential role of tribal mythology for historic ornithology, as wonderfully drawn by Haungooah, of the Kiowa.

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