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Kiowa Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Kiowa Indian tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Kiowa site for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Kiowa pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




   Kiowa Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Kiowa"? What does it mean?
Kiowa is pronounced "kye-oh-wuh." It is an English corruption of their own tribal name, Gaigwu.

Where do the Kiowas live?
The Kiowa Indians are original people of Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. The Kiowa tribe was forced to move to a reservation in Oklahoma during the 1800's, and most Kiowa people are still living in Oklahoma today.

How is the Kiowa Indian nation organized?
The Kiowa Nation has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Kiowas are also US citizens and must obey American law. In the past, each Kiowa band was led by a chief, who was usually a respected warrior chosen by a tribal council. Today, the Kiowa tribe is governed by councilmembers who are elected by all the tribal members.

What language do the Kiowa Indians speak?
Most Kiowa people speak English today. However, many Kiowas, especially elders, also speak their native Kiowa language. If you'd like to know an easy Kiowa word, "Hacho" (pronounced hah-choh) is a friendly greeting.

Today Kiowa is an endangered language because most children aren't learning it anymore. However, some Kiowa people are working to keep their language alive.

What was Kiowa culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the homepage of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma. On their site you can find information about the Kiowa people in the past and today.

How do Kiowa Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things all children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Kiowa children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play in their daily lives, just like colonial children. But they did have dolls, toys, and games to play. Here is a picture of a hoop game played by Plains Indian kids. Kiowa children also enjoyed running a footrace and swimming in a creek or lake. A Kiowa mother traditionally carried a young child in a cradleboard on her back. Here is a website with Indian cradle board pictures.

What were men and women's roles in the Kiowa tribe?
Kiowa women were in charge of the home. Besides cooking and cleaning, a Kiowa woman built her family's house and dragged the heavy posts with her whenever the tribe moved. Houses belonged to the women in the Kiowa tribe. Men were hunters and warriors, responsible for feeding and defending their families. Usually only men became Kiowa chiefs, but both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine.

What were Kiowa homes like in the past?
The Kiowa Indians lived in large buffalo-hide tents called tipis (or teepees). Tipis were carefully designed to set up and break down quickly. An entire Kiowa village could be packed up and ready to move within an hour. Originally tipis were only about 12 feet high, but after the Kiowas acquired horses, they began building them twice that size. Here are some pictures of tepees and other Indian houses.

Today, Native Americans only put up a tepee for fun or to connect with their heritage. Most Kiowa people live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Kiowa clothing like? Did the Kiowas wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Kiowa women wore long deerskin dresses painted with yellow and green tribal designs.. Kiowa men wore breechcloths and leather leggings, and usually went shirtless. The Kiowas wore moccasins on their feet, and in cold weather, they wore long buffalo-hide robes. Later, Kiowa people adapted European costume such as cloth dresses and vests, which they decorated with fringes, ribbons, and fancy beading. Here is a site with pictures of Kiowa outfits, and some photos and links about Indian clothes in general.

Kiowa Indian men didn't wear feather war bonnets like the Sioux. Sometimes they wore turban-like hats made of otter pelts. Traditionally, Kiowa people only cut their hair when they were in mourning. Kiowa men wore their hair in braids, sometimes with a forelock or pompadour in front. Sometimes they wrapped their braids in fur. Here is a website with pictures of Native American braids. Kiowa women wore their hair either loose or braided and wore tribal tattoos on their foreheads. The Kiowas also painted their faces for special occasions. They used different patterns for war paint, religious ceremonies, and festive decoration.

Today, some Kiowa people still have moccasins or a buckskin dress, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear traditional regalia on special occasions like a wedding or a dance.

What was Kiowa transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No--the Kiowa Indians weren't coastal people, and when they traveled by river, they usually built rafts. Over land, the Kiowas used dogs pulling travois (a kind of drag sled) to help them carry their belongings. Here is a website about Native American dog travois. There were no horses in North America until colonists brought them over from Europe.

What was Kiowa food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Kiowa staple food was buffalo. Kiowa men usually hunted the buffalo by driving them off cliffs or stalking them with bow and arrow. As they acquired horses, the Kiowa tribe began to pursue the buffalo herds for communal hunts, moving their villages often as the buffalo migrated. In addition to buffalo meat, the Kiowa Indians ate small game like birds and rabbits, wild potatos, fruits, and nuts. Though the Kiowas didn't do much farming, corn was also part of their diet. They got corn by trading with neighboring tribes. Here is a website with more information about Native American food traditions.

What were Kiowa weapons and tools like in the past?
Kiowa hunters used bows and arrows. In war, Kiowa men fired their bows or fought with war clubs and hide shields. Here is a website with pictures and information about Native American Indian weapons.

What other Native Americans did the Kiowa tribe interact with?
The Kiowas traded regularly with other tribes of the Great Plains and the Western Plateau. They particularly liked to trade buffalo hides and meat to farming tribes like the Mandan and Pueblo Indians in exchange for corn. These tribes usually communicated using the Plains Sign Language.

The Kiowas also fought wars with other tribes. Plains Indian tribes treated war differently than European countries did. They didn't fight over territory but instead to prove their courage, and so Plains Indian war parties rarely fought to the death or destroyed each other's villages. Instead, their war customs included counting coup (touching an opponent in battle without harming him), stealing an enemy's weapon or horse, or forcing the other tribe's warriors to retreat. Some tribes the Kiowas frequently fought with included the Osage and Sioux.

What are Kiowa arts and crafts like?
Kiowa artists are famous for their Indian beadwork, hide paintings, and parfleche (decorated rawhide containers.) Here is a museum website with photographs of Kiowa buffalo hide paintings.

What kinds of stories do the Kiowas tell?
There are lots of traditional Kiowa legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Kiowa Indian culture. Here is one story about the origin of the Pleiades. Here's a website where you can read more about Kiowa myths.

What about Kiowa religion?
Sorry, but we cannot help you with religious information. Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Kiowa religious beliefs or this site about Native American religions in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy Remember, We Are Kiowas, a book of Kiowa Indian myths and legends. Younger kids may like the traditional story Four Arrows and Magpie, by award-winning Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday, or Doesn't Fall Off His Horse, an excellent picture book about a Kiowa girl and her grandfather. If you want to know more about Kiowa culture and history, two good books for kids are The Kiowa Indians and Kiowa. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended American Indian books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013.

Thanks for your interest in the Kiowa Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Kiowas

Kiowa Indian Tribe
An overview of the Kiowa people, their language and history.

Kiowa Language Resources
Kiowa language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Kiowa Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Kiowa tribe past and present.

Kiowa Words
Kiowa Indian vocabulary lists.



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